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White Wines

White wines are among the main protagonists of the global wine scene. Their greenish, straw, golden or amber colours are produced by vinification without the maceration of the peels, except for in rare cases. White wines therefore include an infinite range of characteristics and varieties: light and fresh as the Falanghina or intense and full-bodied like the Friulano, aromatic and fragrant such as the Gewurztraminer, dry and spiced like the Vernaccia of San Gimignano, soft and buttery as the Chardonnay or salty and rich in minerals such as the Fiano, always able, in their best expressions, to convey the most pleasant, fine and refined soul of the wine world.

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White wines are among the main protagonists of the global wine scene. Their greenish, straw, golden or amber colours are produced by vinification without the maceration of the peels, except for in rare cases. White wines therefore include an infinite range of characteristics and varieties: light and fresh as the Falanghina or intense and full-bodied like the Friulano, aromatic and fragrant such as the Gewurztraminer, dry and spiced like the Vernaccia of San Gimignano, soft and buttery as the Chardonnay or salty and rich in minerals such as the Fiano, always able, in their best expressions, to convey the most pleasant, fine and refined soul of the wine world.

The Production of White Wine

White wine is made from white and black grapes through a process called vinification in white.

This starts with the harvesting of the grapes, the period of which varies according to the conformation of the soil, the type of grape variety and the season. Generally, the grapes are harvested when they have reached technological maturity, i.e. the perfect ratio between sugars and acids. In order to obtain a must richer in acidity, as in the case of white wines, the harvest is brought forward by a few days.

The grape bunches are harvested and carefully transported to the cellar, because a break in the peel can lead to the loss of primary aromas and trigger undesirable pre-fermentation processes. In addition, to obtain a high-quality product, it is essential that the grapes are pressed as soon as possible.

The first step is destemming, i.e. separating the grapes from the stalks, which are astringent, woody substances that can give the wine undesirable, herbaceous flavours. Nowadays a crusher-stemmer machine is used, which allows the soft compression of the grapes and, at the same time, the separation of the waste products: seeds or pips, stalks and peels. The grape juice obtained is called the must flower or first press, rich in aromas and polyphenols, and is collected in special steel containers. In some cases, the grape may come into contact with the peels, giving more substance and aroma to the final product. This process is called maceration and takes place at temperatures between 8-10°C, which can decrease to 0-2°C in cryo-maceration, i.e. cold maceration.

At this point, the must is ready to be fermented, but before that, corrective treatments may be carried out, such as filtration, through special filters, to eliminate solid substances, or clarification to clear the must.

Fermentation starts spontaneously through the indigenous yeasts present in the grapes. However, the producer can choose to use specially selected yeasts, available on the market, which can provide characteristics and aromas of particular grape varieties. In order to preserve the freshness of the aromas and to avoid oxidation, to which the must of white wines is more sensitive, the process is carried out at lower temperatures than in red wine making, generally around 18°C. In this process, the sugar is transformed into ethyl alcohol, carbon dioxide and secondary products, the latter being the basis of the wine's aromatic qualities. This process can take place in wooden vats or, more frequently, in special steel tanks.

The yeasts, when they have finished their activity due to the absence of transformable sugar, deposit on the bottom and form a pulp, called lees. This is followed by racking to eliminate the yeast residue, which can also be left for a few days and enrich the aromatic range of the potential white wine. This is followed by malolactic fermentation, which is only triggered by an increase in temperature. This triggers the naturally occurring bacteria in the must, which transform the malic acid, which is harsh and astringent, into lactic acid, which is softer and more delicate. Normally for white wines, where hardness is a fundamental part of the final product, this process is not very common and is avoided upstream through filtrations aimed at eliminating such micro-organisms.

The must is thus transformed into full-bodied wine, which is racked again and then decanted and filtered to eliminate the last residues. In addition, in order to preserve the wines from tartaric precipitation, stabilisation is carried out, processes which aim to sediment the tartaric acid before it forms naturally during storage in the bottle. It is important to remember that tartar does not affect the quality of the wine, but is only removed for purely aesthetic reasons.  

The final stages are maturation and refinement. During maturation, the wine is left to evolve from a few months to a few years in steel containers or wooden barrels, depending on the type of wine to be made. Wood gives sweet spicy notes, soft tannins and a rounded taste. This period is not particularly frequent for white wines, but is generally an integral part of red wine making. Once the maturation is complete, the wine is bottled and begins its ageing phase of a few months in the cellar before being put on sale.



The Best Italian White Wines

The Italian peninsula from north to south is home to great white wines, which, together with the reds, represent the enological identity of our nation.

The Friuli region is one of the most famous for the production of white wines. The most famous are the wines of Collio and Colli Orientali, mainly based on the indigenous Friulano wines and Ribolla Gialla wines, alongside international varieties such as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Also very interesting is the small area of the Carso, characterised by Vitovska and Malvasia Istriana.

The region of Alto Adige is the home of aromatic and semi-aromatic varieties, above all Gewurztraminer, characterised by intense notes of exotic and tropical fruit, followed by Muller Thurgau, Sylvaner, Moscato Giallo, Kerner, Veltliner and Pinot Bianco.

Piedmont is characterised by fresh, easy-drinking white wines such as Roero Arneis, Gavi and Erbaluce. Among these, Timorasso stands out for its complexity and ageing potential.

The white wines of Veneto ennoble the regional production: Custoza and Soave wines above all have found great success among wine lovers.

Wines of heroic cultivation, i.e. born in extreme territories, are Blanc Morgex et de la Salle based on Priè Blanc from Val d'Aosta, Pigato and Cinqueterre from Liguria, and Riesling from Alto Adige.

In Emilia, the production of white wines is concentrated on Malvasia di Candia, while moving to Romagna, Albana becomes the enological symbol, produced in dry and raisin versions.

Trebbiano is the most widely cultivated white grape variety in Italy, widespread mainly in Abruzzo, Romagna, Tuscany, Sardinia and Umbria, with nuances that vary according to the region. Trebbiano d'Abruzzo is one of the spearheads of Italian production, thanks to the success of great producers such as Valentini and Pepe who have given an identity to this great grape variety.

Vermentino is the wine of "different faces" because it grows in different regions, Sardinia, Liguria and Tuscany, giving exciting and characteristic wines.

In the Marche region, we cannot fail to mention Verdicchio, a fresh and savoury wine, perfect to accompany the fish dishes of the Adriatic.

In Campania, the outstanding wines are Fiano, a fine white wine mainly from Avellino, which joins the production of white wines from Campania with Falanghina, Coda di Volpe and Greco di Tufo, which shares the same type of grape with Cirò Bianco from Calabria.

Sicily offers numerous types of white wines, the best known being Grillo and Cataratto, which are widespread throughout most of the island. On the volcanic soil of the Etna, Etna Bianco, based on Carricante, stands out. In recent years, Zibibbo, also known as Moscato d'Alessandria, the basis of Pantelleria's passito wines, has been vinified in the dry version with excellent results.

Finally, Vermentino di Gallura is the wine that is the symbol of Sardinia, fascinating and intense, characterised by savoury and Mediterranean scents.