Let’s face it: Words like “charm” and “finesse” are not often used to describe aglianico wines. The thick-skinned aglianico grape, which thrives in the warmer climes of Southern Italy, produces wines known for their concentrated dark fruit, robust tannins, and earthy richness. These bottles usually need several years (decades?) to open up, and even then, they can still be knotty, powerful beasts that favor intensity over balance.
However, if you dig a little deeper, you can find aglianico wines that temper that inherent muscle with complex, appealing elements of tobacco, spice, and underbrush. Factor in the grape’s naturally high acidity and the mineral notes imparted from the region’s volcanic soil, and it’s easy to see how–at its best–aglianico can reach heights that few other grapes can achieve.
The slopes of Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano in Basilicata
The two most significant appellations for aglianico are Taurasi, which is about an hour or so east of Naples in the hills of Campania, and Aglianico del Vulture, with its vineyards on the slopes of Monte Vulture in mountainous Basilicata. Generally speaking, Taurasi wines tend to be a bit more vigorous and Vulture wines a tad more restrained–sort of like the Barolo vs. Barbaresco distinction for Piemontese nebbiolo–although there are always exceptions.
At Paul Marcus Wines, we’re fortunate to have a few prime examples of aglianico that find an attractive balance between power and elegance. Let’s start with the 2015 San Martino Aglianico del Vulture Superiore ‘Kamai’–about as graceful and light on its feet as aglianico gets. Made from 60-to-70-year-old vines from a single plot at an altitude of nearly 2,000 feet, this wine undergoes a two-month maceration and ages in wood for about a year before resting in bottle for at least three years. Boasting gorgeous vibrant fruit and loads of acidity, the San Martino feels almost Burgundian in style. (Unfortunately, we only have a few bottles left of this dazzling gem.)
Also from the Basilicata side, we have the2019 Fucci Aglianico del Vulture ‘Titolo.’Elena Fucci produces just this one cuvee from her vineyard more than 2,000 feet up in the Titolo lava channel, with most of the vines planted in the 1950s. After a manual harvest, the juice undergoes malolactic fermentation in 100 percent new French oak barrels. Herbaceous and savory, with notes of black tea and exotic spice, this wine will certainly benefit from a few more years of cellaring, but it’s already highly enjoyable (after a bit of decanting) with, say, a hearty bowl of pasta with pancetta, shallots, and sage leaves.
Finally, we have a couple of superb bottlings from Taurasi’s Michele Perillo, coming from some of the highest-elevation vines in the area. The 2010 Perillo Taurasioffers tannic brawn and deep, dark fruit with a freshness and vivacity that you get from the high-altitude vines. Better still is the2009 Perillo Taurasi Riserva, which is made from Perillo’s best lots of fruit. This wine is softer, rounder, smoother, and more voluptuous than its counterpart, yet still delivers incredible energy and liveliness. These two jewels sell for about half the price of a Barolo of similar quality, and they will sing beautifully with all manner of roasted or braised red meats.
Though nebbiolo and sangiovese rule the roost of Italian red wine, these fine offerings prove that, in the hands of talented winemakers, aglianico can certainly hang with the big boys.
“Where are your pinot grigios?” It’s a common question we get at the shop, and understandably so. After all, pinot grigio has become the world’s most popular white-wine varietal, and there are certainly many to admire–in the crisp, clean, straightforward style of Elena Walch and in the traditional, skin-fermented “ramato” style preferred by Elisabetta Foradoriand others.
While we are quite happy to carry these two excellent examples of pinot grigio, we always feel a pang of hopefulness that the customer might discover the wonderful, wide world of Italian white wines beyond pinot grigio. From the Alps in the north to Sicily at the tip of the boot, Italy produces some of the world’s most exciting and distinctive white wines.
Here are a handful of affordable, versatile, and delicious Italian whites worth discovering:
This is one of the best-selling wines in the shop, because just about everyone who tastes it comes back for more. From organic, high-elevation, cool-climate vineyards in Le Marche on the Adriatic coast, these are focused, vibrant wines, with nice minerality and refreshing, lively acidity.
What a great value this wine is! Thanks to its clean, citrusy fruit, a saline mineral note, and a pretty, lifted finish, I will put this Campania falanghina up against any similarly priced ($16) pinot grigio on the market.
