We’ve already covered the reds here, so now we’re moving onto the venerable whites that have captured the international wine world’s heart and put the Maremma on the map.
Valentina, my sommelier friend, and I had to put a few days between tasting the reds and tasting the whites, so apologies. It was my fault. I got a little tipsy.
She said swirl and spit, but all I heard was scull. Just to clarify, I don’t have a drinking problem… I just couldn’t let such great wines go to waste… it wouldn’t have been right!
But moving on. There are only two principal DOC whites in the Maremma, which is interesting if you consider how many of their fellow reds have received this illustrious recognition.
But Valentina insists it’s not so much a quality issue as a grape thing. The Sangiovese is the most common grape grown in the Maremma and it just happens to be a red grape varietal. No mystery. It just grows really well over here.
That’s not to say that Maremman whites aren’t as good.
One of the things I have always loved about them is their extreme delicacy. They have none of the knock-down-your-door robustness of the locals reds, which I think is extremely pleasant. Sometimes you just want to be able to enjoy both the wine and the meal and not have one dominate the other.
So on that note, let’s discuss them.
Bianco di Pitigliano
Trust Pitigliano to have an incredible win named after it, and what a wine!
The Bianco di Pitigliano is hands down the Maremma’s most famous white. The Trebbiano grape that is used is grown in Pitigliano and in the surrounding Manciano, Scansano and Sorano, and is beautifully delicate.
If that wasn’t enough, this venerable white also has an amazing history, created in the centuries when Pitigliano was a haven to a huge Jewish community. The city’s nickname is actually Piccola Gerusalemme or Little Jerusalem!
The original Bianco di Pitigliano was, Valentina tells me, a Kosher wine, and if you hunt hard enough you can still buy kosher versions of this wine in Pitigliano.
Kosher wines are made differently from normal wines in that they follow strict Jewish law in production and in the use of non-Kosher meat products as finings.
Pitigliano’s 16th century Jewish community would make their wine in tall wooden barrels and then preserve them in the tufa rock caves that were originally carved by the Etruscans.
Non-kosher versions of the Bianco di Pitigliano are still aged this way along the Strada Panoramica that leads into the city.
The wine itself is a beautiful yellow colour flecked with green. On the nose it has a slightly fruity aroma, while on the palate it’s dry, lively with a slightly bitter aftertaste. You really can’t go past it if you’re having fish, especially my all time favourite Italian pasta dish spaghetti scampi!
Every September, all the cantine (wine cellars) in Pitigliano open their doors for the Festa della Cantina. Almost as good as the Mancianese event of the same name, this noisy festival is about celebrating the best wines of the year, washed down with plenty of local culinary delights like Pitigliano’s national biscuit – Lo Sfratto, which was coincidentally also created by the 16th century Jewish community and has an aniseed flavour.
Where to get the Bianco di Pitigliano:
If you’re looking for a truly great Bianco and a traditional experience to boot, you can’t go past the Cantina di Pitigliano. This wine cellar doesn’t actually grow the grapes, they just maintain a centuries’ old custom where all the local grape growers bring their grapes to them for crushing.
The cellar keeps a percentage and you get to indulge in the purest and most authentic Bianco di Pitigliano you’ll ever try, without any of the new age pretentious!
For spectacular views along with your wine, head for Villa Corano on the outskirts of Pitigliano. They run regular tastings on their sprawling vineyard in both Italian and English… and you’re free to roam the gardens for as long as you want, wine glass in hand, of course.
And finally my personal favourite, La Tenuta Roccaccia. Their vineyard is also just outside Pitigliano and everyone, and I mean everyone, says they make the best Bianco di Pitigliano.
My hubby says it, Valentina says it, everyone I have spoken to while researching this post says it. The locals just can’t get enough, and tourists get the added bonus of being able to stay on the adjacent agriturismo and indulge in all the wine they want.
Oh, but you don’t have to stay at the agriturismo to join in on the regular tastings and wine courses!
Ansonica Costa del Argentario
Ansonica isn’t like its fellow Maremman wines. For one, you can actually try similar versions of this white on Elba Island, Sicily and Sardinia, where it’s called Inzolia.
This is because the grape that makes up 85% of the wine, also called the Ansonica, is also grown of these islands too. It’s a sweet, light yellow, almost white berry that grows in tall terraces that are very hard to pick from.
Again, you really have to blame, or thank, the Etruscans for this. The Etruscans were seafarers who had a particular soft spot for the Tuscan Archipelago and Italy’s other islands.
Wine archaeologists, or whatever they’re called, think the Ansonica might be descendant from the ancient Greek varieties Rhoditis and Sideritis, so you’re pretty much drinking a wine that has 2,000-year-old roots at least, which is mental.
For wine lovers, the Ansonica stands out as the Maremma’s one and only seaside wine, as Valentina likes to call it.
The intense sunlight, high temperatures and sea winds come together to produce a wine that has a high alcohol and salt content. Now I know that sounds absolutely disgusting, but the Ansonica doesn’t taste like a sardine in a bottle.
Instead, it’s the most perfect golden colour like the nectar wine you read about in all those Greek mythologies.
It’s ideal with vegetable soups and white meat, but you have to be really careful not to overwhelm its delicate flavour, which oenophiles would describe as “soft” and “fresh”.
Where to get it:
You can’t go past buying the Ansonica at its source: Giglio Island.
None of the island’s vineyards have their own website, they’re too small or, if you want to get fancy, boutique. But Altura di Mattia Vedis Carfagna is on the Strada del Vino e dei Sapore Colli di Maremma, otherwise known as the regional wine trail.
These winemakers mean serious business. They’ve been making the Ansonica for generations. Their vineyard is in prime position on the most gorgeous southern corner of the island and they’re extremely friendly.
For tours and tastings, you have to ask at Ristorante Arcobalena, which is in Giglio Castello. This might sound strange, but all the family-owned businesses on the island are run this way. Otherwise give the vineyard a call on +39 0564 806041.
Of course, if you don’t feel like a ferry trip and a chance to gawk at the still half-immersed Costa Concordia cruise ship then definitely visit Vini Parrina in Parrina, near Albinia. This absolutely stunning vineyard doubles as an agriturismo, so you can stay the night if you really want to indulge.
The vineyard also produces some of the other DOC wines I’ve mentioned, both red and white, but is most famous for its own DOC, the Parrina. Both the red and white versions of the Parrina are light and fruity.
You can taste and buy these at the cantina on the vineyard or online.
A quick word about IGTs
I know I’ve used up my word limit for this post, but I had to slip something in about IGTs.
IGTs aren’t bound by strict traditional and territorial rules like the DOC wines. If you make a DOC wine, you’re making a drinkable ode to the landscape you live in. There is recipe you must stick to.
IGTS on the other hand are fantastic wines completely unbound by any territorial rules. The winemakers who produce them can play with grape varieties, percentages and tastes until they get the perfect tipple.
What I’m trying to say is, don’t just try the DOC Maremman wines. The IGT are just as good, if not better, especially if you’re dealing with a master winemaker like Riccardo from Vini Montauto, whose IGT red and white are both multi-award winners.