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WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Robin Garr » Mon Jun 19, 2006 1:35 pm

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 <i>Sideways</i>, 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.

And then there's Pinot Grigio.

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 <b>Renato Keber</b> 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.

<table border="0" align="right" width="120"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/kebe0617.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>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 <i>serious</i> Pinot Grigio from northeastern Italy's Collio hills. U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Cincinnati, from Marc de Grazia. (June 17, 2006)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> 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.

<B>VALUE:</B> 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.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> 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.

<B>PRONUNCIATION:</B>
<B>Pinot Grigio</B> = "<I>Pee-noe Gree-joe</I>"
<B>Collio</B> = "<I>Cole-yoe</I>"

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
Here's a link to distributor Marc De Grazia's page on Renato Keber, including links to many of his wines including the 2004 Pinot Grigio.

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Query Wine-Searcher.com for prices and vendors for Renato Keber's Pinot Grigio.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Paulo in Philly » Mon Jun 19, 2006 2:53 pm

Hey Robin - have you seen Santa margherita's "pink" Pinot Grigio? I walked by it at the store the other day and was surprised. I already had 3 bottles in hand and thought to get it another time just to taste it and find out what that was about! :shock:
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Carl Eppig » Mon Jun 19, 2006 3:03 pm

Sounds like a good one Robin. That price point seems to be where we separate the PG boys from the PG men. We especially like Bortoluzzi's, Pinot Grigio, Isonzo Del Friuli from the same neck of woods at the same price point. Some folks are partial to Tommasi that is closer to the $10 point.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Hoke » Mon Jun 19, 2006 4:16 pm

Careful how you inflect those statistics there, Mr. Journalist. :) While it's entirely appropriate to say that Pinot Noir is way up (according to Gomberg shipments for CA, PN went from 3.1 million cases in 2004 to 4.7 million cases in 2005), I don't think you can rightly say that Merlot is down. Growth has slowed, yes., but it still accounts for about the same amount of cases (right at 22 million) in 2004 and 2005. That's a slowdown of growth, yes, but it's not a nosedive. Far from it. And we don't know how permanent/long term that is; it's too early to tell.

And it's not necessary a one two one correlation that pinot growth sales:merlot decline. Too many other factors there to make that simple a declaration.

You can probably say that about Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio/Gris though. One of the most startling statistical statements is the recent trend away from Chardonny to other white varieties (and mostly Pinot Gris in that lumped category) in the by-the-glass consumption in restaurants: Chardonnay used to account for about 25% of the btg pours; not it accounts for about 16--18%. Now THAT'S a drop!

Personally, I think the growth of Pinot Grigio is because of exactly the opposite of why you like the Alto Adige/Friuli version: I think PG's vast popularity is because it is essentially a bland and featureless plonk wine. The rare exceptions prove only that there are rare exceptions. :D
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Robin Garr » Mon Jun 19, 2006 4:59 pm

Hoke wrote:Careful how you inflect those statistics there, Mr. Journalist. :)


Not really journalism - in the sense of objective analysis - so much as commentary, Hoke. Read what I wrote, rather than what you think I said ;-) and you'll see that I'm rendering a value judgement about varieties that win respect, or don't, from "wine enthusiasts" (i.e., people geeky enough to be hanging out around these forums and reading these scribblings). I didn't mention sales numbers, but I think the gist of the discussion of Pinot Grigio/Gris makes clear that "respect" and "gross sales" aren't congruent at all.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it ...
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Hoke » Mon Jun 19, 2006 5:11 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Hoke wrote:Careful how you inflect those statistics there, Mr. Journalist. :)


Not really journalism - in the sense of objective analysis - so much as commentary, Hoke. Read what I wrote, rather than what you think I said ;-) and you'll see that I'm rendering a value judgement about varieties that win respect, or don't, from "wine enthusiasts" (i.e., people geeky enough to be hanging out around these forums and reading these scribblings). I didn't mention sales numbers, but I think the gist of the discussion of Pinot Grigio/Gris makes clear that "respect" and "gross sales" aren't congruent at all.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it ...


