Recently, Americans have turned their attention to Pinot Grigio from Italy. The reason is simple: Crisp acidity and lemony flavors make the wine easy to drink and incredibly food-friendly. The same is true of other Italian whites. The trick is learning where to look. Let's start at the top of the boot.
Piedmont, located in the northeast, makes a noteworthy white from the Cortese grape called Gavi. The wine's refreshing acidity makes it a thirst-quenching favorite. To the west, Italy's most famous exported wine, Soave, is made from the Garganega grape. Although known for decades as a popular jug wine, modern versions of Soave crafted by fine producers offer excellent examples and should not be overlooked.
Moving to the central regions, Vernaccia finds its home in Tuscany. Named after the grape, the best examples of Vernaccia come from the medieval town of San Gimignano. In the Marche region, the native grape Verdicchio makes fruity wines that have a bit of viscosity with flavors that seem to be kissed by the sea air.
On the island of Sardinia, wine lovers will find Vermentino, made from a grape of the same name. This wine boasts great potential and in Italy is often accompanied by large plates of shellfish.
Firmly anchoring the bottom of the boot is an ancient wine introduced by the Greeks called Greco di Tufo. Look for examples grown around the hill town of Tufo, where the volcanic soil creates a dry wine with the potential to age.
Italian whites have never been better, so uncork a couple. But be sure to select bottles from top producers, as some producers still focus on quantity rather than quality. 2003 Broglia Gavi ($16.99): Intense aroma of citrus and apple, mineral character.
Marianne Frantz, founder of the Cleveland Wine School, is joined by Mario Vitale, owner and operator of Western Reserve Wines, in selecting wines for this month's Cellar Notes.
A light-bodied wine with refreshing acidity that offers a great value.
2002 Pieropan Soave Classico ($14.99): An herbal and refreshing wine that finishes clean on the palate. A great producer — this wine rocks!
2002 Fontaleoni Vernaccia San Gimignano ($11.99): Medium bodied, floral and fruity with a touch of honey-mineral and lots of crisp acidity.
2002 Bucci Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi ($15.99): Waxy apple, honey and lemon with herbal flavors. Medium bodied with an oily texture and a hint of sea air.
2002 Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino ($11.99): Apple and pear flavors with a touch of citrus and chalky mineral. Refreshing acidity makes it a great match for shellfish.
2002 Benito Ferrara, Greco di Tufo ($15.99): Dry, aromatic, fruity bouquet and racy acidity. A great producer and a great find. Try Greco di Tufo dei Feudi di San Gregorio ($21) for another great find.