White Wines of Northern Italy

In the far north of Italy where gentle foothills morph into staggering Alpine peaks and valleys and the Italian culture starts to blur into that of the Teutonic world, white wine is king. Be it in the east in Friuli where this industrious group of single-minded producers has long held the mantle of Italy’s greatest white region or in Alto Adige where the less well-known small producers and co-ops quietly make some of the country’s most startling and individual whites from varieties like Sylvaner or Muller Thurgau and Riesling, these are undoubtedly two of the most fascinating areas of Italy for any wine lover. Indeed, beyond that they are fascinating on many levels. Standing in Bolzano or Cormons it’s hard to say with certainty that you are in Italy. It’s across this top part of the country that competing ethnicities collides. To the east in Friuli the Slavic, German, Austrian are all part of the mix that make food, language, and most importantly wine feel decidedly un-Italian. This is even more pronounced in Alto-Adige where the Austrian influences are even clearly etched into everyday life. So much so that you’re more likely to hear German spoken than Italian. It reminded me of the Basque country in the north of Spain; part of Spain but culturally and ethnically not part of Spain.

Anyway, I digress. The point is that wine here is as equally compelling and individual as the cultural, it marches to the beat of its own drum and takes you to edge of what is possible in Italian white wine. In Friuli you find wines that are once full-flavoured and phenolic but cut through with rapier acidity and drying minerality. In Alto Adige, the flavour profiles and aromas are immediately more suggestive of their alpine origins; crystalline, pure but with an underlying intensity of flavour that combines orchard fruits with cracked quartz and schist. Utterly compelling wines.

This offer showcases some of the greatest producers form both regions including Jermann and Ronco dei Tassi from Friuli and Kuenhof, Kofererhof and co-op Erste and Neue from the Alto Adige. In the most part they are 2015s: a great vintage in this part of the world.


Michael McNamara