Episode #189: Pour Yourself a Glass – Discovering Italian White Wines

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Sipping a glass of chilled, delicious Italian white wine is often featured in daydreams of an Italian summer trip. Wine making and drinking is a big part of Italian culture and has been since Roman times with generations of families having poured their hearts and souls into creating wine that works in perfect harmony with dishes made with the local produce. It’s this symbiosis of seasons, land, and nourishing produce that makes the Italian approach to wine-making very special and interesting – even if you’re not a wine drinker. 

Show notes

We continue our series on Italian wine with Untold Italy’s Olivia Windsor and her partner Andrea Mitti Rua – collectively known online as Italian Wine Tales. Olivia, an Australian who’s been living and immersing herself in Italy for the last 4 years, takes care of our Untold Italy Tours all over Italy. Liv is an Italian food and wine expert and both she and Andrea are studying to be qualified sommeliers in Italy. They are now based in Rome having lived in Andreas’ home city of Turin for a few years. Stemming from their passion for Italian wine, they recently launched Italian Wine Tales. Italian Wine Tales is a great resource if you’re looking for wine tours or winery recommendations, as well as grapes and brands to look out for. They introduced us to some of the amazing sparking wines Italy has to offer in episode 179 and in this episode, they are sharing their knowledge on what to look out for when it comes to Italian white wines. You can sign up for their Italian Wine Tales newsletter here.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • Andrea and Olivia, an Italian-Australian couple, are the founders of the new online wine website Italian Wine Tales. Italian Wine Tales was born from their passion for wine and because when they started their Italian Sommelier course, they realized there was a real lack of information out there. They wanted to create a resource to help if you want to know what to drink when you’re in Italy, some great recommendations for wineries and brands to look out for
  • Australian Olivia has been living in Italy for the last four years and hosts many of our Untold Italy Tours, which are really focused on food and wine all around the country
  • Olivia is really passionate about food and wine. In Australia, she studied the WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) course, which is regarded as one of the world’s leading providers of wine education. When she moved to Italy she worked in some wineries in Tuscany and in Piedmont, where she also did her first wine harvest in Italy. She’s really interested in organic wines and small wineries that are about quality, not quantity
  • Olivi and Andrea, keen to deepen their knowledge of Italian wine, are studying the AIS (Association of Italian Sommeliers) course 
  • Andrea is from Torino (Turin) in Piedmont, where he and Olivia first met. He’s worked in restaurants for some years and is passionate about food but especially wine. His family comes from one of the most famous Italian wine regions – the Langhe wine region, where Barolo and Barbaresco are made, so you could say it is in his blood
  • There’s no need to feel intimidated drinking wine in Italy. No matter where you are in Italy, you can always find good glasses of familiar wines like Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, or Sauvignon Blanc
  • You can generally find these international grape varieties, that will be familiar to those used to drinking wine in the US/Australia etc. However, there are a lot of other white grape varieties that are not well-known outside of Italy
  • Before she moved to Italy, Oliva confesses she was a bit snobbish about white wine, and thought that while Italian grape varieties were great – it was really all about the French white wines. This was before she moved to Italy and she can now happily state that Italian white wines are truly amazing
  • You can find really great wines, but it does help to know what the grape varieties are
  • The most fun thing is that you can get to try a lot on your way to finding out what you really like the most
  • In Italy, wine production is very much a part of every region. As well as their indigenous varieties they often have adopted different varieties to fit the Terroir that’s around them
  • Katy was surprised recently to hear that there was some Bordeaux being produced in Tuscany. As well as keeping with certain traditions, wine-making in Italy is also very creative
  • You will always find that the wine in any region always goes perfectly with the food of the area as well


