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"A Potpourri From Italy

  by Fred McMillin


"Italy surpasses all other countries in the number of grape varieties."

...Burton Anderson, The Wine Atlas of Italy

The Rest of the Story

More and more of those Italian varietals are making their way to California. My panel tried a number of the Golden State versions, and these six topped the tasting.

6th - Tocai Friulano (tow-kie free-oo-lan-oh)—A leading white-wine grape of northeast Italy that makes light, crisp wines to be drunk young.

'96 Robert Pepi Tocai Friulano, Central Coast, California, $18

5th—Sangiovese (sahn-joh-VAY-zeh)—The grape that dominates Italy's best-known red wine, Chianti...light, fresh.

    '96 Sobon Sangiovese, Amador County, $13.50

4th—Barbera (bahr-BEAR-ah)—As far back as 1967 my students were clamoring for a greater California production of this very drinkable red. Today, plantings are increasing considerably.

    '94 Sebastiani Barbera, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, $14

3rd - Pinot Grigio (pee-noh GREE-joh)—Makes a very spunky white with more pizzaz than an unoaked Chardonnay.

    '96 Pinot Grigio by La Famiglia di Robert Mondavi, Central Coast, California, $16

2nd—Charbono (shar-BOH-noh)—Origins are murky, but this full-bodied red isn't. This example is by John Richburg, who probably has more experience with this grape in California than any other winemaker (he made it for decades at Inglenook).

    '92 Bayview Cellars Charbono, Napa Valley, $16

Winner—Another Sangiovese - My panel loved the cherry-berry fruit.

'94 William Wheeler Sangiovese, California, $19 (Owned by Boisett, U.S.A.).


Areas of countries (sq. miles):

Which one of these three countries is the world's largest wine producer?
Answer: The smallest, Italy!


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