These organic grapes are grown on land reclaimed from the Mafia near the area of Corleone. (The estate name is derived from the 2000 film I Cento Passi, or One Hundred Steps.) The Giato Bianco is 60 percent grillo and 40 percent catarratto, and it offers generous fruit with enough zip in the finish to balance it. What I love about this wine (along with the under-$20 price tag) is that you can sense both the warm days and cool nights of these Sicilian vineyards (1,800 feet above sea level).
Amazingly, timorasso, now being recognized as one of the potentially greatest white grapes in Italy, was nearly extinct before Walter Massa made a point of saving it and producing superlative examples. Timorasso, in the hands of a master like Massa, has an attractive, slightly oily texture, but with ample acidity–rich but firm. These wines make for surprisingly successful food pairings. Try it with Asian fare.
Many Italian wine aficionados believe Fiano di Avellino to be Italy’s supreme white wine, and I would have to agree. We always offer an extensive range of them, so they are pretty accessible for discovery. I love the Marsella for its gorgeous texture, its expressive notes of volcanic terroir, and a snappy finish that holds together all of the exotic, intense flavors.
At Paul Marcus Wines, we’ve always been staunch proponents of Italian whites. Stop by the shop to discover the world beyond pinot grigio.
https://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpg00Joel Mullennixhttps://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpgJoel Mullennix2022-01-30 14:32:062022-01-30 14:32:06The Answer: Where Do I Go After Pinot Grigio?
There’s this phrase that always bugs me, and I find it all over wine bottles and web pages: “Winemaker XYZ believes that wine should be made in the vineyard…” Really? Then why’d you spend all that dough on the winery? So why pay attention to the “winemaker” when we could talk to the vineyard manager? Are they really denigrating their own profession?
No, they don’t mean that. They mean it’s preferable to have grape juice that’s already got all its elements in balance than it is to have grape juice that needs some “adjusting” in the winery–that having to “correct” your numbers in the laboratory isn’t the optimal approach to making great wine. When they write, “Great wine is made in the vineyard,” they’re saying the vineyard produces grapes so perfect that no fancy laboratory winemaking trickery is necessary.
Then you wonder: Surely, that is so uncontroversial it hardly needs mentioning, but it must warrant mentioning if so many do. And perhaps it is because the vast majority of wine made in the world is made the opposite way. With non-artisan wine, the grapes are just raw material that will be broken apart and adjusted as desired. If farming costs can be lowered, great; any shortcomings in the grapes can be corrected later. (The horror…) Industrial production may be necessary, but we should be very thankful that we have, and have access to, handmade wines from all over the world, including right nearby.
At PMW, we get to taste a lot of extremely fine syrah. We have many examples from the great sites of the Northern Rhone valley, the ancient terraced granitic slopes that produce Côte-Rôtie, Cornas, Saint-Joseph, and more. Against this standard, it’s a challenge for a Californian wine to stand out and make a claim for itself–in terms of excellence and value.
Right now, we have two local expressions of syrah that I’d like to highlight, wines that hold their own against any made elsewhere. They are beautifully ripe, “pop” with black fruit and earth aromatics, and coat the palate and linger. And both come in at less than 13 percent alcohol, which means they were farmed with intention and a sure hand. Neither relies on hidden sugar, or oak, or any “additions.” There’s no winemaking trick here, just really good fruit.
Jolie-Laide has established itself as one of California’s premier (tiny) wineries. Their wines are made in small quantities, and the demand for them is strong, so we don’t get much to sell. Their 2018 Halcón Vineyard syrah, from 2600 feet up in the Yorkville Highlands AVA in Mendocino, is a beauty. At 12.5 percent alcohol, it offers texture, flavor, and weight that would delight even a crusty Frenchman.
Jolie-Laide being excellent isn’t shocking; they’ve now got a 10-year track record. Newcomer Darling Wines, however, is a surprise. The 2019 Flocchini syrah, made in the southern portion of the Petaluma Gap AVA, not far from San Pablo Bay and in the path of constant winds, is a baffling wine. It’s one thing to get perfumed voluptuous fruit (that’s easy in this state); it’s another to have your wine come in at 11.9 percent alcohol, with all the virtues that brings. (That lightness encourages another glass.) It’s really a treat to get both in the same wine.
