The Best New White Wines from Italy's Northeast

Long viewed as a wine-producing country that held interest only for its red wines, Italy now produces world-class whites as well. Gone are the days of squeaky-clean or quickly oxidizing wines that plague the country's white wine image. Ever since the 1970s, Italy has produced first-class whites with strong personalities owing to the idiosyncratic aromas and flavors offered by unique and often rare native grape varieties.

Although every region of Italy now makes stellar wines from at least one white variety, the best and most abundant are still to be found in the country's northeast, where the regions of Trentino, Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (FVG) are located.

Trentino and Alto Adige excel with the Germanic grape varieties (such as gewürztraminer and now even riesling), Veneto is home to wines such as Soave and Prosecco, and FVG produces myriad wines from a slew of both native and international grape varieties. In fact, Italy, or rather Trentino and Alto Adige, have amazing success with more obscure varieties such as Müller-Thurgau, sylvaner and kerner, something smart wine lovers will pick up on.

Pinot grigio is produced virtually everywhere and any serious example of this wine will clearly explain what all the fuss is about. Sauvignon and gewürz are always sure bets in Italy, while chardonnay wines can be tough, since many are overoaked, though far less so than in the past. One wine from northeast Italy that is almost always excellent but does not get the credit or prestige it deserves is pinot bianco (also called weissburgunder in Alto Adige), the best examples of which are superb. If there is one caveat with these wines it's that they can be expensive compared to those produced elsewhere. However, the small difference in price will be easily digested when you pick a great bottle from a serious producer, for there are no other white wines like these in the world.

For this IWC report, I have visited the 4 regions a total of 14 times in the last 10 months, spending more than 30 days visiting cellars and tasting. What you will read here is the most complete and thorough write-up of these white wines available anywhere, since I do not limit myself to one or two quick visits a year. I exhort you to try the higher-scoring wines listed below--as the featured estates are really the cream of the crop when it comes to northeastern Italian whites. There are undoubtedly many other fine wine estates as well as other wines made in this part of Italy. Time and space limitations (or the estates' failure to send samples on time) have allowed a few good names to escape.