It’s time for Italian whites to step out of the shadows
SW and Rich Hermansen
Bartender Freddy du Collonne at St. Armands Circle woke us up to the lure of Italian white wines. Great Italian red wines have eclipsed the wide range of superior white wines coming from Italy. One reason: Italians tend to drink most of the local wines that the country produces. When pressed to name an Italian white wine, many wine drinkers only remember the main exports, Pinot Grigio and Prosecco. Pinot Gris from Italy and the much-hyped sparkling wine are just a few shots in a panorama of exceptional white wines. Everyone has an optimal food pairing in a place in Italy. Some travel well, if they have the opportunity, to other countries and cuisines.
On a slow afternoon in the bar, we ordered takeout food and while waiting asked for white wines by the glass. To help us decide, Freddy offered us tastes of several bottles of white wines that had been opened earlier.
The 2020 Patrizi Gavi del Comune di Gavi ($15) features the Cortese grape from the Piedmont region of Italy. This delicate wine has a touch of citrus acid and mineral tastes of a good savignon blanc from the Loire Valley or Bordeaux regions of France, but with more fruity tastes of white peaches, apples and pears. It enhances, without crushing, grilled fish and goes well with sushi and octopus or squid. He stands alone at the aperitif while waiting for dinner.
The 2020 Santadi Villa Solais Vermintino ($17) from Sardinia comes from a different place. The distance of the Santadi vineyards from Rome exceeds their distance from Tunis in Africa. The Vermintino grape thrives on the hillsides rising from the pristine Mediterranean coastline. Naturally a great pairing with local shellfish and garden vegetables, the sour and green melon flavors of this wine bring out the fresh scent of the sea and the vibrant seasoning of pasta sauces.
The 2020 Cordero di Montezemolo Arneis Langhe ($22) takes us back to the Piedmont region of Italy. The Arneis grape grew in small plots in various places in Piedmont, but fell into oblivion after the Second World War. Alfredo Currado, who married Luciana Vietti, began managing the Vietti vineyards. According to Luciana, who gave us a tour of the Vietti vineyards and historic wine cellars, Alfredo discovered that many vineyards in the region around the commune of Castiglione Falletto had small plots of a local white grape that he later identified as Arneis. He convinced local winemakers to combine the Arneis grapes from their small plots and produce an Arneis cuvée. Arneis has since emerged from the dustbin of history and become a top wine in its own right. Convenience store chain owners, the Krause family of Iowa, purchased the vineyard and its label in 2016. Alfredo and Luciana’s son Luca and brother Mario continue to run the business and label.
At Collene, Cordero and Vietti Arneis go wonderfully with Mamma Graziella’s homemade pasta. It has its own section in the menu. Try the Ravioli Di Ricotta E Spinaci and the Fettuccine Al Salmone. Arneis has a clean taste, but enough acidity to stand up to garnishes and sauces. The pasta arrives at the table al dente and robust.
The next time the opportunity arises, order a white wine. Consider one of these Italian stars. Your palate will say Grazie.
SW Hermansen has used his expertise in econometrics, data science, and epidemiology to help develop research databases for the Pentagon, National Institutes of Health, Department of Agriculture, and Health Resources and Services. He has visited top-notch vineyards and tasted wines from great appellations in California, Oregon, New York State and internationally, from Tuscany and Piedmont in Italy, from the Ribera del Duero in Spain , the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale in Australia and the Otego Valley. in New Zealand. Currently, he divides his time between residences in Chevy Chase, Maryland and St. Armand’s Circle in Florida.
Rich Hermansen selected a restaurant’s first wine list shortly after graduating from college in math. He has extensive service and management experience in the food and wine industry. Family and friends consider him their favorite chef, bartender and sommelier. He lives in Severna Park, Maryland.