These two wines prove California can grow great grapes (syrah included) and put them in the hands of thoughtful winemakers.
https://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/20210201_140617-scaled.jpg25601920David Gibsonhttps://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpgDavid Gibson2021-02-01 15:12:242021-04-23 11:53:14Why We Love: California Syrah
In terms of stylistic variety, aging potential, and the ability to reflect terroir, nothing can touch riesling. The riesling grape does best in marginal climates, needing a cool, long growing season in order to achieve phenolic ripeness. Put another way, the best wines made from riesling, like the most interesting people, are usually a product of struggle.
Hillside vineyards in a small German town
Making riesling in its country of origin (Germany) can be a bit of a quixotic endeavor–you are at the northern limit of where grapes can even achieve ripeness. You are farming slate slopes that are so steep that everything has to be done painstakingly by hand. Add factors like climate change, and it’s a wonder that any wine can be made at all. In fact, 2019 marked the first German vintage that was too warm to produce eiswein, a style of dessert wine that relies on the grapes freezing on the vine.
One of the most remarkable things about riesling is the diverse array of styles that it can produce. German rieslings, especially those from the Mosel, tend to have a delicate, filigreed character to them. Typically off-dry and low in alcohol, these wines achieve an ethereal balance between sweetness and acid.
If a Mosel riesling is a ballet dancer, Austrian rieslings are rock climbers–muscular, but lean and chiseled. They are dry and mineral, and while typically fuller-bodied than their German counterparts, still offer a degree of precision that many wines lack. Alsatian rieslings are typically dry, but full-bodied and rich with extract. For Australian rieslings, think bitter pith and zest instead of fleshy fruit, along with, typically, a preponderance of petrol.
Below are a few rieslings worth exploring:
2014 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese
Featuring steep, southwest-facing Devonian slate soils, the Graacher Himmelreich site in the Mosel is known for the distinctive smoky aroma it imparts.
2013 Dönnhoff Nahe Spätlese Oberhäuser Brücke
Nahe’s smallest single vineyard (1.1 ha) is a monopole located near the Nahe River, which mitigates the temperature and leads to the longest ripening of any of the Dönnhoff wines. Grey slate bedrock with loam and volcanic elements lend a persistent minerality to the wine.
2017 Tessier Winery – Zabala Vineyard
Stylistically in line with Australian riesling, this wine, from the Arroyo Seco AVA in Monterey County, shows lime zest and pith as well as a stony minerality on the palate.
Please stop by Paul Marcus Wines to learn more about this wonderfully expressive grape.
Just last week we brought in two deliciously obscure wines from a tiny Swiss producer in Valais, which the importer alleges is accessible only by a dangerous-looking alpine gondola. Unfortunately, as I reached out for more information about these wines, I was alarmed to hear that Jacky Granges, the grower and winemaker who took over in 1971 and developed the vineyards to be fully biodynamic by 1992, had passed away in the short time between tasting his wines and their arrival at the shop. Tragedy, however, makes them no less interesting or delicious. Instead, perhaps we can look on the brighter side and consider the liveliness of his wines as an opportunity to experience a small sliver of existence upon the mountaintop parcels of Domaine de Beudon, rife with medicinal herbs, livestock, and onsite hydroelectric power to create an oasis of grape-friendly agriculture.
Domaine de Beudon
The notable absence of wooden barrels at Domaine de Beudon belied a depth of flavor and fine tannin that I usually associate with cold-climate, thin-skinned grapes like Pinot Noir and Gamay which comprise the majority of 2007 Vielles Vignes “Constellation” Valias Rouge. In addition, a small amount of Diolinor (an indigenous variety) is blended with the wine to give the bright bing-cherry flavors a bit more density. With the bottle age, indigenous yeast vinification, and cool, slow fermentation of grapes grown on granitic soil, a tough, rusty-ness holds the wine to the earth while the complex aromas slowly rise from the glass.
