It was about a year ago when I started noticing an Italian white showing up on some of the better wine lists around town, something that I'd rarely seen previously: Kerner, from Alto Adige. Originally cultivated in Germany as a hybrid of Riesling and Trollinger, it's now being grown in Northern Italy at the foot of the Italian Alps, and it produces a wine that is easy to fall in love with.
It's often difficult to find white wines that have richness without oak or heavy sweetness, that are intensely aromatic without falling into floweriness. But the Kerners I've tried all manage that -- to be crisp and mineral, to sing with tart citrus, and yet to be full and generous in the mouth. They can be almost oily on the palate, and many of them have that hint of petrol that so many of us adore.
Because of these qualities, Kerner makes a fantastic companion to food. It goes well with seafood and vegetables but can also stand up to lighter meats, such as veal and pork. It's amazing with cheese. It's a pleasure to drink all on its own.
Kerner is showing up more and more these days -- I've found Kerner by Manni Nossing on the list of the Hungry Cat in Hollywood, and other producers' versions at Little Dom's and Barnyard. Just this week at the newish Factory Kitchen downtown (which has an overall wonderful Italian wine selection) I tasted the Abbazia di Novacella 2012, which went beautifully with that restaurant's Northern Italian food -- a lovely reminder that regional specificity is often the best wine pairing.
Kerner is not the cheapest wine on the list: All of the bottles I've had in restaurants have hovered around the $50-$60 range. But every time I've made the splurge, I've been glad I did.
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