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Fresh, Crisp and Savory: The Indigenous White Wine Grapes of Northern Italy

Tenuta Roveglia wine harvest

Tenuta-Roveglia vineyard in Brescia, Italy / Photo by Stefano Casati

Ubiquitous and often uninspiring, Pinot Grigio is the best-known Italian white wine. And while there are some good, and even great, bottlings, Italy has so much more to offer.

Producers create excellent wines from non-native Italian grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Kerner, mainly from select areas in northern Italy. However, some of the most exciting white wines from up and down the peninsula come from Italy’s native grapes.

To explore the expanse of Italian white wines made with indigenous grapes, we start in the north of the country.

Gavi, Erbaluce, Arneis, Nascetta and Timorasso

RegionPiedmont

Arneis grapes Italy
Arneis grapes on the vine / Photo by Severio Mercato

Better known for its structured reds made with Nebbiolo and Barbera, Piedmont also produces impressive whites from native grapes.

Made with the Cortese grape, Gavi is dry, crisp and floral. Meanwhile, Erbaluce is focused and linear, with hawthorn aromas and a light almond close. Closely associated with the hills of Roero, Arneis yields creamy, generous wines that have a nutty finish.

Nascetta, whose spiritual home is Novello, was revived in the 1990s after it nearly became extinct. The best expressions have floral, tropical fruit and wild herb sensations as well as great aging potential. Finally, Derthona, made with Timorasso in the Colli Tortonesi area, is a complex white wine with honeyed mineral notes and serious longevity.

Suggested producers: Pio Cesare (Gavi), Castello di Azeglio (Erbaluce di Caluso), Angelo Negro & Figli (Roero Arneis), Elvio Cogno (Nascetta del Comune di Novello), Roagna (Derthona Timorasso)

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Fresh, Crisp and Savory: The Indigenous White Wine Grapes of Northern Italy