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’ll be the first to admit it’s easy to get stuck in a rut when drinking wine: I often find myself drawn to a handful of varietals from familiar California or Washington state wineries, and my Old World wine selections are typically French. Did you know that although France may be the European country that is most associated with wine, Italy is actually the world’s largest producer of wine?

“Italy, in one country, offers more diversity than any other single country on earth,” says Shawn Paul, Wine Operations Director for Foxcroft Wine Co., a wine bar and retail shop that opened in the last year in downtown Greenville. “It is virtually inexhaustible. Even within one region, you could literally drink a different wine every day of the week for a year.”

Paul is a big fan of Italian wines for their versatility. “Italian wines in general will typically have an affinity for food,” he says. “They’ve got food in their back pocket.” Italian wines can also be reasonably priced.

With a little help from my friend Gian Luca and his wife, Livia, who are originally from Piemonte, Paul and I selected three whites and two reds that feel perfect for summertime.

Elena Walch Pinot
Bianco, $20

Drink it: as an aperitif, or with fish or poultry

Elena Walch, an architect by trade, is considered to be one of the foremost female winemakers in the world. This wine, made from the pinot blanc grape, comes from the Alto Adige region in northern Italy. Paul reveres this area for its intensely expressive white wines.

“I always describe pinot blanc as the less oaky and buttery version of chardonnay with a
little more mineral richness,” he says. This wine is fermented in stainless steel, which encourages the clean, slightly sweet presentation of citrus, apple and herbs. Some trivia: by genetic mutation, pinot blanc is the white version
of pinot noir.

Tenuta le Calcinaie
Vernaccia di San
Gimignano, $19

Drink it: because it is fresh and friendly

Vernaccia isn’t a very common grape. In fact, it’s not grown in many places outside of Tuscany, where winemakers have worked diligently to cultivate the grape to a very high level.

“It combines some of the bright, citrus and green elements of sauvignon blanc, but minus the tanginess,” Paul says. “It’s always very, very fresh.” This is an extremely accessible wine, perfect for serving to guests on a warm summer day. Compared to the pinot bianco, it exhibits higher acidity, which gives it a brighter quality perfect for summertime.

Bellus Caldera
falanghina, $25

Drink it: for its complexity

Bellus was launched in 2011 by Jordan Salcito, a New York-based sommelier, to produce organically grown, terroir-centric wines through collaboration with wineries from around the world. Caldera is made from falanghina grapes in Italy’s Campania region. Paul roughly compares falanghina to chardonnay. This is a dry wine, with crisp minerality and notes of peach, apple and almond.

“Perhaps the best pairing for something like this would be really juicy shrimp right off the grill or prosciutto-wrapped melon,” Paul says.

Proprietà Sperino
in Lessona, $70

Drink it: with a good steak

This red, made from 100 percent nebbiolo grapes from Italy’s Piedmont region, is delicate enough to work with mushroom risotto yet powerful enough to stand up to a lean filet. Berries and spice abound on the nose, while dark cherries, rose and black tea fill the palate along with well-balanced tannins and nice acidity.

“This expression of the nebbiolo grape has a character all its own, unbelievably fresh,” Paul says. This wine was delicious right out of the bottle, but I’d treat it to an hour in a decanter.

Terredora di Paolo Fatica
Contadina Taurasi, $43

Drink it: as an alternative to a cab

The intense ruby color is the first hint that this is a big wine. Black cherry, tobacco and mineral notes combine to make smooth yet intense flavors, with a long finish rich with tannins.

“Taurasi wines are without question the greatest expressions of the aglianico grape,” Paul says. “It literally tastes like the very soil it comes from.” Made from 100 percent aglianico grapes aged for 24 months in French and Slavonian barrels, this is a red that can stand up to a grilled rib-eye steak or lamb chop, roasted meats, game and spicy foods. If you like cabernet sauvignon, try this wine. It, too, should be decanted.

Want It / Find It

All of these wines are available
for retail or dine-in purchase at
Foxcroft Wine, 631 S. Main Street.

written and photographed by Pete Martin