Exploring Italy’s Native White Grapes: Erbaluce, Bellone, Verdeca – #ItalianFWT

This month for our #ItalianFWT, I threw out the gauntlet for our group to explore as many Italian white wines made with native grapes as possible. I live and work in a market where a plethora of wines are available and with that in mind, I’m sharing some wines this month that many have perhaps not tasted, let alone even heard of, so I hope you can live vicariously through my tasting notes! All wines featured are from family owned wineries, which is typically something I seek out: organic practices (even if they are not certified organic), hand harvesting and minimal intervention all make for good, clean wines that don’t leave you with a headache or feeling lethargic!

Erbaluce – if you’ve not yet been able to try this grape, you’re missing out! It is a high quality grape that can make not just still wines, but sparkling and sweet passito styles of wine. I’ve had the privilege of tasting all three on my very first visit to Vinitaly where my quest was to try as many wines made with native grapes as possible. I’m a grape geek so I made a plan, drew a map and was on my way. I visited Cieck which does make all three styles and it certainly was an eye opener.

The DOCG region of Caluso (Piemonte’s first DOC for white wine) is located in Northern Piemonte, close to Gattinara, which of course is famous for wines from Nebbiolo. Like many native grapes of Italy, names of the grapes are usually based on some type of characteristic. Erbaluce  means “dawn’s light” as the grapes are very pale in colour when not fully ripened, likening them to a pale dawn light. With their thick skins and high acidity, this grape is ideal for both sweet and sparkling versions.

The third generation brother and sister duo Alberto & Lorella Antoniolo currently run the operation at ANTONIOLO SOCIETA’ AGRICOLA. Known mostly for the single vineyard Gattinara wines of nebbiolo, this erbaluce is no slouch and equally well-made! Bone-dry, exuberant, and oh so aromatic, the nose has pretty white flowers enhanced with flavors of stone fruit (apricots/peaches) and crisp citrus notes. Racy acidity, all ending with a clean, minerally finish. I decided to pair this with verdure griglia (grilled vegetables) sprinkled with herbed goat cheese for a bit of creaminess and sharp flavour. Simple, but oh so delicious! (or skip the goat cheese!)

Verdeca– this little known white grape from Salento in Puglia, is named after the green color of its berries (verde= green in Italian). This wine just reminds me of summer, blue sky, sand, and copious amount of sunshine! I certainly can’t spend lots of time in the hot sun but I sure do love its attributes! Sunshine just makes me happy as I’m sure it does many others! There’s plenty of sun in Puglia and even with the heat, this grape maintains its high acidity. Although its true origins are not known, I’ll bet this little grape hasn’t moved around much. It seems to really like the climate and terroir of Puglia. 

The Palamà family is famous in the Salento region as restaurateurs originally, only making their wine to serve in their own restaurant. Now run by 3rd and 4th generation Nini and Michele, they aim to keep their wines poised and restrained. This verdeca is named after Nini’s father Arcangelo who was known as a larger than life character and to whom Nini says “taught me everything “.

The wine is fresh and crisp with citrus notes, green apple, white flowers and fresh herbs all wrapped up in crisp acidity and salinity. This wine is just FUN and at only 12% abv, I might be drinking an embarrassing amount of it this summer. This wine was begging for seafood, or in my case shrimp, sauteed in olive oil and butter along with mini portabellas. The herbs on the shrimp brought out the hidden herbs of the verdeca.

Bellone – This quality grape from Lazio is something I love to sell! Often full(-er) bodied with notes remeniscent of Chardonnay, it’s easy to sway lovers of the international grape towards this Italian native. This magical grape has been around since before the Roman times, is also multi-functional: it can be made into sweet wines, since it often suffers from botrytis (noble rot), along with the traditional still wines. It’s actually pretty rare, yet a few good examples can be found and found HERE in my market! I also happen to love this particular grape variety and Casale del Giglio offers an amazing bottle of wine for under $20! In an area where grape growing was non-existent, this family owned winery has taken full advantage of the rich, sandy, and partly volcanic soils along with hot summer temperatures, and mild, rainy winter months, which provide optimal conditions for viticulture. Throw in some mild seabreezes and great diurnal range for even greater optimization!

