The sweltering Summer temperatures have wine lovers around the globe craving deliciously chilled white wines this time of year. Which brings me to the point of this post. As a Wine Educator, Certified Sommelier and Proprietor of The Wine Atelier online wine boutique, I often tell my students and clients to “drink what you like” and I do sincerely mean that…most of the time. Where I feel the need to intervene at times is if I suspect my fellow wine lovers are being taken advantage of or duped in some way and are being sold a bill of goods instead of a good bottle of wine.
I’m afraid this is what has happened with Pinot Grigio, the benign, white wine-producing grape variety found predominantly in Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige region. Pinot Grigio in its most banal form seems to have blossomed into a vinous epidemic here in the US, with one brand in particular garnering more than $20 a bottle retail and over $60 a bottle on local restaurant wine lists here in Delray Beach, Florida – considerably more than the next Pinot Grigio on the list! It’s bad enough to foist an insipid wine on the wine consuming public but to financially gouge them as well? The real tragedy here is the number of infinitely more interesting and enjoyable white wines in the world, many of which are from Italy, that go unnoticed as a result of the obsession with this uninspiring wine. Here’s a few reasons why you should just say no to Pinot Grigio this Summer:
With over 3,000 wine grape varieties out there you could easily drink a different wine every night of the week for a very long time and never have the same one twice. How exciting, right? Yet many of us still frequently find ourselves in a wine rut and while we all have our favorites, mixing it up regularly helps develop your palate which is defined as much by what you don’t like as what you do. Experiencing different wines from different regions is really the only way to do this and by all means let your palate be your guide on what should be a enjoyable vinous journey.
Italy is a veritable treasure trove of wine grapes from which white, red, sparkling and sweet wines are made. From Piedmont to Sardinia, each region has its own unique vinous culture and if you’re a white wine fan, this country could keep you busy for years discovering all the wonderful whites it has to offer. A few white wine grapes to seek out are Garganega, Pecorino, Malvasia, Greco, Ribolla Gialla, Vermentino and Falanghina (click links for examples and characteristics of each). I must warn you though, you might make your Sommelier positively giddy if you request a wine made from one of the abovementioned grapes instead of the same old $60 Pinot Grigio…so be prepared.
It’s true that Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are made from the same grape, but they are definitely not the same wine! The two wines are produced in different regions and climates and Pinot Gris, which is predominantly found in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and France’s Alsace region, has a very appealing viscous texture with ample flavor and personality which definitely deserves your attention! While perfectly enjoyable on its own, it’s also a very food-friendly wine – for some examples of Pinot Gris, please click here.
Farmers who toil in obscurity to make a living growing esoteric wine grapes struggle due to the lack of consistent demand for wines produced from grapes outside the mainstream. The unwavering consumption of mass-produced wine in this country ultimately limits the availability of more unique, artisanal products. Next time you’re in the mood for a light, crisp white wine ask your Sommelier or retail sales person to recommend a wine with that profile, that’s a little off the beaten path. Whether they recommend an Albariño, Torrontés, Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, or any of the abovementioned wines, your selection might have more far reaching effects than you think.
Is there a particular white wine grape you’re looking forward to trying? Would love to know, please let us know in the comment section below!