The Simply Italian Great Wines Tour, 2019, at the SLS Hotel, West Hollywood, was a rapid carousel of peaches and pears, violets and cherries, honeysuckle and linden blossom. Starting at 10 am with a yawn and eight glasses of Pinot Grigio, Ken and I spent a glorious day by invitation spinning between tasting seminars.
I usually think of Pinot Grigio as a safe choice wine because of its fresh flavors, food-friendly acidity, and wallet-friendly price point. It is an easy Summer tipple to drink with cheesy snacks, but I don’t usually take it very seriously. This seminar changed my thinking somewhat. We tasted a diverse array of 2018 Pinot Grigios from the D.O.C. Delle Venezie, each with its own very distinct characteristics but all with the through-line of acidity and minerality typical for the region. A little look at my tasting notes illustrates the kind of variety we were treated to:
Kroger, from Cantina Di La-Vis. This is a dry mountain wine with refreshing youthful effervescence. It delivers apples and pears on the nose, minerals, and spice on the palate, and releases a little brine on the finish. A winner that retails for only $8.99.
Villa San Martino, from Cantina Di Bertiolo S.P.A. Aromas of white peach and biscuits, dissolve into pithy citrus fruit on the palate with a subtle hint of almonds on the finish. This wine would complement Asian dishes perfectly.
Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie from Bidoli. This is a salmon pink white wine, as distinct from a rosé. The color is achieved by leaving the juice on the skins for about six hours. I wonder how many people would identify this as a white wine with their eyes closed. I am not sure I would be able to as there is a distinct hint of strawberries on the palate that I associate with rosé wine… and yet, the mouth-watering wet stone minerals tell another story. This is a very interesting tipple.
Ai Palazzi Dorsoduro from Masottina, for me, is the most complex of the wines tasted. The nose is fragrant with honeysuckle and herbs. It is blended with a small amount of Chardonnay (The DOC requires that at least 85% of the varietal composition must be Pinot Grigio. All the previous wines mentioned use 100%). This combination leans in towards the Chardonnay, to provide a strong backbone of apples, pears, and citrus fruits with a rich toasted almond finish. By contrast, Ecco Domani, a supermarket favorite, also cuts a tiny (5%) percentage of Chardonnay into the bottle but I wouldn’t have known that by taste alone. Here the nose is delicate chamomile but the palate is bright with kiwi-berries and raunchy acidity.
In a different seminar, Fresh and Fun Wines from Fruili, #TheSparklingLife, we tasted Pinot Grigio 2018 DOC Friuli Grave from Albino Armani. Round, dense, approachable and delicious notes of ripe Bartlett pear and yellow apples mingle with hints of toasted almonds and salty stone. It’s from the wrong DOC for purists, perhaps, but I absolutely loved it and I have a much greater respect for the Pinot Grigio grape than I did going into this day. HELEN
What fun! I take every white wine varietal seriously, because it’s what I drink. Except for Chardonnay, unless it’s unoaked. I’m taking this information to my wine lady and see what she can bring into Oklahoma! I won’t hold my breath.
I remember when I first tasted Pinot Grigio — it was in the late 1980s, and I was blown away by its bright, clean, crisp flavor. Quite a contrast to all the heavily oaked chardonnay that was so popular at the time. Alas, over the years it became so popular a lot of producers starter producing kind of watered down versions, flavorwise. And I didn’t drink it for years. Over the last couple of years, though, I’ve gone back to it, and found some excellent values (well, my wine merchant is the one who found the values and recommended them to me!). Fun read — thanks.