They also have a vineyard with 60-year-old vines that they use to make the Anthium. The  extra $11 is worth it for gorgeous full bodied and concentrated wine.  Beautiful tropical fruit flavours of mango, papaya, along with yellow apple and hints of honey along with nuances of spice; finished with a little salinity due to the vineyards proximity to the sea. As this was the fullest bodied wine of the three whites, it was meant to go with the meal in its entirety: Chicken cordon bleu (my version made with provolone and rosemary ham), lemon and dill penne, grilled vegetables and sauteed shrimp and mushrooms. Epic. In fact I had a hard time deciding which wine went with the meal overall!

June is my birth month, and I always take my actual birthday off work. Since it’s on a Sunday this year, I don’t really need to worry about the day off, but I AM taking the entire weekend, and it shall be full of food and wine! I look forward to “eating and drinking vicariously” with some of Italy’s other native whites, through all my fellow #ItalianFWT bloggers! If you’re as curious as me, head over to their blogs and read those too! Then join us for our Twitter chat on Saturday June 4 at 9 am MDT/11am EDT as I will be hosting our discussion on white wines of Italy. Join the conversation by following and using the hashtag #ItalianFWT. I’m sure we will discuss this topic with great enthusiasm!


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Exploring Italy’s Native White Grapes- An Invitation (#ItalianFWT)

This month on #ItalianFWT, I’m super excited to host this amazing category of wines that often get very little credit. In the past, tasting notes for Italian white included ‘bitter almond’…that’s it. That was the extent of the tasting note!

Today this is simply not true! The wealth of Italian white grapes is phenomenal and some of them even ageable! (see my post on Verdicchio)

So for this month, let’s explore the amazing white wines of Italy! I’d love to see a variety of grapes being chosen for this month and see some amazing food pics to go with. Here’s just a short list of indigenous white grapes of Italy that might help you find a wine. (Actually, this is a rather long post, so I hope you stay with me until the end!)

Val D’Aosta – if you’re lucky enough to find a wine from here, I would love for you to share it! There’s more red that white here, but if you can find some Prié, you’ve found the white wine from Val D’Aosta! Of course, there’s Moscato Bianco too and you can bet it tastes different here than an example from Piemonte would!

Piemonte – not only is this one the best quality regions with the highest number of DOCG, it also has a wealth of autochthonous grapes including:

  • Cortese
  • Favorita (It’s Vermentino, but it’s not)
  • Erbaluce
  • Arneis
  • Nascetta
  • Timorasso

Lombardy – next door, there’s a few here worth mentioning.

  • Turbiana (Trebbiano di Lugana) 
  • Moscato Giallo
  • Erbamat (the newest grape to come on the scene used in Franciocorta)

Liguria – this beautiful coastal region is home to the genetically identical Vermentino and Pigato, yet producing two very different wines! Don’t forget about Bosco, a very high quality white grape coming from Liguria. If you can get your hands on any of the sweet wines of the Cinque Terre, this would be fantastic to write about as well!

Veneto – as we all know, home to the Glera grape and Prosecco. However, if you want to venture out into indigenous waters, have a look for these:

  • Durella (Very high acidity in this grape so most often used for sparkling)
  • Garganega (the highly ageable, volcanic grape of Soave)
  • Trebbiano di Soave (Verdicchio)
  • Vespaiola (a beautiful light floral grape named after Vespa, (wasps) which incidentally, are very attracted to this grape.)

Trentino Alto Adige– white from here are really amazing as mountain fruit benefits from Alpine climates and great diurnal range. As well, there is lots of German influence so traditional grapes from this region would also be welcome.

  • Moscato Giallo
  • Nosiola
  • Kerner
  • Muller Thurgau
  • Sylvaner
  • Pinot Bianco

Friuli Venezia-Giulia– no other region offers as large of a selection of white wines from many different grape varieties and in many different styles.