  • Chardonnay is best found in the Northern part of Italy, more specifically in the Northeast – Trentino Alto-Adige, Lombardy and Friuli as well as in the Northwest, in the Aosta region – the Chardonnay from Les Cretes. This Chardonnay is very fresh and mineral, so if you like the French style, aged in stainless steel, that’s a good go-to wine
  • The Chardonnay in Italy is generally not oaked, but you can find oaked – which if you are from Australia or the US, you are more used to
  • It’s generally up in the north of Italy, but if you’re in Rome, you will often find it on a restaurant menu. They’ll have something international or familiar in most of the restaurants

Pino Gris/Grigio

  • Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio as it is in Italian is also from the North. You might have to be a bit careful when you order it because it is mass-produced, so sometimes the quality might be a bit lacking
  • If you go to Friuli in the northeast, in particular from the Collio region you will find great options. Olivia and Andrea especially like the Pinot Grigio from Miklus
  • It is again another wine that you will find in wine bars pretty much anywhere in Italy. So when looking at wine lists, if it’s from the Collio region, go for that
  • You can find some very, very cheap Pinot Grigio if you go to Carrefour or you just go to the supermarket in Italy and grab for like €5, but if you nudge the price point up a little few notches you can get a very delicious wine
  • Pinot Grigio is quite mineral with also fruity taste, especially of tropical fruits. It’s a wine that is not meant to be aged. It’s best when it’s drunk fresh. It’s good for an aperitivo or for a dinner of fish or white meat
  • It’s quite easy drinking – an easygoing wine, not too complicated. And it’s fresh too so good for summer

Sauvignon Blanc

  • Americans, Australians and New Zealanders will know their Sauvignon Blanc, which is also found in Italy. Obviously, in New Zealand, it is amazing and very famous, but Italy also produces really great Sauvignon Blanc, especially in Friuli
  • You can see all the white wines we’re talking about are really concentrated up in the north because they’re a cooler climate. In Friuli, it’s a similar style to New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc in terms of the full bodiness. They do tend to blend it with another local grape there, which gives it a little bit more floral characteristics. But it’s the same lime, passion fruit, lemon zests that you’ll be used to with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
  • If you like Sauvignons coming from the Napa Valley, try the Sauvignon Blanc coming from Tuscany because the Terroir and the climate there are more similar to the Napa Valley

Amalfi Coast white wine

  • Thinking about where many of our listeners will be traveling, Olivia and Andrea have some recommendations for white wines to try on the Amalfi Coast
  • Fiano is a wine produced in Campania, which is really delicious. If you’re on the Amalfi Coast, this is one that you should look out for on your menu. While it’s not produced in the Amalfi Coast itself, it’s in the larger region of Campania
  • Fiano has notes of pear, hazelnuts, and almonds and is quite floral, even a little bit herbal. A little similar to an unoaked Chardonnay
  • If you do make the effort to go inland from the Amalfi Coast and go exploring, you can have some incredible winery experiences. Danielle Oteri mentioned some of them recently on the podcast (episode episode 184). She’d been in an amazing winery encompassing architecture, family traditions, welcoming environment – more than just a simple tasting wine experience
  • Within the Amalfi Coast itself, the winemaking is really interesting. They call it heroic winemaking because if you’ve seen photos of Amalfi with those steep cliffs – the winemaking there is really hard work because it all needs to be done without machinery. You can’t take a tractor down those steep cliffs. Everything is hand-picked, hand-harvested, and that means that the production is normally quite small compared to big commercial wineries, which generally also means that the quality is going to be quite good
  • If you’re in Amalfi and you want to try something from Amalfi specifically, the grape to look out for is Falanghina. This can have hints of white flowers, and exotic fruits. Again best drunk when it’s young
  • As a general rule, the Italian whites should not be cellared – however, some wine, like Pecorino, can also be aged. But generally speaking, it’s better not to age white wine. Red wines that can be aged have more tannins (what gives wine its aging capacity), which are found on the skins of the grapes. Since whites don’t have tannins, it’s harder to age them


