In France and in the U.S. one usually takes the measure of a white wine by talking about its intensity, concentration, length. The longer the wine, the more focused the flavors, the greater the magnitude, the profundity — the greater the greatness. But Italian white wines rarely follow these rules. Most are light, frisky and invigorating; they're not built for a lasting impression, but rather to restore the palate with their vibrant and refreshing texture. They are sunny, full of radiance and sneakily springlike.
What's interesting is that multiple varieties from multiple locales share at least some of this character. Whether it's a Fiano from Campania, a Vermentino from Sardinia, a Famosa from Ravenna or the three you'll find below, it'll likely give off the restorative smell of things blooming, redolent scents of orange, lemon, and almond blossoms. More than this, not unlike an L.A. spring, they seem to possess both warm and cool character, the coolness registering as freshness and acidity, the warmth like a burst of radial energy. They're charming, immediate, and gratifying, a fruit blossom bouquet for your spring dinner table.
2014 Colle Stefano Verdicchio di Matelica
Verdicchio is a fragrant, generous white variety grown in the Marche, in central Italy, where it makes a wine of irresistible charm and vibrancy. This one is from Matelica, from hillside vineyards more inland than its other common DOC, Castelli di Jesi; the wine has a slightly cooler aspect, though it still gives off a scent of lemon zest and citrus blossom. The flavors are deeper, more toward tangerine, offset by a salty mineral tang. About $17 at the Wine House, Woodland Hills Wine Merchant and Wally's.
2014 Abbazia di Novacella Kloster Neustift Trentino Alto Adige Kerner
Kerner is an oddball, a hybrid developed in Germany that's a cross between Riesling and a red grape called Trollinger. Iin Germany it yields a rather phenolic, austere, structured white wine, but as soon as the grape crosses the Alps to the Alto Adige in Italy, it seems to gain a bit of flesh, warmth and generosity of flavor. This one, made in a monastery established in 1140, is lemon-scented and brisk, with a core warmth more given to mandarin orange, and lacy acidity. About $20 at Mission Wines, Wally's and the Wine House.
2014 Tenuta della Terra Nere Etna Bianco
On steep slopes in the shadow of a very active volcano, the indigenous variety Carricante dominates blends made here, resulting in wines routinely thrilling for their racy minerality and depth of flavor. This one, from importer-turned-vigneron Marc De Grazia, has a scent of pear and blood orange, deep and intense, with a gripping, almost tannic minerality that makes your mouth water. About $20 at Mission Wines, Monopole Wine and the Wine Country.