  • Ribolla Gialla
  • Tocai Friulano
  • Malvasia Istriana
  • Picolit
  • Verduzzo
  • Vitovska

Emilia-Romagna– Lambrusco land has a few white grapes worth mentioning that are really high quality. If you can find these, that is fantastic! These grapes can also be found in different styles as well.

  • Malvasia di Candia Aromatica
  • Albana
  • Pignoletto
  • Grechetto di Todi
  • Ortrugo
  • Pignoletto

Umbria- Known for the white wines of Orvieto made with Grechetto and a host of others. Venturing out, look for a grape from the Trebbiano group – Trebbiano di Spoletino.

Tuscany- There’s more than just Sangiovese here! Our minds think of a lot of red wine, but look for the following:

  • Vernaccia (di San Gimignano)
  • Vermentino
  • Fiano
  • Malvasia Biana Lunga (think Vin Santo…)
  • Ansonica
  • Trebbiano Toscana

Marche- We’ve talked a lot about Verdicchio and it’s a beautiful, ageable white grape, however, there are a couple noteable grapes here worth looking for:

  • Passerina
  • Pecorino
  • Biancame

Abruzzo- The home of Trebbiano Abruzzese which make the wines of Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, along with Pecorino and if you’re lucky, maybe you can even find Montonico Bianco…

Lazio- a region that doesn’t usually get much respect in the wine world, but some of the whites there are gorgeous!

  • Bellone
  • Malvasia del Lazio
  • Moscato di Terracina

Campania- a plethora of native whites exist here and many of our markets undoubtedly carry a white wine from Campania!

  • Fiano
  • Greco
  • Falanghina
  • Coda di Volpa
  • Asprinio
  • Biancolella
  • Forastera

Basilicata- This is a little more difficult to be sure, but interestingly enough, in my market I have an Aglianico Bianco, where just the juice of the Aglianico is fermented. However, there IS a quality Malvasia that comes from Basilicata called appropriately, Malvasia di Basilicata.

Puglia- From the heel of Italy’s boot, there’s some beauty white grapes grown here.

  • Bombino Bianco
  • Verdeca
  • Bianco d’Alessano
  • Pampanuto
  • Malvasia Bianca

Calabria- On the other coast, the “toe” of Italy’s boot, not to be confused with Greco from Campania, if you can find it, there are some beautiful examples of Greco Bianco to be found!

Sicily– From one of my favourite regions when it comes to native grapes, Sicily shines with white grapes grown all over the island. Marsala, the famous fortified wine is made with typically at least three.

  • Ansonica (they call it Inzolia here)
  • Carricante
  • Catarratto Bianco
  • Grillo
  • Malvasia di Lipari
  • Zibbibo (Moscato di Alessandria, grown (mostly) on Pantelleria)

Sardinia- Last, but certainly not least, this “blue zone” has some rare and interesting white grape varieties that are starting to become sought after, and dare I say, trendy.

  • Nuragus
  • Vermentino
  • Malvasia di Lipari (known as Malvasia di Sardegna here…obviously) 🙂
  • Vernaccia di Oristano (I have to tell you I was able to taste some absolutely stunning examples of this during my recent time at the 2022 5 Star Wines Competition. Done in a solera, these sherry-like oxidative style wines are just gorgeous, complex and super ageable. As a matter of fact, a Vernaccia di Oristano scored Top Wine at the competition!)

Not to be outdone as a white grape, is of course Moscato Bianco that is grown in several of the above regions!

Want to Join Us?

The writers with Italian Food Wine and Travel are exploring Italy’s native white grapes in June!  You can join us! We will be posting our pieces on June 2 & 3 with a live Twitter chat on Saturday, June 4th!  If you would like to join us, here’s how.

