When you think of Piedmont (Piemonte in Italian), its world-class reds — Barolo and Barbaresco — naturally come to mind. But Piedmont has got some lesser-known whites that are worth giving a swirl. Here are some great white options from Piedmont.
The rare nascetta, potentially related to favorita/vermentino/pigato, is indigenous to Piedmont’s Langhe and was only recently saved from extinction. Early to mid ripening, the grape delivers full-bodied, often unctuous wines with flavors of wildflower, white peach, herb, honey, sage, salt and mineral. Despite their rich characters, these aromatic wines possess sufficient structuring acidity to maintain balance, making them pair well with richer seafood dishes. Look for varietally-labelled wines in the Langhe DOC.
The rare timorasso is planted chiefly in Piedmont’s Colli Tortonesi and Monferrato DOCs. Brought back from near extinction by winemaker Walter Massa, the grape is making a comeback among wine aficionados (although perhaps only 20 hectares are under vine). The thick-skinned, early- to mid-ripening grape yields massive wines with a distinctive creaminess. Flavors include candied fruit, toasted hazelnut, honey, spice, bitter mountain herb and mineral. Timorasso’s rich, full-bodied character allows it to pair with dishes that most other whites simply cannot, such as poultry, pork, veal, smoked meats and sausages. It is worth seeking out for lovers of powerful whites that are looking for a new favorite.
Thin-skinned arneis is Piedmont’s finest white, grown chiefly in the Langhe and Roero. Arneis-based wines offer low acidity, floral aromas and a rather strong fruit-driven palate that includes ripe pear, orange, apricots and peaches. You may also get an edge of smokiness and a touch of bitter almond on the finish. Due to the grape’s relative obscurity outside of Italy, these full-bodied whites are often great values. Arneis is a perfect accompaniment to heavier pasta dishes. Wines reach their greatest heights in varietal offerings from the Roero Arneis DOCG.
Thick-skinned, early- to mid-ripening erbaluce is indigenous to northern Piedmont — the Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG and Canavese DOC zones northeast of Torino — and this is where you will find the best pure varietals. The grape produces wines with high acidity and delicate flavors of wildflowers and green apple, coupled with a distinctive minerality. They are ideally paired with simply grilled fish. Erbaluce also makes for very tasty sweet and sparkling wines. Made to consistently high standards, they are a reliable option. Look for it also in varietal wines from the Colline Novaresi and Coste della Sesia DOCs.
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