Anthony Rose: Italy's whites are best in the cool north but southern Italy is making a greater contribution

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Indy Lifestyle Online

In his recipe column this week, Mark Hix's assertion that he likes his fish cooked as simply as possible calls for dry whites with a taste of the Mediterranean. Where better, then, to head for than Italy? Until recently, Italian wine was better known for great rosso; Italian white used to refer exclusively to soave, frascati and lambrusco. In the past few years, lambrusco's dubious place has been taken by pinot grigio, of which we now have the German, the Hungarian, the Argentinian, the American, the Australian and the New Zealand version. But to say there is no decent Italian pinot grigio would be unfair. There are some – like the Alto Adige's appley 2007 San Michele-Appiano Pinot Grigio, £8.99, Waitrose, and zingy 2007 Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio, £9.99, Booths – but most are overshadowed by superior north-east pinot bianco and tocai. Patrizia Felluga's 2007 Zuani Vigne Bianco, Collio, £13.95, Lea & Sandeman, londonfinewine.co.uk, is citrus-zesty and full-flavoured, the 2007 Visintini Friulano, £9.95, Lea & Sandeman, an aromatic, risotto friendly tocai. In the north west, there's gavi, such as the citrusy, dry Tesco's Finest 2007 Gavi, £6.99, or, more memorably, the beautifully balanced 2007 Gavi di Gavi, Vigneti Montessora, around £13.49, Corks Out, Cheshire (01925 267 700), Wimbledon Wine Cellar (020-7736 2191).

It's no surprise that many of Italy's white wines are at their best in the cool north, but central and southern Italy and the islands are making a greater contribution than ever to the unique diversity of Italian native whites. And barely a chardonnay in sight. From central Italy, the grechetto's unoaked juiciness in a dry white like the 2007 Grecante Grechetto dei Colli Martini, £12.95, Lea and Sandeman, fits the bill perfectly, as does verdicchio in the 2007 Casal di Serra Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore, £11.47, Christopher Piper Wines (01404-814139). From Molise, try the textured peachiness and clean lines of the 2007 Falanghina Rami, Di Majo Norante, around £8.55, Les Caves de Pyrène, Guildford (01483 554750).

Falanghina, fiano and greco do tufo are the triumvirate of white grapes bringing delicious fish-friendly drinking from the Italian south. Basilicata's volcanic Terra di Vulcano brings a subtly flavoured, appealing touch of honey to the 2007 Bisceglia Falanghina Benevento Terra di Vulcano, around £7.99, M&S Wine Direct (Le Cortiglie Label), Elixir Fine wines (07956 327 824), Lindley Fine Wines, Huddersfield (01484 653 888); the 2007 Cutizzi Greco di Tufo, Feudi di San Gregorio, £16.99, A G Wines (020-7266 4777), delivers gorgeously seamless stonefruit flavours, touched by oak with a refreshingly mouthwatering acidity. The 2007 Vesevo Greco di Tufo, £10.99, Majestic, liquoricey, rich, honeyed, with a refreshing twist of acidity is yet another successful example.

And Sicily? It's the new home of walk-on-the-wild-side whites like the 2007 Donnafugata Vigna di Gabri, Inzolia, around £15.95, Corks of Cotham, Bristol (0117 973 1620), Free Run Juice, Newquay (01872 510037), the extraordinarily rich and complex 2007 Planeta Cometa Fiano, £25, Majestic Fine Wine, one for baked sea bream, or, from the slopes of Etna, Benanti's remarkable 2004 Pietramarina Etna Bianco Superiore, £28, Les Caves de Pyrène, Guildford, a dry white made from pure carricante, with tongue-tingling lemony freshness. anthonyrosewine.com

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