  • It can be confusing as most people thinking of Pecorino, think of the cheese, but it is also the name of a wine. While we will talk about the wine – a reminder that the cheese is also very good – so don’t forget to try that too!!! 
  • This is one of Katy’s favorites and when she first tried it was her lights on moment about how amazing Italian white wine can be. Katy is always getting people to try it and Andrea and Olivia both love Pecorino too
  • Pecorino is from Abruzzo, which is quite close to the Lazio region, where Rome is. If you’re in Rome, even though you might not be going to Abuzzo, you will find Pecorino quite easily to try
  • The name Pecorino comes from the Italian word Pecora meaning sheep
  • There are different origins for the story:
    • the grapes are shaped like a sheep’s head
    • when the shepherds were moving the sheep up and down the valley, they were sometimes paid in grapes or with this wine, which then took the name of Pecorino itself
    • the sheep when they were traveling from Abruzzo to Puglia with the shepherds, were known to munch on the grapes
  • The wine itself is really delicious – acidity, full of citrus notes, even some vegetable notes and exotic fruits
  • The great thing about Pecorino is it’s the variety. You can have a young Pecorino, but unlike many white wines, you can also age it. You can put it in your cellar and enjoy it in a few years’ time
  • You can find it at different price points as well. You can have a cheaper version or you can go high-end
  • The absolute best pecorino Andrea and Olivia think is from Emidio Pepe
  • Olivia was checking the prices just to confirm and the 2020 Pecorino from Emidio is €60. That’s not at a restaurant, so obviously you go to a restaurant, there’ll be another markup. It’s a higher price point, but you can also find cheaper Pecorinos as well. A good one, you can get from around €20- 25
  • Pecorino is is a firm favorite, really fresh and it really feels like you’re drinking summer in a glass

Ligurian wine

  • Vermentino is cultivated in other parts of Italy but is typically associated with the region of Liguria
  • There are, in fact, four DOCs there – so special areas where you can cultivate it just within the region. It’s very fresh, fruity, very mineral. Again, very enjoyable in summer.
  • Olivia and Andrea suggest you try Il Torchio Vermentino from Colli di Luni
  • One of the very first episodes of the podcast was about some of the wines that are produced in the region near the Cinque Terre (episode 9) The incredible winemaking techniques that they have, similar to the Amalfi Coast, with the very rocky cliffs and trying to preserve the traditions of that is hard work
  • Katy is always keen to push Liguria as having so much to offer than the Cinque Terre
  • The wine there in Liguria is really fresh and delicious, and it goes so well with the local cuisine. Liv gets to take people there on the Untold Italy Tours to Liguria and share this region which is very different to other parts of Italy, not just from a landscape perspective, but also their incredible food and the wine
  • What always impresses Olivia about Liguria when it comes to the production of food and wine is that it’s such a small, narrow strip of land but what they’re able to grow there is amazing. It’s not in huge quantities and so the products that they do produce are really high quality and influenced by the proximity to the sea. You’ve got the mineral notes and the sun. Everything tastes so great – the pesto, the basil, the wine, everything!
  • When you’re producing something and you just have this small amount, you’ve got no choice but to focus on the smaller production

Veneto wines


  • Soave is found in the Veneto region, and it’s very popular there
  • You will find lots of rolling hills covered in Soave around there – it’s one of the most exported wines of Italy
  • Soave is based on a grape called Garganega as well as Trebbiano. Trebbiano is a very popular grape that’s grown just about everywhere in Italy
  • If you’re going to Venice, Soave is the one that you can look out for on the wine lists
  • There are two main versions – the Classico, D.O.C.G and the Superiore. Olivia and Andrea explained about Classico and Superiore framework of terminology in the last episode, but it’s basically about how long it’s aged for with Superiore aged for longer, so it is a fuller body style of wine, whereas Classico is aged for less time and is a slightly easier drink. You can choose which one is right for you and whatever you’re eating
  • If you find yourself in Venice and you want to try Soave, they recommend heading to the Vero wine bar in the Canareggio district
  • This winebar famously has “We don’t serve spritz here” on their menus but you’ll be able to try the Soave or other local wines from the Veneto region
  • An example is a wine producer that Olivia and Andrea enjoy called Ca’ Lojera, which is on the border with Lombardy – on Lake Garda
  • If you’re in Venice and you’re interested in wine and trying something unique you should go out to to the Venissa winery on the island of Mazzorbo. Here they make really interesting wines based on an indigenous, re-discovered grape. There is a special project to regenerate this native grape. It’s called the Dorona di Venezia, and is something really interesting that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s a really once-in-a-lifetime tasting if you’re there in Venice. More on this in episode 121 with Valeria Necchio, who actually worked at the Vennisa winery 

