WineAccess Travel Log
Read stories from the world's greatest wine trails.
Italy's best white wines come from Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (FVG). These two regions, along with Veneto and Trentino, make up what is generally referred to as Italy's northeast, situated roughly between Austria in the north and Slovenia (the former Yugoslavia) in the east.
Alto Adige is a prime source for excellent white wines from both native and international grapes. Because this region was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1917, you will find many Germanic grape varieties here, such as Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Alto Adige's Sauvignons and Pinot Grigios can be world-class, but its Chardonnays, as elsewhere in Italy, are generally less distinctive. Friuli-Venezia-Giulia produces very good Sauvignons, Pinot Grigios, and Pinot Biancos, as well as some delightful--and sometimes more serious--whites from native grapes like Ribolla, Malvasia, and Tocai.
Both Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia produce numerous very good cooler-climate Cabernets and Merlots as well as some more idiosyncratic red wines worth seeking out. Not many years ago, Cabernets and Merlots in northeast Italy tended to be excessively vegetal, but today more producers are making consistently ripe wines that are at the same time less jammy and alcoholic than wines from the same grapes made in Sicily and parts of Tuscany.
Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia also produce some of Italy's finest sweet white wines: Picolit and Verduzzo from FVG and various versions of Passito, made in Alto Adige from aromatic grape varieties such as Riesling, Yellow Muscat, and Gewürztraminer. Passito wines are dessert wines made by air-drying grapes on straw mats or plastic shelves for weeks or months before they are pressed, in order to concentrate sugars and other flavor molecules as the water evaporates.