The Grapevine – Looking forward to the oncoming spring with some Italian whites

Vineyard of Grillo grapes
GRILLO grapes – indigenous to Sicily (Pic: Pax:Vobiscum/wikimedia commons)

Hello again all

Now that the new year is well ensconced, it is time to start looking forward to the oncoming spring and all the new growth and light that it brings with it. As we start venturing out, more often than not it is for a glass of something fresh and light, so this time around I thought I would look at some Italian white grape varieties, all of which are fairly light.

First off, the ubiquitous Pinot Grigio. Ranging from very light to medium bodied, this really is a grape where you get what you pay for – at the cheaper end the wines have a little apple or pear-like fruit and not much going on in the finish whilst the more pricey options can have a mineral finish with hints of lanolin or lemon oil. Interestingly, the grape itself varies in colour from purple/blue to red to green – sometimes within the same bunch – and traditionally the wines were ‘ramato’ or copper coloured from skin contact during the process.

This is very much in decline as the zeitgeist calls for more fruit focused wines these days, which is a real shame as the ramato wines had lots more body and style to them. Northern Italy is really the heart of the planting area and I would definitely recommend sourcing from there – the ones from further south can be a little insipid – and middle of the range price-wise would be my advice – circa £8+VAT.

This should bring a wine with nice stone fruit, some floral aromas and a bit of texture on the palate along with a little length.

A good alternative to Pinot Grigio but from the other end of the country would be Grillo. Indigenous to Sicily, and grown all over the island pretty much, this grape has been coming on leaps and bounds in recent years. Normally with quite ripe fruit – think grapefruit and pear, and mostly medium bodied, this grape reminds me a lot of Godello from Spain.

Again, the cheaper examples are all about the fruit and lack a bit of body, and the most expensive are possibly a little too serious, so the mid ground price wise is the place to hunt – circa £8.50+ to £10+. Definitely one to watch out for this year.

Lastly, Cortese. Most famously the grape of Gavi di Gavi but grown widely in central northern Italy, this grape is pretty varied in quality and price as well! Whilst the cheapest wines are pretty neutral to be honest, with hints of lemons on a light body and maybe a touch of almond on the finish, the top wines can be verging on full bodied and even with some oak ageing, so again, like a broken record, I would recommend the middle ground in terms of price – c£7.50+ and up. This gets you a fruity wine with a medium body, mostly citrine flavours and some stoney nature to the palate, with a nice little bit of length – the wines from Lugana DOC tick all the right boxes.

Whilst there are plenty more to choose from, I’ll leave it there for now – until next time, happy hunting!


Luke Richardson is a sommelier who has worked in a range of venues across the UK in a career spanning more than 20 years. In his column for SLTN he shares his thoughts on all things wine-related and answers your questions about wine. If you have a question for Luke email it to

Luke Richardson
Luke Richardson (pic: Isabel Kronenberger)