Sicilian wine – Etna Bianco

  • Olivia and Andrea love Sicily and Sicilian wines and our Untold Italy’s Sicily tours include many winery visits
  • The most interesting wine though is probably the Etna Bianco
  • Wines that are grown on Mount Etna in volcanic soil are so unique and interesting
  • Normally on Mount Etna, the white grapes are a mix of Catarratto and Carricante which are native grapes to Sicily and you won’t find anywhere else in Italy. There is normally a bit of the more common Trebbiano in there too
  • The wines have hints of apples, pears, citrus and white flowers
  • Some wineries to go to there are Benanti & Terra Costantino which offer really lovely tasting experiences if you’re visiting Mount Etna
  • On a recent podcast episode, we talked about Catania (episode 186) which is very close to Mount Etna and is an excellent base for the area. You can do these trips to these wineries from Catania. We learn about the wonder of volcanoes when we are very young and it’s amazing to actually experience one firsthand
  • The nutrients in the soil that a volcano creates are incredible, unique and wonderful for produce and wine
  • Andrea and Olivia were up on the Aeolian Islands, off of Sicily, recently, in Salina where they’re famous for Malvasia. Malvasia is another white grape that is really delicious and interesting to try. It is more well known for the sweet versions of wine they make, but they do a dry version too
  • On the West Coast, there are lots of delicious white wine varieties. They were drinking a lot of Grillo on their visit. On the Untold Itlay Western Sicily Tours everyone will definitely be trying some Grillo. It’s really mineral and being island wines, you’ve got the sea breeze influence, the sun and they make for very easy drinking

Tips on wine when traveling in Italy

  • It pays to travel around Italy with an open mind. Obviously, when it comes to the food and wine everyone’s got their preferences. You want to drink and eat things that you’re used to and you like but it can be great to try new and different things.  Chat to the Sommeliers at the restaurants because they receive such good training to get their license, so have heaps of knowledge and they can suggest what’s going to be best for your tastes and for whatever you’re eating. It might well be something that you would never have picked yourself and a wonderful discovery
  • Our Untold Italy Tour guests have the benefit of having Olivia on board as their guide, who not only has the knowledge and passion for Italy, but has this extra knowledge and passion when it comes to wine. Katy has traveled around with Liv quite a few times and finds it an absolute delight to just sit back and relax and have something chosen for you – that you always enjoy. She listens to what you like and will pick something delicious to suit
  • In Italy, even places 100 kilometers away can mean quite different approaches to winemaking. The way it is done in Friuli  is different from in Lake Garda for instance
  • Even the way the grapes are grown can be very different – for example, if you go very down south to the island of Pantelleria (found between Sicily and Tunisia), they have a style of growing their grapes where they dig little holes in the ground and grow grapes as a single tree instead of long vineyards as you usually see. It’s very peculiar and unusual
  • Going from North to South in Italy, generally speaking, you will find that in the North you’ll have wines with a lower alcohol percentage because of the climate – the weather is a bit cooler. In the South because of the sun and the warmer climate, you’ll have wines that are more food-bodied and with a higher alcohol percentage
  • This is why climate change is really impacting wine-making. In particular, the Northern ones, because they’re not used to having such high alcohol content
  • The number of grapes being grown in Italy is enormous and even the Italians themselves don’t know a lot of them
  • In Piemonte grape that Olivia and Andrea love is called Timorasso. On the Untold Itlay Piedmont tour, they’ll definitely be getting to try Timorasso. This grape was a fairly recent discovery for Olivia, from when she was working on a vineyard in Piedmont and the owners there introduced her to it. It is mostly unknown outside of Piedmont and even Andrea who is Piedmont born and bred had not heard of it before meeting Olivia!
  • The huge number of grapes and wines available is exciting because it means that there’s always something new to try
  • When you’re visiting Italy, you can maybe start with the international varieties that you’re more familiar with and then slowly expand and try something new each time. Definitely try something local for the best experiences and to match what you are eating
  • When you visit the wineries, especially the smaller family-run ones, they’re so passionate about what they’re doing. They’ve got such a strong sense of what their process is and why they’re doing it and they’re really happy to share it with you because they’re passionate people who put their life’s work into making the ultimate wine and want to share this with you
  • If you’d like to join us on an Untold Italy Tour, you’ll likely have Liv’s expertise on hand to help you order wines to try and send back home. On our trips, lots of guests have been sending back lots of the wine they’ve been enjoying along the way.  Liv also handpicks the wineries we visit and she’s very particular about choosing smaller, family-run wineries, where you really get to understand the passion and drive behind the winemaking processes. If you’re a wine lover and you want some of that guidance and to have a little bit of a mix between food and culture and local experiences, then an Untold Italy Tour could be perfect for you. It’s exactly what we created them for – to share these wonderful and harder to access, local experiences

