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Italian whites a best-kept secret

3:40 PM, Apr. 9, 2013  |  Comments
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"I'm a woman who loves white wines," said Laura De Pasquale, master sommelier. "I'm a freak for them."

"What I like about Italian whites is that they're clean and modern," she said.

Often grown at high altitudes in the foothills of the Alps, Italian whites are crisp and lean from the cool climate. Exposed to intense, high-altitude sun in the thinner atmosphere, many of them develop something akin to tannins in their skins, De Pasquale said.

"Crisp acids are like Botox," she said. "They keep the wines young. Some of these wines can almost act as red wines, with tuna, veal, game - maybe not big, red steaks."

In fact, she said, the viscous, powerful traminer is a good match for bacon.

The wines in the tasting were not the usual chardonnays and sauvignon blancs. Many of them were developed centuries ago in Italy.

"I'm happy to see growing interest in indigenous varieties that many people may not have heard of," she said.

One of the more unusual Italian whites was from ribolla gialla, a finicky, yellowish-white grape little known outside of northeast Italy's Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.

"Its floral, not fruity," said De Pasquale. "It's complex, with aromas and flavors of honey and wax and orange peel, like a white Bordeaux."

"It's great with shellfish," added Marco Calligaris, export manager for the Friuli-based winery Conte d'Attimis-Maniago, which made the wine.

Northern Italian winemakers put great importance on terroir - the climate, soil and winemaking techniques that make wines in their particular areas, Calligaris said.

"These are some of the best-kept secrets in the wine world," Pasquale said.

- By Fred Tasker, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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