Italian partner that always flatters
Northern Italy's white wines are typically crisp and dry with a delicate citrus and green-apple fruit or almond nutty character. Always subservient to food, their role is to refresh the palate and flatter the dish, never to dominate.
The whites in the cool Alpine regions that arch east to west from Collio, bordering Slovenia, the Veneto and Piemonte, neighbouring France's Provence, are light to medium-bodied and moderate in alcohol, matching well with salads, white meat, and fish with creamy, cheesy or buttery sauces.
Soave is Italy's biggest-selling white wine. It's generally neutral in character and best enjoyed young, within three years of the vintage year, when its floral scents of chamomile and iris are most fragrant.
Named after a town east of Verona, the wine is made from the local Garganega grape.
The Collio – derived from the Italian word for 'hills' – region is on the border where Europe's east meets west. Renowned for its aromatic white wines, Collio is the New Zealand of Italy.
Gavi is one of the Piemonte region's most popular white wines, made exclusively from the Cortese grape. Light-bodied and lemony, it is popular with the seafood restaurants in the nearby city port of Genoa.
Classico on the label refers to the very best vineyards, and means the wine usually has a little more concentration and depth of flavour.
Appassimento is the Italian word for drying harvested grapes to intensify their flavours until they are semi-raisined.
Seventeen wines were blind-tasted this week and the favourite five are featured here. Salute.
1) Adorato Appassimento 2011 Tommasi, Veneto region, 13pc
Fragrant with raisin and plump sultana aromas. Dry and in a richer style than most Soave from the partial drying of the Garganega grapes; it has also a little Chardonnay. A perfect sipping wine or partner to a salad of fried strips of pork in cumin with green olives and toasted almonds.
€14.99 at O'Rourke's, Newbridge; Salthill Liquor Store, Galway; Joyce's, Knocknacarra; Cheers, Delgany, and Holland's, Bray. In Dublin: Nectar Wines, Sandyford; Deveney's, Dundrum; Redmond's, Ranelagh; The Corkscrew, Chatham Street; Jus De Vin, Portmarnock, and Gibney's, Malahide
2) Sauvignon 2011 Ronco Blanchis, Collio region, 13.5pc
Pungent with cut grass and lemon blossom. Elegant, floral and lingering lemony flavours on the finish. Tasty with battered fish and chips.
€12.99 at Molloy's Liquor Stores Clondalkin, Clonsilla, Francis Street, Leopardstown Valley, Nutgrove and Tallaght ; molloys.ie
3) Soave Classico 2012 Balestri Valda, Veneto region, 12.5pc
Perfumed pear-drops aroma follows with pear and lemon flavours in an oily, waxy texture. Classic Soave. Match with chicken fried rice with ginger and scallions.
€13.65 at winesdirect.ie
4) Soave Classico 2011 'Colombara', Zenato, Veneto region, 12.5pc
Earthy and rich pear-fruit aromas.Juicy pears stimulate the taste buds in a waxy richness. Very long fruity note held. Try with a salad of flaked cod tossed in couscous with yellow peppers and mint leaves.
€16 at Mac's, Limerick, and Next Door chain nationwide. In Dublin: Liston's, Camden Street, and Searson's, Monkstown
5) Gavi di Gavi 2011 Toledana, Piemonte region, 12pc
Oily notes on the aroma.Mineral, intense lemon, grapefruit pith and zest on the palate. Match with grilled calamari rings crowning a creamy risotto.
€18.99 in Dublin at McCabe's, Blackrock, and Kelly's, Clontarf