  • Pick an Italian white wine (made with a native grape of course). You can do more than one! In fact, I’d be disappointed if you DID only do one. (You can do a sponsored post as long as you disclose that the wines are samples)
  • Ideally, pair it with a meal, although it can be aperitivi also, then write about the experience
  • Just drop me an email at joyofwine69@gmail.com if you would like to join us, with your name, website, and Twitter address, (or reply to the #ItalianFWT Facebook event if you are already a part of our group!)
  • I’ll need your title by end of day May 30th
  • When you publish your piece, include #ItalianFWT at the end of your title and include a section with the HTML links to the other writers’ posts
  • Then join us at 8 am PT or 11 am ET on Twitter on June 4 (we will have a list of questions we will share!) and use the hashtag #ItalianFWT
  • Read through the other posts and comment and share! And then don’t forget to update the HTML so that you have live links to all the other pieces in your post


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When You’ve Lost the Passion…

When I started this blog in 2013, I had big ideas of posting once a week, maybe even twice. I had started on the wine journey, getting ready to do WSET 3 and learning all I could about wine. I worked part time at a wine shop to learn and taste while studying AND working full time at another job. I quit said full time job to become a store manager at a  boutique shop, where I remained for almost 5 years. Fast forward to completing my diploma in 2017, becoming first an Italian Wine Ambassador through the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) in 2016, then reaching the pinnacle of the organization and becoming an Italian Wine Expert (IWE), one of only 15 in the world, in April of 2018. By June 2021, I had also completed the Italian Wine Scholar program, all self study online.

Since I started on this wine journey, I’ve always worked on the retail side of things, and because of that, I have rich relationships with the people on the import and distribution side of things, as it is them we buy from. I do get really excited about tasting new Italian wines from native grapes that I have only studied or read about. Being part of the VIA family allowed me to taste many wines I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, and being in a market that is not a government monopoly has allowed importers to bring in whatever they like, which translates to the consumer here having a great deal of choice in wines! The advantage of living where I do is that there is literally boatloads of wine here and if you can’t find something you like, there is a problem…

The store I’m currently at. I manage the wine side of things. This photo represents a small amount of what we actually have…

For me, I’ve been asked lately if I’ve tasted anything new and exciting and up until last night, my answer was always ‘no’. Nothing at least I wanted to write about here. Yeah, I’ll admit, it’s been tough…I’ve lost a bit of the passion and fire I once had. Not being able to have walk around tastings in the store, specific themed classroom educational tastings (which I would be leading), or even reps pouring samples for the customers has taken its toll on me mentally. For me, it’s been nothing but pure sales for two years now. The passion is waning and the blog posts are few and far between.

Could I do some online education? Yes, probably, but the logistics of setting all that up, not to mention making sure students have wine is a nightmare. Logistically speaking, even though we are one country, we cannot ship from province to province, which (and I’m gonna say it) is stupid. I can’t accept samples from other countries as I’m not an importer or distributor. I can’t do wine exchanges with people from other countries. It’s infuriating.

So you might be asking, “what happened last night?” Well, I do have some like-minded people in my life who are OK to get together and OK to actually taste and drink wine with each other EVEN AT THE SAME TABLE!!!

Vintage champagne was on the menu and with only five of us in the group, it’s all about getting a good 5 oz of wine to really enjoy in the glass. The object of the group is aged wine, or premium wines that we wouldn’t (& couldn’t) purchase ourselves. So we pool our money, source them out and then purchase them.

Krug is six generations of family, starting in 1843. 2004 reveals the vibrant story of a fresh year, so this bottle is nicknamed “Luminous Freshness”. This Krug 2004 we got for a great deal, each of us paying $65 each to enjoy 5 oz. This seems expensive, but trust me, in a restaurant, you’d pay 10x this I’m sure. A blend of 39% Chardonnay, 37% Pinot Noir and 24% Meunier, the acid level on this champagne was crazy high! It had a fine mousse and full flavours of brioche, pastry,  lemon chiffon, quince & mandarin. To be honest, it could’ve benefitted from more time. At almost 18 years old, it was still young. Don’t get me wrong, it was very good and I can now say that I’ve tasted vintage Krug (I had previously tasted Krug Grande Cuvee Brut at my friends 70th birthday party in 2018).

