This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the Italian Trade Commission. All opinions are 100% mine.
It’s summertime. Summertime is rivers, lakes, beaches, mountains, road trips, campfires. Long and leisurely evenings, hot and dusty hikes, and finishing all of those things with a good meal with friends, and a great bottle of wine. Something chilled. Dry, crisp whites and rosés (erm, rosatos) – they’re kinda my jam. Summer and its meals and wines can be distilled into a kind of simplicity that is utterly delightful. I love asking small wine shops for their recommendations around wine. It is, after all, why they exist! There is a reputation that wine shops can be a little elitist, a little chilly, but I haven’t found this to be the case in the wine shops that I love in San Francisco and Portland. (Feel free to email me if you’d like some suggestions.) In being open to and leaning on the suggestions of these people, I have discovered some really fantastic wines that I would’ve never considered. And that’s what I did here, to find a selection of easy-drinking, perfect-for-summer Italian wines.
(Check out this video on the wines of Italy to learn more.)
FANTASTIC ITALIAN WINES FOR SUMMER
Rosato: This is simply what Italians call their rosés. They’re made with native Italian grapes, which means they’re distinctive from the French or American rosés that many are more familiar with, as the grapes used in rosatos don’t tend to be used in making rose-hued wines in other parts of the world. This makes it fun to explore.
Both of the rosatos that I selected – Ciro Rosato (from Calabria in Southern Italy) and Langhe Rosato (from Piedmont in Northern Italy) — are robust, deep and rosy-hued, with a fuller body that stands up to cured meats.
One cool thing I learned is that a darker rosato doesn’t mean it’s necessarily sweeter; it just typically means that the grape skins have been in contact with the fermenting wine for longer. Darker rosatos tend to be fuller-bodied, so if you’re particular about how you pair your wines, these two varietals would be a good choice for a salumi spread, for richer cheeses, and all of the other delightful things we like with wine: appetizers, snacks, etc.
Pair with: rich cheeses, berries, salumi, antipasti, and rivers.
Soave: Perhaps the perfect weekday evening summery Italian white. It rose in popularity a generation ago, and then via overproduction lost its charm. I read that while our parents may have an opinion about Soave, we don’t. And so, it’s making a comeback. This is one of the great white-wine appellations of Italy, and there are plenty of high-quality Soave out there to discover. Be sure to emphasize to your wine merchant that you want a Soave Classico from a family estate and you can easily find an artisanal product. It’s an easy, crisp white to pair with nearly any light summer meal.
Pair with: lighter cheeses, melon, grapes, crostini, shellfish, and a friend’s patio.
Frizzante Varietals: Frizzante, are you familiar? Not quite full-on sparkling (or spumante, which would be the Prosecco that you know and love), and a little more robust than effervescent, it’s a delightful element in some Italian wines that embodies summer. There are a number of lovely varietals: Pinot Noir- and Chardonnay-based spumante from the Franciacorta region, for instance, and Pignoletto frizzante from Emilia. Perhaps owing to that one magical summer (when I spent a month in an intensive art program through my college) in the mountains along the Italian border where I was caught by surprise – delightfully – when I purchased a bottle of white and had no idea that (upon pouring) it would bloom with tiny bubbles.
Crisp, clean, light, with just a whiff of sugar and a wash of tiny bubbles.
Pair with: appetizers, seafood, and a long, golden evening at the lake.
Italian Orange Wines: A broader category than many of these region-specific varietals, orange wines are having a moment. It’s an ancient wine-making technique and can be described most simply as treating white wine grapes like red wine in production. The orange hue owes to the grape skins making some contact with the wine while it ferments. The process reveals a really unique result. Orange wines can be intense – they can be funky, unusual, with aromas that are hard to pinpoint and tannins that remind one of reds. But there are plenty of lighter-bodied oranges too. Ask at a wine shop for a good starter orange wine – one that is more restrained than some of its more unconventional cousins – as a point of entry. Orange wines have tasting notes of dried-fruit like apricots and peaches and remind me, sometimes, of a sour beer, though I imagine most winemakers and/or enthusiasts would cringe to hear that.
Pair with: Orange wines will more likely stand up to grilled meats, so bring this along to your friend’s BBQ.
Curious to know more? Follow this link to learn more about Italian wines.