There are probably no two words that divide wine drinkers as effectively as Pinot Grigio. To millions of wine drinkers it is a given that an evening out will revolve around a bottle or three of Pinot, the diners who on being seated at a restaurant table will order a glass without looking at the wine list, confident that it ought, nay must be on every wine list.
Then you have your better informed wine drinkers, some of whom will tell you, eye brow raised that there was a time when something like three times as much Pinot Grigio was exported from Italy than the plantings allowed. Obviously the source data from this anecdote has been long lost, if, indeed it was ever anything other than apocryphal.
Now, time for a confession; I’ve been guilty of the latter, I’ve also deliberately listed expensive Pinot Grigios at places I’ve worked to punish those awful drinkers who deigned not to have as much geeky interest as in wine as me. I looked scornfully at people who admitted they liked the occasional bottle. I was obviously so superior that they deserved to be not only ignored, but a bit ripped off in the name of improving my GP.
I’ve since grown up, I no longer worry that people won’t know that I really care about what I drink (and what they drink), and I’ve learnt to be a bit more accepting, and a little less of a nob.
Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Grauburgunder, Szurkebarat, many names fro the same thing. But to muddy the water, they also tend to refer to different styles of wine produced from the same grape varietal. Pinot Gris, the French term is more often than not a waxy, rich opulent sort of drink, redolent of pears, peach, maybe some floral notes, often creeping into quite high alcohol territory and definitely a flirt with late harvests. Pinot Grigio is more often a lighter type of wine, some might suggest neutral, and in many cases they’d not be wrong. I’m taking a middle ground here, and part of that is not ignoring the faults of the industrial style of Pinot Grigio. The brand will have a generic Italian name, the vineyard yield, how much wine you can make from each vine, will be stratospherically high and the wine will be about as memorable as a grey day in September.
At its best Italian Pinot Grigio is an intriguing sort of wine, and oddly one that is appreciated most by folk that really love their wine. It’s all delicate interplays of texture, silken mouth feel and subtle mineral and stone fruit accents. The cooler mountainous regions of Northern Italy are home to these wines, Friuli Venezia and it’s co-joined twin of Slovenian vineyards. The Alto Adige; where German speaking winemakers tend to immaculate vineyards beneath soaring peaks of granite and fir. The pale blue sky betraying the elevated altitude, these are spiritual homes of Pinot Grigio as a style. From the slightly austere yet mineral rich and precisely crafted wines of the Alto Adige to the smoother more accommodating Friulian versions they are all wines that deserve serious consideration, and yes, I do think they’re worth the extra money.
|the dolomites looming over the alto adige|