Ah. Perception versus reality. I get it. :) But isn't that what journalism has become in this brave new world of ours???
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Robin Garr » Mon Jun 19, 2006 5:47 pm

Hoke wrote:Ah. Perception versus reality. I get it. :) But isn't that what journalism has become in this brave new world of ours???


Er ... that's not what I said at all, Hoke, but I'm not sure it's worth pursuing further.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by James Roscoe » Mon Jun 19, 2006 5:50 pm

Hoke,
Have you ever read newspapers from the 19th century? Journalism has and always will be what it is. It's the readers who need to catch on.
Cheers!
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Hoke » Mon Jun 19, 2006 6:39 pm

James Roscoe wrote:Hoke,
Have you ever read newspapers from the 19th century? Journalism has and always will be what it is. It's the readers who need to catch on.
Cheers!
James


Yep, and the 18th too. Pretty colorful stuff, eh, James? I've always thought it interesting that the aspirants go to "Journalism School", then become "Reporters", while yearning to cease being reporters and get to be "journalists" again...which now, and perhaps most blatantly than since the most outrageous days of yellow journalism, is more about flagrant punditry than anything having to do with actual reportage.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with what Robin was writing (and how I was responding, which was poking a stick at the hairy old bear :) ) I always enjoy the quasi-gruff response of "You read what I wrote, not what I meant" whenever I comment on something he wrote. For some reason, he doesn't enjoy it as much as I do, though. :wink:
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Michael Grossman » Mon Jun 19, 2006 6:45 pm

The answer to the somewhat rhetorical question is, of course, "nothing". Nothing at all when you are getting a decent example of the varietal. I have seen so many wines go through these phases where the market was flooded with poor examples and the name itself became synonymous with mediocre or nondescript wine.

Having just returned from a few weeks in Italy I had the pleasure of drinking an excellent, no make that an outstanding Pinot Grigio at a restaurant in the town of Sarche in the Trento. The restaurant is in a building constructed as a convent in the fifteenth century and the name is appropriately enough Ristorante al Convento.

I cannot tell you the name of the winery it was from other than the wine is not exported and was from a small winery a few kilometers from the restaurant, and was served in small carafes (or large ones if you wanted) from a large crockery container in which it is delievered to the restaurant. The bright acidity and wonderful minerality of this wine was well suited to my taste.
[img]http://www.allcoastsportfishing.com/photos/uploads/100004/ristorante_al_convento.jpg[/img]
Last edited by Michael Grossman on Mon Jun 19, 2006 6:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by James Roscoe » Mon Jun 19, 2006 6:50 pm

Robin is actually pretty genial, but we all need to be reminded that this is not earthshattering stuff we're discussing here. The difficulty we probably all share is that the kind of reporting of the important issues (Iraq, global warming, etc...) gets no better reporting and in most cases, much worse than the coverage Robin gives us in his spare time. So the question is whether Robin is that good or whether the rest of the journalistic world is that bad? (There's my little rant for the day. I apologize for being Eeyore. Someone has to fill the role and I wanted to beat Hoke to the punch.)
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Hoke » Mon Jun 19, 2006 7:26 pm

James Roscoe wrote:Robin is actually pretty genial, but we all need to be reminded that this is not earthshattering stuff we're discussing here. The difficulty we probably all share is that the kind of reporting of the important issues (Iraq, global warming, etc...) gets no better reporting and in most cases, much worse than the coverage Robin gives us in his spare time. So the question is whether Robin is that good or whether the rest of the journalistic world is that bad? (There's my little rant for the day. I apologize for being Eeyore. Someone has to fill the role and I wanted to beat Hoke to the punch.)


James, consider my punch beaten. :) But I'd say there's no question: Robin is good at what he does (which isn't really journalism) and the general state of journalism is abysmal. Er...I mean, it's fair and balanced.

I think now that we've hijacked poor Robin's Pinot Grigo thread, I'll shut up and slink away quietly. :oops: :D
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Eric Ifune » Wed Jun 21, 2006 11:44 am

Ah, Friuli.
I really miss it. Need to go back sometime soon!
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Hoke » Wed Jun 21, 2006 11:59 am

My sentiments exactly, Eric. Friuli was a wonderful place, and I'd love to go back...as soon as possible.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Dave Erickson » Wed Jun 21, 2006 7:03 pm

Some of my PG faves:

Abbazia di Novacella/Kerner 2005, not just Alto Adige but the northernmost winery in all of Italy, forceful citrus and apple notes, a "big" white yet very refreshing to drink, should be about $20.

