Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?
It's funny how entire wine-grape varieties move in and out of wine lovers' respect. As we've discussed quite a bit lately, thanks to the impact of the wine-related movie Sideways, Pinot Noir is way up, while the grape that the character Miles called "#@&%ing Merlot" is down. Chardonnay grapples with an "Anything But Chard" sentiment, while such downscale grapes as Concord and Thompson Seedless remain in permanent exile from most wine enthusiasts' fancy.
This Italian white variety (which wears the French moniker Pinot Gris in most of the rest of the world) has enjoyed a tremendous boom in recent years as an inexpensive, mass-market quaffer. This development has led some of the more "industrial" producers to make a lake of the stuff in an insipid, slightly sweet style, devoid of varietal character or flavor interest but easy to drink. Naturally this trend has earned the scorn of wine geeks, who've pretty much signed off from the entire variety for the duration.
But all Pinot Gris/Grigio is not created equal, and a wholesale PG-exclusion policy makes little sense. Some of Oregon's Pinot Gris makes a splendid match with Pacific wild salmon, for instance; and fans of Alsatian wines would argue that the grape may reach its apogee along the stretch between the Vosges mountains and the Rhine.
In northern Italy, my secret - and yes, it's a generalization too - is, "Head for the hills." A great deal of Pinot Grigio is grown on the Veneto plain, and a lot of it goes into the kind of drinkable, forgettable wine mentioned above. But move up into the Alpine Alto Adige region, or the pretty hills of Colli Orientale and Collio (which, not coincidentally translate as "Eastern Hills" and just-plain "Hills"), and you'll find Pinot Grigio to reckon with. Like today's tasting from Renato Keber in Collio, a mouth-filling, aromatic white wine indeed. Nothing insipid here!
The moral of today's sermon? As with so many simple rules-of-thumb - about wine and about many other things - those who place too much reliance on strict rules miss a lot.
Renato Keber 2003 Collio Pinot Grigio ($16)
The rich color of this clear golden wine shows an almost subliminal touch of reddish-bronze, a signature of ripe, fine Pinot Grigio. Its luscious aromas focus on pears, a clean, appealing fruit character that carries over into a full-bodied, balanced pear and melon flavor nicely shaped by snappy lemon-lime. No mere "glass of white wine," this is serious Pinot Grigio from northeastern Italy's Collio hills. U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Cincinnati, from Marc de Grazia. (June 17, 2006)
FOOD MATCH: A handy food match with a variety of dishes, it served well with a summer party buffet that included grilled chicken kebabs, bratwurst and even grilled tofu.
VALUE: If more forgettable Pinot Grigios can command $10 or more, it's hard to quibble with the middle teens for a wine of this quality.
WHEN TO DRINK: Not really a wine to age, although the good body and luscious fruit will certainly hold it for a year or two under reasonably good storage conditions.
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Membership in California Wine Club's elite Connoisseurs' Series is now available to WineLoversPage.com readers and 30 Second Wine Advisor subscribers.
The Connoisseur's Series is the only wine club in America that can guarantee a monthly wine shipment of impossible-to-find, 90-plus-rated wines - each and every time. Whether you choose to receive wines monthly, every other month or quarterly, every shipment is guaranteed to include two to four bottles of California's highest-rated wines, along with detailed tasting notes, cellaring recommendations and winemaker comments. Monthly shipments average $125-$175, including all shipping and handling. Membership costs nothing, you may cancel at any time, and every wine is 100 percent guaranteed.
Personally, I'm sold on this club. High-end California wine can be a real minefield, but when I'm in the market - seeking a wine for review or simply for my own enjoyment - I rely on Connoisseurs' Series. I can count on their selections every time.
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These recent Connoisseurs' Series reds, still available to new members, impressed me very much.
Jaffurs 2002 Santa Barbara County Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah ($42 retail, $34 per bottle for half or full case orders from Connoisseurs' Series)
This big, powerful Syrah from a respected Central Coast producer that specializes in Rhone-style varieties even looks massive in the glass, with its inky, opaque blackish-purple color. It's no one-dimensional monolith, though, with raw beef and fragrant black pepper aromas adding complexity and a whiff of the Northern Rhone to California-style power and ripe, plummy fruit. Spicy black-fruit flavors follow the nose, big and structured and very well balanced; this big boy carries its hulking 15 percent alcohol with style and grace. A natural match for grilled beef and went very well with lean, juicy burgers fashioned from grass-fed local beef. Only 387 cases produced. Winery Website: http://www.jaffurswine.com/ (May 29, 2006)
Reverie Winery 2001 Napa Valley Diamond Mountain Red Table Wine ($75 retail, $64 per bottle for half or full case orders from Connoisseurs' Series)
Another robust red that signals its intensity even in its color, this Cabernet-dominant Bordeaux blend is such a dark and shiny black that it puts me in mind of patent leather, with dark-purple glints against the light. Deep and intense aromas offer classic "cassis" blackcurrant, black plums and cherries with aromatic back notes of menthol and cedar. Mouth-filling and properly acidic, it's fruit-forward, but a sturdy structure of acidity and tannins hold it up well. Smooth tannins and fine black-cherry and subtle conifer notes add elegance in the finish. Impressive but still very young, will benefit from cellar time. Another robust red that needs beef, it went very well with natural Kentucky Green River rib eye steaks. A total of 850 cases were made. Winery Website: http://www.reveriewine.com/ (May 31, 2006)
Fun wine link
This British gent has his tongue firmly in his cheek - maybe - as he straight-facedly asserts that there's a relationship between the depth of the "punt" (the deep indentation in the bottom of most wine bottles) and the value of the wine. He offers plenty of "scientific" validation, including a well-scattered scatter graph, in support of his hypothesis. It's a fine wine-related chuckle for a Monday morning. Click
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Some highlights of recent articles on WineLoversPage.com that I hope you'll enjoy:
Vino 101: Pop the Cork on Wine Training
Hot topics in our WineLovers' Community
Advice on growing grapes ... in a pot
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Second verse, just like the first (June 16, 2006)
Summer bubbles (June 14, 2006)
Grape jelly to fine wine (June 12, 2006)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Bresaola cheese packets (June 15, 2006)
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Monday, June 19, 2006