Similarly, the 2009 “Schiller” Valais Rose, which substitutes indigenous Fendant for the Diolinoir of the rouge, opens with a rich iron-like aroma, and continues through the palate with excellent acidity and fresh Rainier-cherry fruit intensity. Where the rouge is centered and earth-bound, the rose feels like a creaking swing set with enough lift and gravity to consider a full loop around.
Up and down with a tension born of high-altitude natural farming, the wines of Domaine de Beudon are excellent, but limited. We are fortunate to have these examples of artisan winemaking in our shop, and oh how far to slake this sacred thirst.
https://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/5490530_orig.jpg400400Paul Marcus Wineshttps://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpgPaul Marcus Wines2016-06-20 17:09:482019-02-11 02:16:24Domaine de Beudon
“The wine stores tell us it’s rosé season (though in my opinion, it’s never not rosé season). Here is an old favorite, which year after year offers the vivacity characteristic of a good young rosé. It’s made entirely of Gamay Noir, the grape of Beaujolais (hence the somewhat awkward name Bone-Jolly), and it’s exactly what you want on those first few days out on the deck, the balcony or wherever you can grab space in the open air.” – NYT
https://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/8432699_orig.jpg424318Paul Marcus Wineshttps://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpgPaul Marcus Wines2016-05-01 13:30:202018-12-15 21:42:15Rosé Season
Eric Asimov’s article in The New York Times this week, “12 Everyday Bottles for Wine Lovers”, is a savvy list of versatile, food-friendly wines you should keep stocked around at all times. Paul Marcus Wines currently is carrying several of these producers and types of wine recommended, including the following: 2010 Selbach Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett $26 2013 Merkelbach Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese $24 2013 Bründlmayer Kamptaler Terrassen Riesling $27 2013 Bründlmayer Kamptaler Terrassen Gruner Veltliner $25 2012 Felsina Chianti Classico $24 Enjoy!
https://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/1757584.jpg349261Paul Marcus Wineshttps://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpgPaul Marcus Wines2015-10-15 23:12:222018-12-16 01:33:35Article in The New York Times
This time of year here at Paul Marcus Wines we are down right Rosé crazy! We live, breath and well uh.. drink the stuff like it is going out of style. And if being fanatical about Rosé is wrong, then we don’t wanna be right. There is something about the crisp and refreshing nature of Rosé wine, not to mention it’s hugely versatile food pairing capability, that makes us all warm and fuzzy like a troop of giddy schoolgirls.
And just when we thought our passion for pink couldn’t get any stronger, we’ve gone and outdid ourselves. Currently PMW offers nearly 50 Rosés from countless appellations all over the world! A grand parcel of prime real estate in the front of the store is and will be dedicated to Rosé mania throughout the summer. It’s a thing of sheer beauty.
It’s a constant game of Tetris trying to make room for all the great Rosé we taste. Just recently this plethora of pink pleasure packed pests decided to play not so nice in the sandbox, essentially banishing their long time neighbor Spanish whites, to an entirely different section!
Now you may be asking yourself a question asked by many of our customers. Isn’t the Rosé category way out of style and aren’t they all sweet and of questionable quality? You are not alone in this realm of thinking. Even though delicious dry and high quality Rosé has pretty much always been produced, it is unfortunately in most peoples minds been lumped into the same category as your Mother’s Mateus and your Grandmother’s White Zinfandel. And when you think about it it’s not all that surprising. Beringer, a well known mammoth of a winery from California, practically made their entire fortune by churning out over one hundred thousand cases a year of their affordable sweet blush. It’s been burned into the masses minds that Rosé can’t be anything but the sweet plonk of days past.
Somebody drinks this stuff, right?
Blush makes you beautiful, doesn’t it?
Fortunately PMW has unbelievable access to the finest wines in the world. We are clobbered every Spring with a multitude of hand crafted Rosés made by producers who seek to fortify the reputation of Rosé as a world class wine that should always be considered when you are making your selection for your Friday night party or better yet Saturday barbecue. We wouldn’t be doing right by these hard working pink wine artisans if we didn’t succeed in spreading our undying love for Rosé. So there we are, constantly urging our patrons to “think pink” and witnessing ridiculous amounts of Rosé walk out our very door every single day. We are proud knowing that bone dry and highly satiating Rosé is being prominently featured all over the globe on wine lists and retail establishments.
