Summer is winding along, deepening as we go. The sun’s angle now casts a lemony glow across the hills.
Whether you’re primed to watch a good old-fashioned bike race or heading out for an afternoon along the banks of a river, grab a few bottles of classic Italian white wine and get out there.
Nothing defines the depths of summer for me like the simple pleasures of Italian white wine. Always crisp, light and ethereal in lithe fruit and minerality, these wines outshine wines from other regions of the world because of their simple, refined palates. Whereas French wines often carry the richer textures; New Zealand with their resplendent grassiness, and California with overblown ripeness, Italian wines meet any summer haps with just the right amount of grace. And that grace is lemony freshness and a soft, supple snap.
The past week my palate, mind and soul have been blessed with these special gems, spanning the country from north to south. And while there are many, many regions, grapes and styles, this is my short list for the moment.
Arnoldo-Caprai was named winery of the year for their powerful, tannic red called sagrantino, a varietal that was resurrected by Caprai in the early 1970s in the central Italian region of Umbria. Caprai’s trademarks include sustainability and the progression of indigenous varietals, like the grechetto grape. This 2011 Grecante Grechetto dei Colli Martani is citrusy for sure, but the way it is focused and layered reminds one of a lemon crossed with a nice pile of stones. Being that Umbria is landlocked, far from the salty Mediterranean breezes, and there cuisine matches, one would ask what to pair this wine with. Grilled Italian-style steaks with grilled lemons and pesto would do just fine. Make ample use of pine nuts, to match the weight and spy acidity of this wine. Dry cheeses and olives work for your picnic or late afternoon snack.
Similarly, the 2011 Poggio al Tesoro Vermentino Solosole, an IGT Toscano wine from the Bolgheri area of Tuscany, produced by the famed Allegrini winery, does the job. This wine is lighter, brighter and in simpler clarity and fashion than the Grechetto. This is a warm afternoon sipper, it’s minerality clearly on display. Perfect on its own, with a plate of sardines or if you want to push the food and wine agenda, roast chicken and basil in a light cream sauce with fresh, variegated heirloom tomatoes.
And finally, a little more obscure, a little more obtuse, with a promise again of “ethereal minerality,” is the wonderful Ciu Ciu Le Merlettaie Offida Pecorino D.O.C. 2010, from the region of Marche. White wine and the terroir of acidity, with peaches, apricots, honey, yes lemon, loads of acidity and a seemingly never ending finish make me think branzino-whole roasted striped bass-with a salty, tangy broth full of lemon, caper, olive and braised fennel.
And finally, from the south, near Campania, comes the 2010 Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina. This time-honored winery makes such iconic southern Italian ancient varietals such as Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo and Aglianico. Sunny slopes of clay, sandstone and volcanic tufa limestone mark this wine with chalky minerality, matching the clean and refreshing lemony notes, with just the right depth, and mouthfeel left tingling with dazzling acidity. Sitting on a patio next to a woodfired oven, munching on a Caeser salad with anchovies and cozying up to a pizza with nettles and white sauce, I couldn’t think of anything more perfect.
Summer is sizzling by, soon giving way to crisp nights and shorter days. There is still time to get out there and soak up some sun and sip some of these wines.
Cheers! Remember, wine reveals truth.
Drew Stofflet lives in Carbondale. Correspond with him at email@example.com