Vintage - Italian white wine
What are the best characteristics of the finest vintages for white wines?
Of the many factors, natural or otherwise, that contribute to the success of a wine, the most unpredictable and least controllable is certainly that linked to the year of production (vintage).
In any case, let us ask the wine what it can give us: in an average vintage we have wines which are ready more quickly, and which we appreciate for their drinkability and freshness, while in great vintages we seek austerity, complexity, and that ‘elusive’ capacity for ageing. Personally, for whites in general, I would basically choose the cooler and sometimes more extreme vintages (in short, the more bizarre ones).
What is the Difference between White Wine Vintage vs Red Wine?
The most obvious difference between white wine and red wine is obviously the colour which is given by their phenolic composition: in the case of whites, phenolic substances of various kinds that have not yet been perfectly identified, in the case of reds, on the other hand, the phenols are anthocyanins and tannins.
The reds follow this colour scale over time: violet, purple, ruby, garnet, and orange. Whites on the other hand: paper white, greenish, straw yellow, golden yellow, amber.
Having said this, white wines normally contain a higher degree of acidity and in particular, more malic acid, since in most cases they are valued above all for their freshness, which in general must be higher than that of red wines.
It is also important to emphasise the liveliness of a wine, which indicates brilliance, polish, and freshness of the colour itself; it refers to a healthy, well-preserved wine, regardless of age and type. Dull, flat-coloured, and faded wines are unhealthy and generally unpleasant wines, sometimes with too little acidic strength.
Is it true that whites should be drunk in vintages?
First of all, it must always be remembered that within the same vintage for whites as well as for all other types, not all wines are of a quality completely in line with the evaluation attributed to it. Italy itself is so extensive that it sometimes has completely different climates in the respective regions, which explains how the same vintage can range from being excellent for some areas to even bad for others.
That said, the following rule generally applies: in the course of wine evolution, the aromas follow one another in an order that to some extent reflects a hierarchy characteristic of the natural world. And so it depends on each individual's taste: light, fresh aromas of flowers and fresh fruit first, veering towards hints of ripe fruit and jam, then dried fruit. As the wine matures, intense vegetal aromas and those of sweet spices can prevail, building in aged wines, to bouquets where the dominant notes are given by spicy, balsamic, roasted, animal, dried flower (dried rose, for example) and wood aromas.
In general, this is the trend:
- Young white wines:white and yellow flowers (hawthorn, vine flower, scrub rose) and light-fleshed fruit (peach, apricot)
- Complex white wines: lime, acacia, broom, to which fruits are added (fresh almond, hazelnut, ripe peach)
- Mature white wines: dried and roasted fruit.
What are the Italian white wines for ageing?
The Italian white wines with the greatest acidity and propensity for ageing, moving from fruity tones (which are often and purposefully citrusy) to singular and unusual nuances, but without ever omitting a base of freshness, are diffused throughout the country, and certainly many of the DOCGs:
(Roero Arneis, Gavi, Soave Superiore, Albana di Romagna, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Castelli di Jesi and Matelica Verdicchio Riserva, Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo, Vermentino di Gallura) and a few renowned DOCs (Colli Tortonesi, Lugana, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, Colli Orientali del Friuli, Etna Bianco).
How many years can a white wine age?
Mineral salts are certainly fundamental for ageing a white wine and thus for its evolution in the bottle. Not all long-lived wines, however, have a pronounced savouriness/salinity, such as Valentini's unsurpassed Trebbiano d'Abruzzo.
How many years can white wine be stored?
Even for whites there are many variables to be considered: the original grape variety, its vinification, and its ageing in the bottle. This means that there are grape varieties that are more prone to ageing, that the process of transforming the must into wine can be decisive in its future conservation, and that there are fundamental features concerning the environment (cellar) in which the wine itself is 'rested': it must be protected from light, heat and pollution including noise. Ideal conditions are dark, humid, cool and quiet.
How long does white wine last in the bottle?
Generally white wines in Italy are drunk quite young (i.e., in the first and second year of release), and this tends to be a bit of a shame. There is no explicit definition, but generally from the third or fourth year onwards it begins to evolve, losing its initial floral and fruity freshness and thus sometimes distancing itself from the original characteristics of the grape variety.
The best vintages for whites in Italy.
One of the best vintages for Italian white wines characterised by an excellent range of night-time temperatures.
A very good year especially for white grapes from the islands and southern regions (Pietramarina - Benanti)
A vintage with fluctuating weather conditions, especially good for the white wines from Abruzzo (Trebbiano - Valentini)
High temperatures, but also fair rainfall. Excellent harvest especially for the whites from Veneto (Soave - Pieropan)
A classic patchwork vintage, with considerable excellence but just as much mediocrity. Noteworthy vintage for the white wines from Umbria (Cervaro - Castello della Sala)
A difficult year and remarkably hot in the later part. As is often the case in complicated vintages, many Italian whites turned out to be particularly intriguing.
A slightly cooler vintage than the previous ones, ideal for many Italian whites, especially Marche (Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva - Villa Bucci)
One of the worst vintages in terms of quality and quantity, but I place it among the best of this century for whites, probably because the choices made in the vineyards and cellars turned out to be right in so many cases.
A very problematic year, especially regarding the huge drop in production. The whites, once again as in the most difficult vintages, seem to give great satisfaction over time.
This is considered the 'clean' vintage, marked by a radical reduction in the various pollutions due to Covid 19. Grape quality, also for whites, is optimal, particularly with regard to the aromatic spectrum.
How to choose a good white wine by vintage.
In my opinion, even and especially for whites, this sacrosanct saying applies: 'wine always needs time'. In fact, there is no indisputable definition of its duration, even more so for a white wine.
The time component is one of the most important conditions for understanding the evolution of a wine, which, oddly enough, is defined as 'great', in most cases, precisely when it manages to maintain its pedigree over the years.
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