Italian wine guide: Pinot Grigio
“Pinot Grigio has got a bad press because it is so popular; some people turn their noses up, but that’s not fair.”Michael Simms, head sommelier, Sartoria
In recent years Pinot Grigio has become very popular in the UK, boosting Italian wine sales and reassuring customers with its light, inoffensive style. But does inoffensive translate as bland? In part one of The Artful Diner’s Italian wine guide I find out more…
Pinot Grigio is grown all around the world, but its spiritual home is Italy, in particular the north in Friuli-Venezia and Trentino Alto Adige. Typically, it produces a pale straw or green-coloured wine, although the grape itself is a mutation of the red grape Pinot Noir and the skin has a pink hue, enabling some wine producers to make a rosé version. It should be drunk young.
Michael Simms, head sommelier at Italian restaurant Sartoria and former head sommelier at The Ritz [below], says he thinks Pinot Grigio has been underestimated. “It’s got a bad press because it is so popular; some people turn their noses up, but that’s not fair,” he says. “It’s brilliant with light fish dishes and shellfish or even chicken cooked in a style that isn’t too elaborate.”
The typical Pinot Grigio has subtle white fruit and spice characters, although describing it as “fruity” can be misleading, says Michael. Its real virtue is its ability to go with a variety of light dishes, in his words, “the perfect picnic wine”.
That is not to say you can’t find variety across different Pinot Grigios. Below are three different styles, followed by two recommendations from Friuli native Claudio Gottardo, head chef at Italian restaurant Cantina del Ponte:
Three Pinot Grigios, three different styles:
The Friuli example - Pinot Grigio, Puiattino, Puiatti, 2010
Michael describes this wine as “the most typical” of our three. It has a pale straw appearance with light floral and pear notes on the nose. These carry through in its taste, which is neither sweet nor sharp, but gently mouth-watering.
The Trentino Alto Adige example – Pinot Grigio, Alois Lageder, 2010
Michael describes wine producer Alois Lageder as one of the best producers in his region. The Alto Adige is an Alpine area and this Pinot Grigio has a more steely, mineral character – as Michael says: “You can almost taste the mountain air.” It also has the typical pale straw colour, but is more persistent and leaner than the Puiattino.
The Tuscan example – Pinot Grigio, San Angelo, Banfi, 2010
This is an unusual Pinot Grigio because it has been produced in the warmer Tuscan climate (Pinot Grigio tends to make better wine in cooler climes), but it still has a dry finish. In appearance it also is a pale straw colour, but it is broader on the nose, with riper fruit, like peach. There is more weight in the mouth and a clean finish, making it a good food pairing.
The Friulani's favourite:
Claudio Gottardo grew up in Friuli. Here is his pick of Pinot Grigio from that region:
Pinot Grigio, Graves del Friuli, San Simone 2010
This is a light and refreshing Pinot Grigio, which is also soft and vibrant with fresh citrus character.
Pinot Grigio, Vinnaioli Jermann, 2010
Vinnaioli Jermann is a Friulani producer to look out for, being one of the best in his region, according to Claudio. This Pinot Grigio has a delicate flowery and mineral nose and medium body. Its flavour is elegant, dry and lengthy with hints of peaches and pears.
The first three wines are available at Sartoria.
The first Friulani's favourite is available to drink at Cantina del Ponte.
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