Here are my top 5 white Italian wines from the new Waitrose Spring Collection 2011. This year Waitrose is bang-on trend with wines everybody wants to drink right now and at fair prices. They have also sourced some new, quirky regions which are destined to be future classics. Not an easy feat for a supermarket with over 250 branches.
N.B. My system for recommending Italian wines from a supermarket is based on whether the wine has bella figura. That means it must show character, regional story and style. In other words, not turgid, non-descript industrial or bland.
Top 5 Italian White Wines for Spring from Waitrose:
5. Birgi Grillo 2010 Sicily £4.99 There are three things to remember about Grillo: (1) it is about texture not perfume; (2) it is named after grilled fish. OK – no, it is not. But it should be because grilled fish provides the missing piece to the puzzle of this wine; (3) £5 – £8 is a good price. This satisfies all three very well. 100% Grillo grape.
4. Moncaro 2010 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Classico £4.99 Would never pick this wine from the label, it is a bit naff and commercial-looking but the wine itself… characterful, lovely green, pine nut perfume and good clingy texture. An interesting dry white wine for a green pesto. Good buy.
3. LaVis Vigneti di Montagna Pinot Grigio 2010 Trentino-Alto Adige £8.99 Not bad for a Pinot Grigio. Wait, a second… this is not just any Pinot Grigio. This is from the region in Italy where Pinot Grigio is not an ironic commercial afterthought. Pale gold with green glints this has a full mouthfeel of sunshine lemon and bright fruit characters.
2. Teruzzi & Puthod Rondolino 2010 Vernaccia di San Gimignano Tuscany £8.99 Excellent 100% Vernaccia, the white wine of Tuscany. It is a glossy gold green with a nice spicy nose (lovely perfume), bramble and elderflower on palate with a firm structure and a refreshing finish. The winemaker, Enrico Teruzzi, is credited for bringing back this Tuscan white wine grape from extinction.
1. La Monacesca 2009 Verdicchio di Matelica, Marche £9.99 Boy, did I love this wine! I know everyone loves Gavi but this Verdicchio (at the same price, see below) is far more interesting. I’ve always wanted to see more from Matelica, not just because the name reminds me of Metallica, but because it is at higher altitude than the more common Jesi. It made me smile on tasting with lovely resinous mouthfeel, peardrop and pinenut, good weight and roundness with a spicy finish.
Other New Italian White Wines in Spring Collection (*worth noting):
* Triade Fiano/Falanghina/Greco 2010 IGT Campania £8.99 Distinct pineapple on nose with very tropical characters perfume with excellent Campanian volcanic structure on palate. As a purist, felt uneasy about the blend – but it works. Extra marks for risky style!
* La Monetta 2010 Gavi di Gavi £9.99 From the largest and most progressive co-operative in the Gavi area. Skill is evident in this well-made Gavi with crisp dry, greengages and citrus, good dry finish. Gavi di Gavi is so popular, it has to be good – and rest assured, it is.
Vignale Soave 2010 Veneto £4.89 From the Soave DOC zone this has a nice clean mouthfeel with sedate citrus and white flower characters.
Il Bello Pinot Grigio 2010 IGT Pavia, Lombardy £5.99 What you are looking for in Pinot Grigio at this price is what it is NOT: it does not have a nasty tangy aftertaste, it does not taste of water and it is not expensive. Not bad, but then again, not good.
Le Marmorelle 2010 Frascati Superiore, Lazio £5.99 If you are Roman, or want to live like one, here’s a good Frascati, widely available. Clean palate with soft lemon oil and nutty characters, nice zesty freshness.
Trinacria Bianco 2010 Sicily £3.99 If you like ice in your wine, you will love this.
Image: Still from Le Mepris