Aging Gracefully

These Italian white wines defy the drink-now stereotype.


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Most Italian white wines are cheap, cheerful and made to be consumed during the first year after the harvest. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s also the case for the majority of whites made around the world. 

Nevertheless, Italy produces a number of stunning white wines that develop depth and complexity as they age. Here are some of my favorites.

Soave Classico

Although straight Soaves hailing from the fertile plains around the city of Verona are easy-drinking and immediate, Soave Classicos, made from hillside vineyards in the original growing area, have surprising aging potential. 

These wines are vibrant in their youth, with floral aromas, and flavors of peach and almonds. Over time, the aromas become multifaceted and exhibit creamy textures and intense minerality.  

Over the years, I’ve tried some gorgeous older examples, and recent standouts include a compelling 1996 La Rocca from Pieropan and shockingly youthful 1988 and 1990 examples of Gini’s La Froscà. Top bottlings generally reach their peak 7–10 years after the vintage. 

Verdicchio 

Basic Verdicchios are crafted for immediate drinking, but riservas from the Verdicchio Classico region and some wines from the Verdicchio di Matelica denomination can evolve for years.

The most famous cellarworthy bottling, Bucci’s Verdicchio Classico Riserva named Villa Bucci, is made from 50-year-old vines and aged in large Slavonian oak casks. Recent tastings of the dazzling 1988 and vibrant 2004 left my head spinning.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo

The Trebbiano grape, especially the infamous Trebbiano Toscano variety, can turn out some of Italy’s most dilute wines, but Valentini’s structured Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is one of Italy’s most long-lived and complex whites. 

The 1988, tasted last year, delivered extraordinary freshness and depth. Mature vintages are occasionally found in the market.

Etna Bianco

Made mostly or entirely from Carricante grown on the steep slopes of Mt. Etna, Etna Bianco is proving it can offer notable longevity. 

Benanti’s Pietramarina, from 100% old-vine Carricante, is the most celebrated bottling in the denomination. Tastings of mature vintages show that it develops more ample perfume and focused mineral notes over time. Most vintages are best around their 10-year mark. 

A Short Shopping List

Soave Classico
Gini La Froscà
Pieropan La Rocca

Verdicchio Classico Riserva
Bucci Villa Bucci

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo
Valentini

Etna Bianco
Benanti Pietramarina

Wine Enthusiast Italian Editor and author Kerin O’Keefe moved to Italy in 1991 and now lives in Switzerland. She has penned two acclaimed books on Italian wine.

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