I suppose we would be leaving a stone unturned if we weren’t to explain just why we are so damn excited about this particular wine category.
Rosé wine is basically a pink potion made by bleeding or pressing juice from red grapes (the color comes from the contact with the grape skins) or by blending portions of red wine and white wine together. It’s a process that can coax some of the most delicate and pretty aromatics possible from nearly any variety of black-skinned grapes. So what does this mean in terms of the flavor of the wine and it’s practical application? Well in a nutshell, you kinda are able to get the best of both worlds! You can attain the fresh and bright acid driven character of great white wine plus the highly desirable red fruit and secondary flavor characteristics of great red wine. You can even impart phenolic content to the wine. Yes, Rosé can have tannin too!
Because of this harmony of red and white wine attributes, Rosé can go beautifully with many foods that most might only pair with either a red or a white wine. Their generous fruit and staunch acidities make them matchable with a vast array of dishes. Have you ever been out to dinner at a nice restaurant and everyone at the table orders drastically different dishes, and the host is struggling to choose a wine that can fill the tall order of being tasty with Chicken Caeser Salad, Seared Rare Tuna and Grilled Ribeye. Rosé, along with Riesling and Champagne by the way, might be their huckleberry!
And whats more is that Rosé is made in a wide variety of different weights, from lighter bodied quaffable styles to full bodied deeply textured styles. This means that while Rosé can obviously be sipped at your fourth of July barbecue it can also be enjoyed in front of a cozy fire in the dead of winter, in other words all year round. Any season is Rose season here at PMW and no matter what time of year we always have some tasty pink wine on deck.
The last and certainly not least reason why we love drinking Rosé so much is because, its just so damn easy to drink. After a long day of tasting red wine being hit over the head with heavy, extracted, or tannic wines, Rosé seems perfect cleanse the palate and take our minds off the daunting task of deciding which of the ten Pinot Noirs we tasted are worthy enough to be featured in our humble store. The same way many use a cold beer to relax after a hard day at work.
If our passion for pink wine isn’t obvious by now, we encourage you to come on down to the shop and see for yourself how dedicated we have been to putting bottles of Rosé into our customers hands for decades.
With that in mind we would like to give you a peak at what Rosés we have been especially excited about lately. We’ll have you know that this is just a mere glimpse of what we offer and theres plenty more where that come from.
Have you seen our Spanish neighbors lately? Nah, I think they got tired of our late night shenanigans and moved across the bay.
Arnot-Roberts Touriga Nacional Rosé-California $27 “New wave pioneer Arnot-Roberts strikes again with this delicious Rosé made from Touriga Nacional and a splash of Tinta Cao, grown in the rocky and volcanic soils in Clear Lake. The nose shows fresh strawberry and blood orange, while the palate is bright with great acid and a savory saline finish. Very limited production.”
Division Pinot Noir Rosé- Willamette Valley, Oregon $24 “The wine is showing floral and spice nose with savory and wild strawberry aspects. The palate mineral rich, like wet rock, and intense in strawberry and Rainier cherry. The wine is light and crisp and has an intense wild pink salmon color. Out of the gates and drinking very well, but will likely evolve coming months and gain in complexity.” 190 cases made.
Domaine Collote Pinot Noir Rosé- Marsannay, France $21 “As soon as the grapes arrive at the cuverie, they are pressed, then fermentation and “élevage” is in stainless steel in order to keep all the fruit of this wine and preserve its freshness and youth. The Marsannay Rosé, soft and fruity, is backed with good strength and liveliness. It rosé color has red currant hues. The aroma evokes freshly harvested fruit and peaches.”
Domaine du Bagnol Grenache, Mourvedre, and Cinsault Rosé- Cassis, France $29 “The Rosé is produced from several parcels that comprise slightly less than 7 hectares of vineyards. The vineyards are clay and limestone, situated on a gentle slope with a north – northwest exposure. The blend is Grenache (55%), Mourvedre (31%) and Cinsault (14%). Production tops out at about 40,000 bottles per annum; approximately 6000 bottles are allocated to the US market.”
