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Falanghina seems to be one of the great success stories of southern Italy, emerging from relative obscurity despite being a truly ancient variety into a nearly ubiquitous staple on the market. That has lead regrettably (and predictably) to any number of wines that fail to show the real virtues of the grape. Agnanum Falanghina is anything but predictable; produced from terraced vineyards of own-rooted vines ranging in age from 10 to 60 years old, possible only because of the particular soil of the area, the wine is pure and piercingly mineral. The nose is tart, showing pithy lemon and orange with delicate white florals, notes of mint and lemon balm and a characteristic hint of peach pit. The wine is almost airy on the palate with a fairly soft texture and fresh acidity showing a more deliberately stone fruit character of yellow peach and fresh apricot with a delicate saline finish. it is an obvious match to simple fish dishes but would be equally suited to a wide range of food: try it with goats milk cheese, olives, chicken, or egg dishes. Andy Paynter
Crivella is made with fruit from Bianco’s oldest vines, including some planted in the mid 1800s by Riccardo’s great-great-something grandfather; such old vines are extremely rare, and while they produce very little fruit, it’s impossible for Riccardo to even think about replacing them. At a tasting in the shop a customer said, “Like Sauternes with bubbles!” which was a lovely way to describe the wine and its rich and unctuous character. made lively with fizz. While there’s no botrytis, Crivella is much more complex and detailed than all but the very best Sauternes. I’ve certainly never tasted anything like it — a stunning wine. Jamie Wolff Moscato d'Asti is usually a fairly light and simple affair, but this bottling has gravitas to stand up to the most complex, aged cheeses. If an old Stilton and Port sounds a bit much, try this invigorating Moscato for a bit of a lighter approach. John Rankin
From vines grown in Flysch di Cormons (mixed sandstone and marls), fermented and aged in barrel. Pale gold robe. A touch shy aromatically upon opening, but with a quick decant, the aromatic palette expands: scents of white flowers, golden delicious apple, orange oil, and honey vie with notes of wet stone and iron for prominence. On the multi-layered palate it displays flavors of stone fruit, acacia, Mirabelle plum, with a steely mineral character and a fine zesty acidity on the long, detailed finish. As with other bottles of Borgo del Tiglio from this era, decanting the wine and following it over an afternoon reveals a surprising amount of aromatic detail and textural complexity. Decanted and served a bit cooler than cellar temperature, this pairs beautifully with the local Prosciutto San Danielle, sea food, and fresh cheeses. John McIlwain
Contra Soarda consistently produces excellent Vespaiolo wines in the Veneto, and the 2017 vintage is the best I’ve tasted yet. Vespaiolo derives its name from the wasps (vespa) that feed on the grapes as sugar accumulates later in the season. The wines are often made into a passito style sweet wine but this wine shines as a rich, dry wine with bountiful aromatics. The vines are planted on a decomposed volcanic soil at high density to limit yields, and are fermented with native yeast in steel. The nose is quite effusive with scents of apple blossom, white peach, orchard fruit, and ripe citrus. Fairly full on the palate with a rich texture, the initial flavors of juicy apple and peach give the impression of sweetness which is lifted away by high acidity and a mineral finish. Intense and refreshing, this wine would pair well with asparagus and egg dishes, scallops, shrimp, washed-rind or fresh cheese, or with a vegetable risotto. Andy Paynter
La Staffa is an estate founded in 1994 by the Baldi family and has embraced biodynamic farming under the direction of Riccardo Baldi. The 2017 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is a beautiful example of the fresh and easy style of Verdicchio I love. The wine is fermented in stainless steel, cold settled over the winter, and rested on lees only briefly before being bottled in the spring following the vintage. The nose shows crisp stone fruit and notes of clementines and almond flowers. The palate is light and juicy, with tart white peaches, orange citrus and a dry, mineral finish. An easy match for fish it would also be suited to rich cheese, slightly bitter veggies like broccoli rabe, or served as a refreshing summer quaffer. Andy Paynter
Passerina is a grape that I have little experience with beyond the wines of La Visciola in Lazio, which is a real shame given the depth of flavor a lifted texture the wines show. An obscure variety native to Lazio (and possible distinct from a grape also named Passerina that grows along Italy’s Adriatic coast) The 2015 shows a more lifted character than the 2014. The nose is fairly tight on opening, giving notes of tart apple and pear leading into thyme and white flowers after a few minutes in the glass. Medium body with a soft texture and crisp acidity the flavors show more candied lemon peel, green apple, and tart pear. Try it with grilled fish, potato or white pizza, soft cheese, or cured pork. Andy Paynter
