By Bruce Cochran
It’s time to get ready for summertime wines, and we’ll begin this week with a look at a popular grape variety that’s available in many quality levels and prices that don’t always correspond to each other.
Taste something good this week!
At a recent extended learning wine class, we explored the pinot family of grapes, discussing the four members: pinot noir, grigio, blanc, and menuier. Two are red and two are white. But one of the white wines has two names, and at least two styles–the “grey” pinot.
Grigio is Italian for grey, and gris is French for the same color. The name comes from the slight rosy color of the grapeskins. It’s not enough to stain the juice into a red wine, but it does seem to add flavor to the wine.
The “French” style often falls into one of two categories. Oregon pinot gris often resembles a California chardonnay, oak-aged and moderately full-bodied. There is also an Alsatian style, very dry, lean, medium-bodied but not much oak.
Then there’s Italian and Italian-styled pinot grigio. The ones from California are often fuller-bodied, sometimes higher than alcohol. The Italians are mostly crisp, light and dry, flavorful but not heavy. This is a style that many people like during warm summer weather, especially with lighter menus. This style is also good as an aperitif.
Most of the better Italian pinot grigio is from the north. As we discussed in that recent pinot class, just about any grape that begins with the word pinot tends to do best in cooler climates. For Italian pinot grigio this helps to preserve the crisp, tart fruit acids that can “burn off” when warm weather ripens the grapes a little too much.
The best Italian regions for Italian pinot grigio are Trentino and Alto Adige near the border with Austria. I imported Ferrari & Perini from northern Emila (bordering Piedmont, south of Milan), because it seemed to me to combine crisp acidity with an almost “New World” concentration of fruit. It retails in the $15-$20 price range.
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