I posted this picture on my Instagram and Twitter feeds last week and got a number of surprising responses. “Was it still good?” and “Does Verdicchio last that long?” and “Where did you find that? It’s so old!”
Yes! Italian white wines can age!
I don’t know where or why the rumor that white wines (especially from Italy) should only be consumed when fresh and young was started, but it needs to be squashed- now. Most of my epiphany-moments with Italian wines have been with older whites. Benanti’s Pietramarina from Etna, Emidio Pepe’s Trebbiano, Fiorano’s whites… the list is long, my friends.
For example, this Verdicchio di Matelica from classic producer, Bisci, is gorgeous with 10 years of bottle age. The steeliness of youth found in some Verdicchio di Matelica wines is fleshed out by the long, slow, micro-oxidation of the wine through its cork. A wine that might have been overtly bright and cheerful in its youth become more brooding- complex, aromatic, and oilier on the palate.
For the record the pairing of this Verdicchio with savory, slow-grilled peaches and yogurt with basil and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar was just about the most perfect food-and-wine pairing I can remember. (Bravo, Geoff and Amber!) Now that’s my kind of dessert.
Not every Italian white wine can age. However you will find greatness more often than not, especially with the combination of the right grape varietal, vinified by an experienced producer. Verdicchio, Trebbiano, Soave, Fiano are all great places to start if you’re looking to taste some older whites wines from Italy. These varietals all seem to have the backbone and the acidity to evolve with time. Check out this great podcast by Master Sommelier Geoff Kruth at the Guild of Sommeliers. You’ll start to understand what it takes to produces truly great white wines (that can age).
Open your mind. Don’t be an ageist– talk to your favorite retailer and ask them when they have in the back of the shop. My guess is, you’ll be happily surprised by what you find.