Italian white wines – Then and now….

I was just broiling a sockeye salmon filet and some asparagus tonight when I came to a crossroad… I had NO Pinot Noir, no Burgundy and no white Burgundy. I was at a total loss for my evening wine selection.

In my opinion, Pinot Noir is best, not only for the fatty fish and rich flavors, but for the asparagus, which not only lends itself nicely to salmon but also to the herbal side of Pinot Noir.

Scrambling through the choices, I came to something odd, which caught my eye… an Italian white?!?!

Not the Soave, Corvo or Frascati of my youth, Italian white wines have gone from zero to hero since the 80’s.

Back then, they were from one of two schools; old, brown and tired or fresh, neutral whites with no varietal or regional character.

Today, they can be bright, crisp well-made varietal or blended wines displaying depth and richness on top of varietal or regional quality; quite simply the quintessential seafood wine. Time tested varietals in unique soils recently have risen to the top of the wine drinkers list – Greco do Tufo,  Falanghina and others have recently gained DOC status because they earned it, not because they lobbied for it or because export numbers demanded it!

Just try an estate bottle Pinot Grigio from the Friuli, or an Arneis from Piedmonte, or a Tocai from the Friuli… definitely not your mom’s Italian white!

My bottle was the 2012 CDC white blend from Agrigento, Sicily. The Cristo di Campobello is at the top of their game, a crisp and clean, mineral driven white is a revelation! Marsala may be the more famous wine of the island, but the two have nothing in common.

Not my first choice with salmon, but it held its own with a dish that typically calls for heavyweight whites or better yet, lighter reds.

Shayne Hebert, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine and spirits supervisor

Follow me on Twitter @abcwineShayne

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