Maison Bruno Paillard always had the desire to create a champagne different from any other; extremely pure. If you look at their website, the labels have changed, but the traditions have remained the same. Grand Cru fruit and low dosage. This 1996 Bruno Paillard was a surprise as it was in the cellar of one of our members. Not really knowing what he paid for it, he charged us $35 each. What??? At 25 years old, the bubbles weren’t as plenty as the Krug, but the acidity was still there. Unlike the blend in Krug, this was a Blanc de Blancs, therefore 100% Chardonnay. Darker in colour (whites become darker with age), this was just gorgeous with sponge toffee, caramel, truffle popcorn, hints of mushroom and even some beautiful floral notes that we got out of Bev’s Conterno Giacomo specialized glass.  So much of a surprise here that this was my clear winner. So yeah…in the last (many) months, this has been one of the most exciting things I’ve tasted lately. And I think with this group, the passion just might return…Santé.

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Hearty Beef Stew & Barbaresco – #ItalianFWT

In the second installment of the “Big B’s” (Brunello in October), this month we explore Barbaresco, the sometimes forgotten nebbiolo of Piemonte. For fans of Barolo (which we will cover next month), Barbaresco may seem a distant second. For me, the elegance of Barbaresco and early drinkability of a wine that can be as hard as nails for ten+ years is an advantage.

I’ve tasted many Barolo and Barbaresco ad nauseum, remembering fondly the several trips around various wineries in both Barolo and Barbaresco to taste some beautiful wine. In Barolo, there are 11 municipalities or villages that can put Barolo on the label. Barbaresco has four main ones:

  • Treiso-  most refined and fresh
  • Neive – most powerful and fleshy
  • Barbaresco – most complete and balanced
  • San Rocco seno d’Elvio – soft and most ready to drink

Within the municipalities, there are 66 MGA (Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive (plural)) or “cru” sites. Of course, the wines must be 100% nebbiolo and ageing requirements are at least 26 months (9 of which must be in barrel) with the Riservas being aged for at least 50 months, again with 9 months in barrel. Bear in mind that these requirements are less what is required in Barolo.

My wine was the Fontanabianca Barbaresco. From Neive the winery was started in 1969 by the Pola family. Along with two cru sites, there are three Nebbiolo vineyards located in the commune of Neive, with southern/western exposure, for the production of their Barbaresco label. The nose was full of the quintessential nebbiolo red rose, along with red cherry, some nuances of Italian savoury herbs and even slight hints of tar. A gorgeous nose! On the palate, huge red cherry and Italian herbs with velvety, smooth tannins. A definite elegance within the power of nebbiolo. yet because it was from Neive, the fleshiness was most certainly there! Given a choice, I’d drink Barbaresco over Barolo any day!  As for my pairing, the stew itself was delicious with a brown gravy that was savoury and flavourful. The meat cooked for three days so it was very tender and literally melted in your mouth. Cheese biscuits served warm with the stew rounded out the meal. The recipe called for sharp cheddar in the biscuits but I changed it up and used manchego cheese which made for an interesting flavour all on its own.

As you can see from the picture I was obviously enjoying my stew, as it certainly receded from my bowl quickly!

My fellow writers here at #ItalianFWT have written some great articles about their own experiences with Barbaresco. Check them out below.

  • Wendy with A Day in the Life on the Farm shares Pure Comfort~~Roast Chicken, Wild Rice Pilaf and a Glass of Barbaresco Wine
  • Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares Risotto ai Tre Funghi, Rosticciana al Forno, + Fontanafredda Silver Label Barbaresco 2015
  • Lynn of Savor the Harvest is Reaching for Barbaresco Basarin with Marco and Vittorio Adriano
  • Susannah of Avvinare is Exploring The Beauty of Barbaresco
  • Martin of Enofylz Wine Blog has a 2017 Riva Leone Barbaresco Paired With Italian Fare and Friends
  • Gwendolyn Alley of Wine Predator shares Affordable Riva Leone Barbaresco Meets Bolognese
  • Nicole of Somm’s Table will share An Anniversary Celebration with Barbaresco
  • Robin of  Crushed Grape Chronicles  will be sharing Barbaresco and Thanksgiving Flavors

See you in December as we discuss Barolo. Salute!

