The Life of Wine

 |  July 28, 2010

Sifting through mountains of wine paraphernalia the other day, I discovered a few old wine lists from various establishments around the world. Wow – how things have changed in the world of white wines! We’ve gone from drinking sweet table wines knife and fork, so big you can carve it Chardonnay and then on to annoyingly fruity, one-dimensional Sauvignon Blanc. Nothing against the poor thing, but I reckon our palates are more sophisticated now and we deserve to douse ourselves in a little more character and diversity from time to time. Come in Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris.

Clonal variation aside, they are more or less the same grape variety mutated from Pinot Noir. Pinot Grigio, (pee-know-gri-dgee-oh) the Italian name for Pinot Gris is one of the dominant grape varieties of Italy. It is grown successfully from the Alps to the Boot showing vast differences in styles along the way. Pinot Grigio grown in the high country of Trentino and Alto Adige usually shows intense citrus fruit with strong mineral flavours and a dry-as-a-bone finish. Grigio grown in the more universally favoured region of Friuli-Venezia shows similar qualities but perhaps has a little more generosity of fruit. Good Pinot Grigios around the world all have one thing in common – a wonderful heady aroma of pear and stone fruit followed by intense fruit flavours, fleshy texture and a dry finish. It is the dry finish, known as acid (a positive term for white wines) that is particularly complimentary with food.

Pinot Gris (pee-know-gree) with its rich, sweet fruit and often viscous texture, is more or less native to the colder ‘old world’ regions of Alsace, Germany, Austria and has become more prominent in recent times in the cooler regions of North America (Oregon), New Zealand and Australia. Unlike Pinot Grigio, winemakers around the world feel compelled to touch up Pinot Gris and give it a different personality altogether. Skilful winemakers can turn a potentially simple white grape into a masterpiece of complex, layered and beautifully textured wine that only the richest of dishes can handle. With all their headiness, they still have the telltale pear and stone fruit and that all important acidity.

I had the pleasure of tasting some Gris and Grigios of late. The ever hospitable Giorgio of Italasia has an impressive range of Pinot Grigios. You could say he is a specialist in the variety. One in particular kept me coming back for more (not telling how much more) – Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio 2008, Trentino-Alto Adige showed wonderfully perfumed, intense pear fruit, good texture and a clean as a whistle finish. A glass or three before dinner followed by Spaghetti Gambero would do me just fine. The Caldora Pinot Grigio 2007 Umbria is one for the more budget conscious. Some tart quince and mineral flavours to begin with and after some time in the glass with the right food the Caldora is a fantastic alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.

Busarin Larpadisorn (Noi), owner of Wine Gallery also has an impressive collection of imported wines. We tasted Omaka Springs Pinot Gris 2007, Marlborough New Zealand. Typically Gris in style this wine had a lovely sherbet, pear sweetness to the mid-palate followed by a long, clean and balanced finish. We started drooling at the prospect of Peking Duck arriving at any moment but alas, we had to consume the bottle in its naked state – a pleasure either way. Noi tells me this wine is on special for the month of August. Details below:

Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio 2008
, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
1100 baht per bottle. Italasia 193/1 Chang Klan Road

Caldora Pinot Grigio 2007
, Umbria, Italy
650 baht per bottle. Italasia 193/1 Chang Klan Road

Omaka Springs Pinot Gris, Marlborough 2007
, NZ
500 baht per bottle – August promotion, while stocks last. Wine Gallery 133 Rattanakosin Road