Friday, February 22, 2013

back to pinot grigio!

2011 Fantinel Sant'helena Pinot Grigio | Doc Collio | Friuli

Pinot grigio is a victim of its own success. Just Google it ... it's one of the most popular wines worldwide, with no signs of slowing down. The most widely bought, most readily ordered wine in restaurants - and I think I know why.

It's the Coor's Light of wine.

Pinot grigio that does well, that the majority of wine-drinkers like, tastes like nothing. It's slightly fruity, fresh, and most importantly, clean. No off aromas, no weird flavours, just fruit and acid and alcohol. It quite simply tastes like NOTHING. And if I was an Italian, I'd be pissed about that. That people around the world think of this wine (and this region) as nothing more than a simple and predictable, cheap drink.

Sadly ... devastatingly ... sometimes with wine, commercial success spells its doom. Doom in the sense that the character that made it great in the first place - its truth - is lost, once the region is whored out as The Next Big Thing. By the way, for some of the best writing on Italian wine, please put Alfonso Cevola's blog, On the Wine Trail in Italy, on your list. I never thought much of pinot grigio. Never thought much of people who (loudly) screech about how it's their favourite wine, how they just LOVE ordering it with dinner. But should we blame them? This style of wine, no matter how insipid, is getting them to actually drink wines with the their meals. And hopefully, it's inspiring them to eventually look beyond watery, pointless wines, and into what true Italian wine is.

And this bottle reminded me that when producers are true to what they do, when they believe and are committed - humility breeds greatness. A pinot grigio from Collio, located in the north-east of Italy, on the border of Slovenia in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The terroir is composed of layers of sandstone and loam rock that were once the ocean floor. The soils are impermeable so rainwater flows off their surface, producing little erosion and preventing standing water. This particular wine must be made with skin contact - there's a depth to the colour (almost coral/pink) and aroma that's so unique. It's so different from what I expected, all extract and density, the most amazing perfume. Slightly tropical, with intense minerality. A structured, well-extracted wine. Stunning, really, a long time since I last came across a wine that was so.

Proof that we all need to think twice about generalizations on a wine region. Even amidst all the murkiness and volume, there still remains jewels to be found.


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