From southern Italy, these lesser-known white wines overdeliver
While it’s easy to find wines that color within the lines of the monthly budget, many of us expect more. We look for distinctiveness and dimension that reflect the work of conscientious winegrowers with a passion for native grapes. Three southern Italian producers know just what we like, crafting white wines that add polish to our spring tables.
In Calabria — the rugged toe of Italy’s boot — Cantina Scala is situated near the Ionian Sea in Cirò. The 45-acre estate, in the family since 1949, is run by the father-son team Luigi and Francesco Scala. You might already love their delicious rosso classico superiore, made from the gaglioppo varietal; but don’t miss their white wine, crafted from greco bianco. That grape (not to be confused with the dessert wine named Greco di Bianco) serves as the basis for a dry white that offers more than you might expect for the price. Certified organic since the 2016 vintage, the tangy pour expresses attractively layered aromas and a dimensional palate.
Catarratto may not be a familiar name to you, but it will be once you uncork a refreshing bottle from Cantine Rallo, established in 1860. In Sicily’s northwest, the winery was long known for its production of the fortified wine Marsala. In the 1990s, the Vesco family breathed new life into this venerable operation, modernizing equipment and instituting organic agriculture. Today, the winery produces a range of table wines, including vivid bottles made from grown-in-Alcamo catarratto, Sicily’s most-planted varietal.
Travel a couple hundred miles to Sicily’s southeastern coast and you’ll arrive in storied Siracusa. Long a center of power in the ancient world, part of what the Romans dubbed Magna Graecia, it’s home to Cantine Gulino, founded in the 18th century. Sebastiano Gulino, an otolaryngologist-turned-winemaker, rejuvenated his family’s property in the 1990s. Intent on reviving the near-extinct varietal albanello, Gulino pored over Latin texts and scrutinized abandoned vineyards in search of the grape. Eventually finding and cultivating that vine, his is the only 100 percent albanello I’ve seen on the market. Leave it to an ear, nose, and throat doctor to craft a wine that impacts the senses so beautifully.
Vivid palate characteristics result when conscientious farming, heritage grapes, and thoughtful winemaking combine. These bottles check all of the boxes — and then some.
Cantine Rallo “Ciello Bianco” Catarratto 2017 Lemony and waterfall-fresh on the nose, with scents of grass and crunchy peach. Zippy with flavors that mirror aromas, plus green almond and saline. Around $16. At BRIX Wine Shop, Financial District, 617-542-2749; The Wine Bottega, North End, 617-227-6607.
Scala Cirò Bianco 2018 Crafted from greco bianco grapes, this lively pour offers aromas that are pretty and layered, expressing stone fruit, white flowers, and a minerally fresh herbal note. The tart and tangy palate offers citrus spritz and pith, crunchy peach, and appetizing saltiness. Around $16. At Berman’s Fine Wines & Spirits, Lexington, 781-862-0515; Blanchards Wines & Spirits, Jamaica Plain, 617-522-9300.
Cantine Gulino “Pretiosa” Albanello 2017 A first sniff discovers a little smokiness that lifts quickly to reveal spicy herbal notes, yellow tree fruit, and blanched almonds. It offers a mouthful of ripeness — stone fruit and a splash of pineapple — plus salt and bitterness that whet the appetite. Around $22. At The Spirited Gourmet, Belmont, 617-489-9463; Federal Wine & Spirits, Financial District, 617-367-8605.