Saturday, December 20, 2008
Favorite Italian White Wines of the Year
Cantina Tramin in Alto Adige. Three of my top Italian white wines I tasted this year were from this great estate. (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
White wines just don’t get the proper due in this world, especially when compared to red wines. If you think the situation is this way in California and France, imagine how it is for Italian white wines. Hey, everybody knows about the great reds, such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino and Amarone, but who reads much about the country’s whites?
Well I love Italian white wines and today I’m going to celebrate all their glories (especially the aromatic whites) and share my list of my favorites I tasted in 2008. This was an especially good year for Italian whites, as most producers released their 2007s, a brilliant vintage, with excellent concentration and beautiful acidity. (The wines are arranged from north to south in Italy):
2007 CANTINA TRAMIN GEWURZTRAMINER “NUSSBAUMER”
This is always one of the great Italian wines each vintage. Produced from the finest lots of Gewurztraminer grown in Tramin in Alto Aidge, winemaker Willi Sturz brilliantly captures the classic flavors of this grape: lychee, grapefruit and aromas of rose petals. There is beautiful spice, vibrant acidity and remarkable concentration. This will need another 6 months to show all its beauty, but it will drink well for 3-5 years. Magninificent!
2007 CANTINA TRAMIN “STOAN”
This is a beautiful blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon and Gewurztraminer that offers gorgeous aromas of quince, golden apple, lime and yellow roses. Medium-full with typical Alto Adige vibrant acidity. Impressive now, it will only improve over the next 5-7 years.
2007 CANTINA TRAMIN SAUVIGNON “MONTAN”
Willi Sturz hit the trifecta with this brilliantly realized Sauvignon that has aromas of yellow pepper, freshly mown hay and chicory. Excellent concentration, great fruit persistence and a lengthy finish. Lovely texture on the palate and great balance throughout. This is the second vintage of this wine- In my opinion, this is one of the great Sauvignons of Italy! Enjoy over the next 3-5 years.
2006 ELENA WALCH BEYOND THE CLOUDS
Elena Walch is a dynamic woman who along with her husband Werner produces brilliant wines from their estate vineyards in Tramin. This is primarily Chardonnay with a small percentage (less than 10%) of local varieties. This is a Chardonnay that is meant for people that prefer fruit and aromatics to oak. There are aromas of golden apple, geraniums and a hint of caramel. Very rich, this is a mouthful of wine!
2006 LIVIO FELLUGA TERRE ALTE
Over the past decade, this blend of Sauvignon, Friulano and Pinot Bianco has become one of Italy’s most famous white wines. Gorgeous aromas of Bosc pear, rose petals, geranium and freshly mown hay. Lengthy finish, excellent concentration and fruit persistence backed by lively acidity. This should drink well for 5-7 years.
2007 ISIDORO POLENCIC FRIULANO
This small Friulian estate outdid itself in 2007 with some of their finest wines to date. Their Friulano (formerly labeled as Tocai Friulano) sports lovely aromas of ripe pear, sweet pea and yellow pepper backed by excellent concentration and lovely acidity. Rich, very flavorful and subtle, this is a great display of how good Friulano can be.
2007 ISIDORO POLENCIC SAUVIGNON
Another outstanding white from this producer, this is an aggressive style of Sauvignon with aromas of bell pepper and fennel. Medium-full, this has excellent concentration and a long, elegant finish with vibrant acidity. Enjoy this over the next 3-5 years.
2006 MARINA CVETIC TREBBIANO D’ABRUZZO
I will admit I am not a big fan of new oak in most white wines, especially with the Trebbiano grape. But I have to tip my cap to Gianni Masciarelli (Cvetic’s husband) for this outstanding white. This is a big, complex wine with aromas of pear, baked apple, hyacinth and vanilla with excellent concentration and great fruit persistence. This is quite impressive, especially for the humble Trebbiano grape.
A sad note: Gianni Masciarelli, one of Italy’s most talented winemakers and one of the kindest men I’ve ever met, passed away this year. He will be sorely missed.
2007 TERREDORA FIANO DI AVELLINO “TERRE DI DORA”
This excellent Campanian estate has really been on a roll lately, as evidenced by this gorgeous Fiano di Avellino. Aromas of Meyer lemon, magnolia and kiwi- just lovely! There’s lively acidity and a lengthy finish with a touch of minerality. Wonderful variety purity! This is just great with crab or clams.
Feudi di San Gregorio Winery in Campania (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
2007 FEUDI DI SAN GREGORIO FIANO DI AVELLINO “PIETRACALDA”
This is the showcase Fiano di Avellino from Feudi di San Gregorio and it’s not for the shy! Produced from late harvest grapes, but fermented dry, this has sexy flavors of apricot, white peach and honey and offers layers of flavor on the palate. Enjoyable now, but this has the concentration and structure to drink well for 7-10 years.
2007 MARISA CUOMO FURORE BLANC “FIORDUVA”
At their estate in the stunningly beauitful town of Furore on the Amalfi Coast, Marisa Cuomo and her husband, Andrea Ferraioli (who also serves as winemaker) have been producing some remarkable wines over the past decade. The Fiorduva is a full-bodied blend of three indigenous grapes - Fenile, Ginestra and Ripoli - that displays exotic aromas of white peach, lemon oil, magnolia, fennel and a note of almond. It’s got great fruit persistence, vibrant acidity and distinct minerality. This is the most celebrated wine from this estate and one of the most distinguished in all of Italy.
There are some great Italian whites I didn't get a chance to try this year. Are there some that you tasted you think are among the best of the year? Leave a comment.