Ameztoi Rosado di Hondurabbi Beltza- Getariako Txakolina, Spain $22 “The pink sibling of Ameztoi’s flagship white, this vibrant rosé is made from a mix of red and white indigenous grapes and is bottled with a little residual carbon to give it a light spritz. Fermented in stainless steel. Candied red fruits combine with a lime infused edge makes this a wildly intriguing rosé. The bottle will not last long!”
Graci Rosato di Norello Mascallese- Etna, Italy $20 “Vessel cement tanks, no malolactic fermentation. Five months of contact with fine lees, natural filtration. One month in bottle before release. Pale salmon pink. Very elegant and understated, with pretty red whole berries Palate: Harmonious and sublime, exquisitely balanced throughout. Ripe berried and saline finish.”
Please remember we offer 10% off any twelve bottles of wine. This can save you some coin when you are putting together a case of Rosé for your next weekend event.
https://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/2994364_orig.jpg8001066Paul Marcus Wineshttps://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpgPaul Marcus Wines2015-07-01 05:08:502019-04-08 19:58:44Pink: The Missing Link
This Thanksgiving, we took the guesswork out of wine shopping for you and created a special section filled with some of our favorite bottles. Whatever your palate or price point, your turkey is sure to be in good company with any of these wines.
We have plenty more recommendations that we couldn’t fit on the shelf–feel free to ask us for a personalized pairing!
N/V Gaston Chiquet Tradition Champagne, $50 A classic Champagne with rich, toasty flavors balanced by lively acidity N/V Ettore Germano Sparkling Nebbiolo Rose ‘Rosanna,’ $35 Unique, gorgeously hued, and brimming with elegant red fruit flavors N/V Paltrinieri Lambrusco di Sorbara Rose, $13.99 Delicious and easy with tart rhubarb and strawberry notes–great with cranberry sauce!
2013 Donnhoff Riesling, $25 Aromatic with great acidity, lots of stone fruit, and a hint of smoke 2011 Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet Clos du Chateau, $29 An excellent value in white Burgundy, with great precision and minerality and tart green apple flavors
2012 Valle Dell’Acate Il Frappato, $19 Light, bright, and refreshing, with tasty strawberry notes 2011 Hofgut Falkenstein Spatburgunder Spatlese Trocken, $22 Fantastic light-bodied German Pinot Noir with intriguing earthy and herbal character 2012 Jane et Sylvain Bourgogne, $30 Killer red Burgundy with classic Pinot Noir red fruit and mouthwatering acidity and minerality 2013 Yann Bertrand Fleurie, $24 One of our favorite wines of the year–light, aromatic, and bursting with great Beaujolais flavor 2103 Succés Vinicola Cuca de Lllum, $17 An unusual, vibrant, and delicious natural Trepat from Catalunya that’s almost too easy to drink 2013 Julien Sunier Reigne, $27 Complex and serious Beaujolais with juicy fruit and a touch of spice 2011 Camus-Bruchon Savigny-Narbantons Premier Cru, $40 Excellent balanced and complex old-vine Burgundy 2011 Domaine de la Cote Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills, $45 Seductive, aromatic medium-weight California Pinot Noir 2010 Domaine Dominique Gallois Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, $90 Impeccable balance, clearly articulated flavors and great precision–quintessential Gevrey-Chambertin.
https://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/5413928_orig.jpg800824Paul Marcus Wineshttps://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpgPaul Marcus Wines2014-11-20 23:23:482019-01-06 20:40:01Wines to Give Thanks For
Few grape varieties divide the wine-drinking masses more than Pinot Grigio. The fact that it has been constantly struggling with a very public identity crisis benefits neither vine nor consumer. Not actually its own distinct variety, Pinot Grigio, like Pinot Blanc, is actually a color mutation of the much more universally beloved Pinot Noir. If Pinot Noir is a high-maintenance but friendly beauty who strives for perfection in all she does, Pinot Grigio is known as her plain, timid little sister who tiptoes through life trying her best not to get on anyone’s bad side. To make matters worse, she must follow in the footsteps of her earlier-born twin sister, the more sophisticated and worldly Pinot Gris. Despite all odds, however, Pinot Grigio managed in the early twenty-first century to find an accepting table in the lunchroom, where she has enjoyed popularity among an affable crowd ever since.