Planted at over 700 meters – a high elevation that gives fruit with bright acidity, this is a stellar example of Grillo. The juice is fermented with skins for 3 days – enough to enrich the color and structure of the wine, but this is by no means an orange wine. It shows Grillo’s best (at 12.5° alcohol) with characteristic lemony herbs and mint, delicate floral notes, and firm salinity. The wine is fairy full-bodied, but remains lifted and bright. We drank some recently with grilled salmon (more than we originally intended since it was a school night - oh well - it was just too tasty), but it’s easy to imagine this working well with a big range of foods – or none. It’s a really delicious wine. Jamie Wolff
Since releasing her first vintage at the age of 24 in 2006, Arianna Occhipinti has been a champion of Sicilian viticulture – through organic practices, cooperative work with other winemakers, and raising the profile of her island’s indigenous grapes. The SP68 Bianco is a bright, easy blend of 60% Zibbibo (or Muscat de Alessandria) and 40% Albanello meant for everyday drinking – SP68 is the name of the road that runs along her parents’ farm. After 15 days of skin contact, fermentation with native yeasts, and bottling with filtration, however, this offers complexity far beyond that of most weekday whites! The nose is lively and floral, leading into a clean palate of stone fruits with glimmers of sage. I couldn’t stop thinking of a seafood pairing when we tasted it – fish tacos drizzled with lime crema or a grilled sea bass topped with mango-peach salsa.
Oltretorrente has produced a wonderful Timorasso since they were founded in 2010 by Chiara Penati and Michele Conoscenti. The vines, planted in 1996, are tended organically with biodynamic practices and the grapes are vinified simply: the bunches are pressed whole-cluster and fermented with native yeasts in steel, resting on the lees for 8 months to lend texture and complexity. A touch golden in the glass, the wine shows strong aromas of ripe peach, honey, beeswax, and yellow flowers. The palate has some weight with a smooth texture, plenty of acidity, and rich stone fruit over a chalky mineral backbone. Simultaneously rich and crisp this wine would be a great match for more assertive dishes; try it with asparagus and hollandaise, cured cheese, risotto Milanese, honey-basted chicken, or white pizza. Andy Paynter
Ronchi di Cialla is most famous for their role in reviving the grape Schioppettino, and rightfully so, but the Ribolla Gialla will always be my favorite. It is a distinctive expression of Ribolla from 30-year-old vines exposed to the south west that shows a delicate fruit character and crunchy minerality. The wine is vinified in stainless steel, held in contact with the lees for three months with frequent batonnage, and then bottled unfiltered. Quite pale in the glass, the nose shows a mix of lemon pith and clementines over ripe golden apples, white flowers with a woodsy note of sage and underbrush. Medium bodied with crisp acidity, it has a light texture with juicy citrus fruit and has a sharply mineral finish. A lovely wine it would pair beautifully with pan seared scallops, fried flounder, or skate dressed with herbs and served with fresh spring peas. Andy Paynter
Terraquilia makes this delicious sparkling white using the ancestral method and releases them with the wine remaining on the lees, or col fondo. The grapes are a blend of Pignoletto (known as Grechetto in other parts of Italy) and Trebbiano, which are grown on a mix of clay and silt soils. The robe is a hazy straw yellow in the glass (the haze being due to the fondo) and the nose exhibits rich aromas of golden apple, pineapple, citrus zest, honeysuckle, and a touch of fresh herbs. The palate is medium-bodied, dry and refreshing with fruity and savory notes of Bosc pear, dried peach, fresh lemon, lime pith, and an almondy finish with bright acidity. This easy-drinking white is a great alternative to prosecco and is deliciously enjoyed on its own or paired with a cheese and salumi plate. Anna DeBeer
I'm a huge fan of orange wines and I think that Trebbiano Terre Degli Osci from Vinica is stellar. It is produced from a single vineyard interplanted with 85% Trebbiano Toscano and 15% Garganega at 750 meters above sea level, the highest vineyard at the estate. The grapes are foot-trod, destemmed by hand, and fermented in open top containers on the skins for 8 days with daily punch downs. The wine is gently pressed and then held in contact with the lees for 10 months in steel tanks. What I particularly enjoy is that the wine manages to be both unctuous with flavors of honey, rich stone fruit, and lemon curd, but also has bright acidity and a really delicate texture with only 10.5% Alcohol. A slight note of pine resin pervades the wine and gives it a pleasant earthy dimension. I served it with a simple risotto, but it would be a great match for pork and fennel sausage, speck, or sheeps milk cheese. Andy Paynter