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Exploring Verdicchio: One of Italy’s Most Ageable White Grapes- #ItalianFWT

For September’s #ItalianFWT, we’ll be exploring this amazing white grape of the Marche region, one of the most beautiful regions on the Adriatic coast. In our previous episodes, we discovered Trebbiano di Soave from Veneto (Verdicchio this month) and Trebbiano di Lugana (or Turbiana) from Lombardia, the former two being genetically identical, whereas the latter is more correctly termed as a biotype. In any case, it has been fun, not to mention interesting, to look at these grapes and now to connect the dots with this third!

This is a wine that always has lees ageing for added texture and complexity. Some have a bit of oak ageing while others are completely in stainless steel. There’s Castelli dei Jesi Verdicchio (Classico/Superiore) the region closer to the sea and on the hillsides which gives pleasant floral and delicate fruit aromas in its youth, with more Riesling-like characteristics of flint, sponge toffee and even the kerosene with ageing. Verdicchio di Matelica which is grown higher into the mountains will have higher acidity, alcohol and body with a little more austerity.

My wine was a Verdicchio di Matelica from Bisci. I was able to taste this producer’s wine while in Marche, that being my first time to actually have opportunity to taste Matelica wines, and then was excited to see them here in market upon my return. In the early 70’s the Bisci brothers purchased some land entirely within the Matelica region with the second generation now running things. Although they also make some red wine, the majority of their land is planted to Verdicchio. Certified organic since 2016, they number all their bottles. In wine circles we often talk about “tasting terroir”. This is very true about Bisci’s Verdicchio di Matelica. My friend Ian D’Agata said this about them:

Bisci is a heavyweight in the small Verdicchio di Matelica denomination. Size and quality go hand in hand here, and Bisci’s Verdicchio wines are among the best of the Marche. I especially like the fact that they are very faithful to the Matelica terroir: steely and refined, with a dry Riesling-like quality to them. 

Upon uncorking the bottle, I immediately caught a whiff of a flinty petrol aroma. After  pouring it in my glass and giving it a good swirl, the aroma was full of green and yellow apple, Anjou pear, yellow flowers, even hints of pineapple but still with the mineral nuances. On the palate that lees ageing was evident as it was very textural and almost tannic on my palate which lent itself to a full bodied wine. More flavours of yellow apple and pear, great minerality and of course, bitter almond. This wine was as good as I remembered it in Le Marche and I couldn’t wait to have it with my food!

I put a lot of thought into this meal, and although not everything was a perfect match, the meal itself was a winner and my soon-to-be-son-in-law was impressed! He was excited to try the pairing as much as I was. I wanted to do fish, I really did, but instead I found a recipe for chicken with a caprese salad twist. It turned out amazingly, along with the portabella mushrooms with goat cheese and bacon. The mushroom, potatoes and grilled asparagus turned out to be the best of the pairings with the chicken just plain good on its own!



My fellow #ItalianFWT’s have been busy! Check out what they’ve discovered about Verdicchio and the land of Marche, then join us for our Twitter chat, Saturday, September 5, 9 am MDT (11 am EDT, 10 am CDT, 8 am PDT)

Wendy from A Day In the Life on the Farm shares Baked Tomatoes Marchigiano Style and a Verdicchio Wine.

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares Cascatelli, a Brand New Pasta Shape, plus Pievalta Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2017.

Pinny from Chinese Food & Wine Pairing shares Querciantica Verdicchio – A Gem from La Marche’s Self-Made Wineamaker Angela Piotti Velenosi.

Terri at Our Good Life shares Scallops and Pasta and a Beautiful Verdicchio.

Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles shares Le Marche Italy – Verdicchio and beyond

Nicole at Somm’s Table shares Cantine Belisario Cambrugiano Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva with Brodetto alla Recanatese

Gwendolyn at Wine Predator shares “Verdicchio? Is That A Vegetable? Does It Go With Carbonara?”

Thanks for joining us! See you next month. Salute!

Posted in #ItalianFWT, Tasting, Varietals, wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments