The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2010

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he popularity of imported and domestic Pinot Gris among U.S. consumers is undeniable. Of the white varietals, it’s second only to Chardonnay and is growing at an even faster pace. For many, Pinot Grigio, as the wine is called in Italy and much of the New World, is a style that strikes a happy medium between the extremes of oak-aged Chardonnay and the assertive- ness of Sauvignon Blanc and one that makes for easy, food-friendly quaffing. t Going for Grigio Venetian producer Santa Margherita is credited with developing modern Pinot Grigio as a slightly off-dry white wine, and in 1979, Paterno Imports (now Terlato Imports) introduced the wine to the U.S. market. With it, the Terlato family not only launched a new category of wine from Northern Italy but paved the way for the domestic production of many different styles of Pinot Gris. “Santa Margherita not only established the market for Pinot Grigio in the United States; they’re an industry case study on how to build a brand,” says Brian Larky, Managing Director of California-based importer Dalla Terra, which represents Dual Persona CALL IT PINOT GRIS OR PINOT GRIGIO, THIS CHANGEABLE WHITE VARIETAL IS IN DEMAND by Deborah Parker Wong Alois Lageder, a leading biodynamic producer of Pinot Grigio in Italy’s Alto Adige region. “Whether it’s domestic or Italian, there’s a lot more Pinot Grigio available.” Old World Heritage The long history of Pinot Gris in Alsace, France and Germany provides most of the style benchmarks for artisanal New World winemakers. “You won’t find much German Pinot Gris available on the U.S. market,” observes Hiram Simon, a principal of WineWise/The Vienna Wine Company, whose portfolio includes noted producers like Doennhoff, Bründlmayer, Kruger-Rumpf and Diel. “These wines [called Rülander in Germany] are so popular on the domestic market, they never tend to make their way here.” Pinot Gris holds a rarified place in Alsace. Alsatian versions are markedly different in that they are medium- to full-bodied, with a rich, floral bouquet and a spicy palate—wines of great intensity that will age well; even entry-level wines come onto the U.S. market up to four years after harvest, and Grand Cru wines even later. Helfrich, whose affordable “Noble Tier” Pinot Gris comes from the hilly vine- yards encircling Strasbourg, will release a Grand Cru wine from the Steinklotz Vineyard, the oldest site in Alsace, for the first time this year. Weinbach, Zind- Humbrecht and Albert Mann all produce signature wines, while biodynamic producer Marc Krydenweiss’s “Le Moine,” from the Moenchberg Grand Cru, is a stunning example of terroir-driven Pinot Gris. In Italy, the majority of Pinot Grigio production comes from the northeastern provinces of Veneto, Friuli, Trentino and Alto Adige. Larger estates based in the Veneto, like Santa Margherita and Zonin, source fruit from these areas, while smaller wineries and cooperatives in Fruili and Alto Adige produce some of the most expressive wines. In Alto Adige, niche wineries like Lageder and smaller 74 / the tasting panel / august 2010

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