St. Michael Eppan 2004, Alto Adige, lean, crisp, yet full of flavor, winemaker Hans Terzer was Gambero Rosso winemaker of 2000.

and just to keep everyone on their toes:

Saint Clair Godfrey’s Creek Pinot Gris ‘04: From Marlborough, New Zealand. Done in the style of Alsace: Crisp green apple nose, ripe apple and pear on the palate, lovely dried honey note on the finish. Very clean throughout. If memory serves, this went for around $NZ 20, which would be about $US 12. There are lots more where that came from: Nevis Bluff makes a very lean style; Chard Farm makes one that flirts with lusciousness, but does not tip over into flabbiness. I must have tried a dozen of them back in March when I was there; the only one I know of that is imported into the US at the moment is Huia.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Oliver McCrum » Wed Jun 21, 2006 7:34 pm

Dave,

I think you'll find that Kerner is an entirely different variety, and not PG.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Dave Erickson » Wed Jun 21, 2006 10:04 pm

You are quite correct, bit of confusion on my end concerning the German name of the winery.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Michael Grossman » Thu Jun 22, 2006 1:33 am

Dave- Sorry to be so dense. I am confused. Was it the '05 Kerner or the '05 PG that you had? Did you mean you thought Kerner was the German name of the winery? Based on your note, I would like to try the wine you had. I used Wine Seacher and found that the winery Stiftskelleri Neustift does make both a Kerner and a PG from the Novacella Abbey vineyard. Help, please.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Dave Erickson » Thu Jun 22, 2006 9:45 am

It's the pinot grigio. The source of my confusion: Abbazia di Novacella also has a German name; I confused a listing for the varietal Kerner with that name. I'm still looking for the German version of the winery name....gahhhh....
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Oliver McCrum » Thu Jun 22, 2006 2:08 pm

Novacella is Neustift. I think it's Kloster Neustift.

The little valley (Eisacktaler or Val d'Isarco) where the winery is located is one of my favorite white wine regions of Italy. They make Sylvaner, Veltliner (!!), Muller-Thurgau, Kerner and other varieties of consistently excellent quality. (The Sylvaner can be outstanding, my particular favorite.)
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Chiming In Late Here....

by TomHill » Thu Jun 22, 2006 4:05 pm

Totally agree w/ Oliver here about the wines from the Val d'Isarco. Some really terrific stuff. And the Novacella is one of the best. Their GWT is a killer (about $28 ) and very/very much like the Alsace ones that were made yrs ago....afore Z-H K-J'd the paradigm of Alsace wines.
I would like to put in a plug here for one of our own....Steve Edmunds. His PGrigio from WittersVnyd/ElDorado is one of the best around, very much in the AltoAdige model. And it ages amazingly well. I had the '96 not so long ago and it was shockingly good...not just a survivor...but absolutely delish. Not only that...Steve's currently having a White Goods sale and you can get the '02 and '03 at $10/btl. It's a crime to buy wine this good that cheaply.
The Palmina (Oliver also markets these wines) is another deliscious one.
I've been less than excited about the Oregon versions. Many seem rather lean/eviscerated/pinched in character.
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Re: Chiming In Late Here....

by James Roscoe » Thu Jun 22, 2006 4:26 pm

"It's a crime to buy wine this good that cheaply. "
Why? Steve has always tried to be consumer friendly. The real crime is the crap they try to sell at $28 a bottle!
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

by Dave Erickson » Fri Jun 23, 2006 9:39 am

Oliver McCrum wrote:Novacella is Neustift. I think it's Kloster Neustift.

The little valley (Eisacktaler or Val d'Isarco) where the winery is located is one of my favorite white wine regions of Italy. They make Sylvaner, Veltliner (!!), Muller-Thurgau, Kerner and other varieties of consistently excellent quality. (The Sylvaner can be outstanding, my particular favorite.)


Thank you! Now I see where I went off the rails: "Kerner"/"Kloster." Sorry, I reserve the right to be an idiot once in a while.

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