Favorita grapes have been grown for centuries in Italy in the sandy soil on the right bank of the River Tanaro in Piedmont. People used to eat them. Back in 1974, Gianni Gagliardo, a merchant who married into a wine family in the provincial capital of Alba, decided to do something different. Why not make wine out of these grapes? Today, his three versions of whites made from favorita are selling well on world markets and back home - another 31 winemakers are pressing favorita to keep up with demand. The origin of the grape is an Italian mystery. It is rather like the pallid vermentino grape that flourishes in the wild along the Ligurian coast, making indifferent wines. Legend says traders carried cuttings inland to Alba along with salt and fish, to trade for ham and truffles. Over the centuries, Mr Gagliardo insists, the character of the grape has changed. Now you can make wine from the fruit. Say it again, Gianni, I said, holding out my glass for a refill of his Favorita Casa. This is a direct, tart white, bursting with both acid and fruit. It is made in stainless steel tanks so the clean yellow hue and the crisp, citrus smell is pure grape. A lovely wine, but at $122 a bottle (from importer Trans Bussan, fax 2834-8209) a mite too pricey for me. It goes wonderfully with fish, especially smoked or with a thick sauce. Gianni has done something very different with the rest of the crop from his 12-hectare favorita plot. In his Neirole label, the taste is distinctive. The colour is deeper, the aroma much heavier and more intense. The flavour is stronger and the taste like velvet. Yet it is made from precisely the same grapes, picked the same day. For his $166 Neirole vineyard special, the winemaker has put in half the juice after crushing in stainless steel and the rest in a selection of small oak barriques from four different French forests. After seven months mixing with the wood and yeast in the barrels, the wines are blended to give this very satisfying result. This version of the favorita has grabbed lots of attention and won its share of prizes, which comes as no surprise. It is a very well-balanced wine and has the strength to cut through strong tastes. Meanwhile, over the other side of the Tanaro is Alba, gateway to the great Barolo region. Here the soil worked for years by sweeps of the river is heavy clay and this is where the big reds thrive. In the tiny area of Roero, 25 hectares of Gagliardo vineyards grow the gentle nebbiolo grape, the basis for some of Italy's most delightful light reds. One of those now on release here is Gagliardo's Batie, a young, lively wine with an intense chocolate-vanilla nose. The taste is delicious and if it was not $192 a bottle, I would buy a case. This is made deliberately light, so it can be drunk young. Batie means baptise in the Piedmont dialect and in that beautiful region in Italy's far northwest, where peasants say a wine is good enough to drink at a family baptism, it is high praise. It is a nice drink by itself before a meal, and a good companion for pasta and red meat dishes. The importers also carry a traditional Barolo, a big, happy wine with the glinting red colour and full velvet taste, which characterises the region. Hong Kong in the past decade has been favoured with a growing range of Italian wines. Here are some more to consider, and as far as I am concerned, the more the merrier.