My love affair with an Italian
How do I love thee Pinot Grigio? Let me count the ways. First, let us discount what is too often served up under your name.
The rampant popularity of this white grape, most often associated with Italy, has, in some quarters, encouraged quantity over quality, where the best that may be said is that it delivers a clean and neutral mouthful.
Okay, so it may not offend, but what's the point? What a disappointment that a grape capable of producing a concentrated, weighty wine, with lashings of fruit and spice, is too often reduced to an inoffensive, low common denominator.
One of its best food partners is a creamy, though not heavy, pasta dish, and that is what I use as a measure to assess my Pinot Grigio. Does it match its weight and texture? Poultry and fish, such as scallops, are also good on the side.
In Italy, Pinot Grigio puts in a stellar performance in the far north east, the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, near Trieste. It shows its best when grown in the cool hills there, most particularly in Il Collio Goriziano and Colli Orientali del Friuli. These two zones are on the boundary with Slovenia, which, with the help of investment, is now also strutting its stuff.
Pinot Grigio is also popular in the neighbouring Veneto and Alto Adige regions, and its appeal to the masses has seen it spread far and wide -- within Italy and beyond -- with varying degrees of success.
It was probably when I tasted it as Pinot Gris, from Alsace, France, in all its spicy, honeyed intensity that I got a hint of how glorious it could be, and so began my Pinot Grigio journey.
Warmer than northern Italy and a different terrain, Alsace works wonders with the grape, producing rich, dry and sometimes off-dry, through still refreshing, wines.
So is it Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris? One and the same thing, the latter is its original name and one that tends to be used where the terroir and winemaking style make for the headier version.
It has a small but increasingly starring role in New Zealand, where it is producing crisp wines with lush palates, and can be a treat when produced in Oregon, west-coast US. It turns up elsewhere too.
There is a Pinot Grigio/ Pinot Gris for everyone and it's worth playing around.
STAR WINE Verus Pinot Gris Slovenia 2008 - three young winemakers have produced this full-bodied but refreshing, limited-edition Pinot Grigio in Slovenia. A big spicy and floral nose follows through to tropical zing and pure fruit flavours such as apricots, with a herbaceous streak. 13pc. €18.99 Grapevine, Dalkey, Co Dublin; Cabot, Westport, Co Mayo; Mount Gable Gifts, Clonbur, Co Galway; Market 57,Westport, Co Mayo.
Take Two Wines
Celso Pinot Grigio Veneto 2009 - a very gluggable Pinot Grigio; smooth and fruity with plenty of body. Hints of apples, pears, lively spice and floral aromatics combine in this easydrinker, with a generous, fruity finish. 12pc alc. €10.76 (offer price) Available from O’Briens.
Masi Masianco 2008 - Pinot Grigio from Friuli given a turbo charge through the addition of 25pc Verduzzo grape. The wine is medium to full- bodied, with well-rounded, ripe citrus-dominated layers. There are touches of peaches and pineapple too. Expect a satisfying mouthful that hits the midpalate on the spot and ends with a big finish. 13pc. €14.99 Widely available including Redmond’s of Ranelagh; Carpenter’s, Castleknock; Savage’s, Swords; O'Driscoll’s Supermarket, Ballinlough, Cork; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; McHugh’s, Artane and Kilbarrack; Cellars Big Wine Warehouse, Naas Road; Sweeney’s, Finglas; Lilac Wines, Fairview; Higgins, Clonskeagh; D-Six, Harold’s Cross; Joyce’s, Galway; most Molloy’s offlicences, Dublin.