To understand Pinot Grigio, we must first understand its provenance. New grape varieties can come into existence in a number of ways–two existing varieties may be bred in a nursery, or cross-pollinated in the vineyard, or, sometimes, a new vine will turn out to have slight differences from its parent plant. If the vine grower finds the traits of the new plant to be desirable, he or she might take a cutting to propagate new, similar plants with the same characteristics, known as clones. With more than 1,000 registered clones, Pinot Noir is often considered to be a highly genetically unstable grape variety, but a more likely explanation for its clonal diversity is its ancient status. In existence for around 2,000 years, this grape variety has had more time than most to branch out and experiment. Pinot Gris made its first appearance some time around the early 1700s, popping up separately in Germany and France within just a year of one another. It finally found its way to Italy at the beginning of the nineteenth century, where it changed its name to Pinot Grigio and reinvented its personality.
Today, the Gris/Grigio divide can be a bit confusing. While they are indeed the same grape, they tend to present themselves quite differently. In France, Pinot Gris is at its best in Alsace, where it takes on the luscious character of ripe peaches and apricots, often with a hint of smoke, developing rich, biscuity flavors with age. However, as Pinot Grigio in north-eastern Italy’s Veneto region, the greatest achievement of these fresh and lightly fruity wines is being voted “least likely to offend.” Seriously: a Google search for the phrase “Pinot Grigio” yields 9,400,000 results, while the phrase “Pinot Grigio inoffensive” turns up 9,300,000. But how can a grape whose best attribute appears to be neutrality garner such praise in France, Germany, and Oregon as Pinot Gris? (It is worth noting that in the new world, lighter, more commercial, and inexpensive styles of this wine are typically labeled as ‘Pinot Grigio,” while the more serious, flavorful bottlings boast the name ‘Pinot Gris.”)
With certain practices in the vineyard and cellar, the Pinot Grigio grape can indeed produce wines worthy of higher praise than “inoffensive.” If acidity is preserved and yields as well as sugar levels are kept to a minimum, varietal character is given the chance to shine. Because the name “Pinot Grigio” alone is enough to sell wine to the general populace, most is produced by big companies that don’t feel the need to try very hard–hence the reputation. But with a bit of care and attention, the Italians are quite capable of coaxing bright and even complex flavors from the much-maligned grape. The region of Alto Adige does this with the most consistency, although some exciting examples are now coming out of Friuli Venezie-Giulia–Pinot Grigio’s best-known home–as well.
One of the best Friulian Pinot Grigios we have discovered is made by a winery called Scarpetta, owned and operated by Bobby Stuckey, M.S. and Chef Lachlan Patterson, the owners and masterminds behind James Beard Award-winning restaurant Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado. Scarpetta’s wines are created to complement the Friuli-inspired cuisine of the restaurant, and they achieve this mission well. The Pinot Grigio, surprisingly, is the standout in their lineup, which also includes a Sauvignon Blanc, a Friulano, a Barbera, and a sparkling Rosé. Planting vines in cooler sites accounts for impressive balance of acidity and alcohol, and a brief period of skin-contact followed by six months of lees aging lends body and texture atypical of the often watery beverage.
On the nose and palate, this wine is anything but bland, with aromas of white flowers, peach, apricot, and hints of minerality. Dry and crisp, with just the right amount of acidity, flavors of stone fruits, lavender, honey, lime, melon, pear, white flowers, and minerals make this Pinot Grigio perfect to drink on its own: refreshing, but never boring. Naturally, a wine created by restaurateurs is going to make for some great food pairings as well–try it with proscuitto, sashimi, and lighter dishes based on chicken, fish, and pork.
To all of the Pinot Grigio nay-sayers out there: we suggest you give Scarpetta a try. And for the already initiated, this will be an easy way to step up your wine game and see what this oft-underachieving grape is capable of at its best. If you’ve spent your life shunning Pinot Grigio, make a space at your lunch (or dinner) table. You just might find that you’ve been a bit judgmental without really getting to know her.
2012 Scarpetta Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie IGT, $16
https://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/7742427.jpg300213Paul Marcus Wineshttps://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpgPaul Marcus Wines2014-05-19 16:31:432019-01-06 20:48:08Scarpetta: A Serious Pinot Grigio