Dry Italian white wines offer a lot of variety. Italy, after all, has more native grape varieties than any other country in the world, more than France, Spain, and Greece combined. No wonder the Mediterranean boot is sometimes affectionately called Wine Land. Yet it is often all too easy to stick to the same familiar favorites when choosing wines.
This post is for all the white wine drinkers out there looking to discover some of the breadth of dry Italian white wines and who want to try something new. Look for these grape varieties at wine bars and at restaurants or when choosing a bottle at your local wine store.
And don’t save white wine only for the summer months or to pair with fish and lighter dishes. White is good year round and is great with a variety of foods, even heavy meat dishes. The acid in many white wines can easily cut through the salt and fat of meaty dishes. Check out some more tips for pairing wine with pasta or really any food over here.
10 dry Italian white wines
Reputedly Italy’s most popular dry white wine of the 1980s, this crispy white is from the northern Italian region of Piedmont. Often straw-green in color, it can cover a wide range of aromas from white flowers and chamomile to peach, apricot, citrus, and even almond, and can have a creamy mouthfeel. Historically Arneis softened the high acidity of the big red Barolo and Barbera wines.
I have access to excellent Bellone wines in Lazio but I’m not sure how easy they are to find outside of Italy. Bellone is in the famous Frascati and Marino blends from the Castelli Romani vineyards southeast of Rome, but I prefer the single varietal. Well-made Bellone wines should be notably creamy with notes of tropical fruit, citrus, and honey. Naturally high in acidity, Bellone also makes great sweet wines.
Etna Bianco is a blend of native grapes grown in Sicily on the volcano Mount Etna. The wine often has a salty and savory flavor. It is made from a blend of Carricante and Catarratto and some Minnella, and other grape varieties. Look for Etna Biancos that are 100% Carricante for racy, salty wines with flavors of lemon, apricot, and apple. Catarrato is more medium to full-bodied and similar to Chardonnay and is used in Marsala, the sweet Sicilian fortified wine. Minnella Bianca is a low-acidic blending grape pretty much only found on Mount Etna.
There are two distinct varieties of this grape variety grown primarily in Campania, but also in Puglia, and Lazio: Falanghina Beneventana and Falanghina Flegrea. The former is often more floral, alcoholic, and structured, and the latter more fruity and simple. Expect notes of peach, lemon, and almond. Both varieties are high in acidity and known for a leafy note.
This southern Italian grape variety is one of Italy’s oldest. Fiano loves volcanic soil and is primarily associated with the region of Campania near Naples. It also grows in Basilicata, Puglia, and Sicily. Fiano can come in a range of styles from steely to robust and rich, and from light to full-bodied. Common notes include green apple, pear, orange peel, hazelnut, honey, and one of my all-time favorites, pine.
Garganega hails from the Italian region of Veneto in the north and is the primary grape in Soave wines. Medium to high in acidity, Garganega produces medium-bodied wines with notes of red apple, stone fruit, and white flowers. Unoaked Garganega wines are often minerally and fresh. While often drunk young and fruity, well-made Garganega wines age well and develop almond and honey flavors.
Malvasia del Lazio
Italy recognizes 18 official varieties of Malvasia. Both red and white malvasia grapes produce wines in a range of styles, including dry, sweet, and sparkling. I recommend Malvasia del Lazio for this list, also known as Malvasia Puntinata. Frascati from the south of Rome is made with a blend of Malvasia del Lazio and Trebbiano grape varieties. Although other Malvasias are common. As a single varietal wine, it is acidic and creamy with herbal, floral, and citrus notes. It also likes noble rot and can be used to make great sweet wines.
Not to be confused with the cheese of the same name, Pecorino refers to the sheepherders and not to the sheep. Pecora means sheep in Italian. Pecorino grows in central Italy mostly in the regions of Abruzzo and Marche, but also in Lazio, Tuscany, and Umbria. The wines are often medium-bodied, highly acidic, and crisp. Herbal and fruit flavors, such as apple and pear, are also common.
The very best Verdicchio wines are dry and age-worthy and with time develop flinty notes. The name comes from the green shade of the grapes. Verde means green in Italian. Dry Verdicchio wines are notably crisp with floral flavors. Unlike with most white wines, Verdicchio is tannic.
Vermentino is in over 50 wines in Italy. It grows in Liguria and Piedmont, but also in Tuscany, Sardinia, Sicily, Umbria, and Abruzzo. The wines can be fresh and light or more structured and rich and come in a range of flavors from citrus to tropical fruit. Vermentino has a saline or salty taste, as well as floral and herbal notes.