Learning more with Andrea and Liv

The fantastic website that Andrea and Liv have created is www.italianwinetales.com. You can also follow them on Instagram for some more inspiration @italianwinetales, or join their new Facebook group ItalianWineLovers. You can connect with Liv on @livguine, or meet her in person on an Untold Italy Tour.

SUBSCRIBE: To the Italian Wine Tales newsletter here.

About our guests – Olivia Windsor and Andrea Mitti Rua of Italian Wine Tales

Olivia, an Australian who moved to Italy in May 2019, and Andrea, an Italian from Piemonte, Northern Italy are based in Rome and have recently launched the Italian wine site Italian Wine Tales, where you’ll find not only the best wines to try, but also information on all the Italian wine regions, the best wine tours and wine clubs you can join.

You can follow them for Italian wine inspiration on Instagram @italianwinetales, join their Facebook group Italian Wine Lovers or sign up for their newsletter.

Olivia writes a blog called Livguine, named after her love for pasta and her nickname Liv.  She has explored the country south to north, working in agriturismi and organic wineries before settling in Turin, Piedmont for a time after meeting a local Piemontese Andrea. They are both now based in Rome and Olivia hosts various Untold Italy Tours throughout the year in Piedmont, Liguria, Tuscany Capri and Puglia.

Sign up for the Italian Wine Tales newsletter here.

You can find Liv and Andrea on these channels:

Places mentioned in the show

Food & Drink

  • Chardonnay – best come from Trentino Alto-Adige, Lombardy and Friuli). Try  from Les Cretes in Aosta
  • Pinot Gris – called Pinot Grigio in Italy. The best varieties are from the north. Try Collio Pinot Grigio from Miklus
  • Sauvignon Blanc – the best from Friuli, Alto Adige and Trentino. Try Cantina Terlan
  • Fiano di Avellino – try one from Rocca del Principe or Di Meo
  • Falanghina – white wine found in Campania. Head to winery Tenuta San Francesco
  • Pecorino – wine from Abruzzo. A favorite for Andrea and Liv is Emidio Pepe
  • Trebbiano – a popular grape that’s grown all over Italy
  • Garganega – grape used in Soave
  • Ca Lojera –  a wine from the shores of Lake Garda
  • Malvasia – a white wine grape
  • Grillo – a white wine grape variety used in Sicily and known to withstand high temperatures
  • Timorasso – grape variety from Piedmont


  • agrums – citrus

Resources from Untold Italy

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