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Pinot grigio: a very popular grape

Jermann Winery in North East Italy (Photograph supplied)

This coming Tuesday has been designated as the day when we celebrate a wine made from a greyish-blue, even light-purple grape.

It is genetically a cousin of pinot noir and, for much of its history, it was used to make a slightly dark, or copper-coloured wine – well that was before Count Gaetano Marzotto came on the scene.

In 1935, his dream came to life when he began revitalising an abandoned parcel of land in the Venetian countryside. He chose the location well – this had been a region of fine vineyards since Roman times. He would bring it back to its former glory, employing new agricultural science. Such an inspirational place could only bear one name – that of his one true love, his wife Margherita. And so, Santa Margherita was born.

Italy was searching for a new white wine to replace the soave that had once ruled the roost. In 1961, Santa Margherita’s winemaker was inspired to ferment pinot grigio without skin contact. Driven to capture the delicate fruit and floral notes, he realised that by moving away from the then-standard “ramato” method, the precious aromas and flavours could be preserved as they were meant to be tasted. Thus straw-yellow, dry, crisp pinot grigio with a clean, intense aroma was born.

If you start a trend, you often secure an important leading role in the new market; take for instance, Mr Bailey and his Irish cream. The same could certainly be said for Santa Margherita and we presently have large stocks of 2020 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. When I scan the internet the first review that pops up is from Canadian critic Natalie MacLean, who considers it worthy of 91 points as she comments: “Beautifully balanced and refreshing Italian pinot grigio from one of the country's best-known producers of this wine. Crisp and lively with racy acidity for seafood and shellfish.”

Although Bermuda is a small market, it is important for them and even the Count’s grandson has visited us here. $23.65 (Stock #8896).

Let’s be honest, you really do not expect to pay $33 for a bottle of pinot grigio, but I must tell you about one that is offered by a legendary Italian winemaker. I first met Silvio Jermann in Bermuda and have watched as he has developed a cult following for such gems as his Dreams chardonnay and Vintage Tunina, a blend of white grapes. You may not expect a pinot grigio to score 93 points either, but our 2020 Jermann Pinot Grigio does with the Wine Enthusiast magazine, that adds: “White spring flower, stone fruit and nutty aromas shape the nose of this creamy white. Tangy and delicious, it shows pinot grigio's serious side, offering cantaloupe, peach and ripe yellow pear before finishing on an almost salty mineral note.” The Jermann winery is in the extreme north-east corner of Italy, a spot renown for fine white wines. Stock #9025.

Bermuda Day is just around the corner and, as we are thinking of our first swim, picnics, and the need for a refreshing, cold glass of wine, the beauty of pinot grigio is that we offer five for under $20 not an easy feat considering our duty structure and shipping costs.

Over the years Santa Margherita has expanded and they are now involved with wines from a few areas in Italy, and so 2020 Torresella Pinot Grigio, from the Veneto area, is now under their umbrella. I have often said that if you want to find out how a child is going to turn out you must get to know the parents. Same here and let’s say that Santa Margherita is the mom and dad. This wine is traditional, delicate, and crisp. Apple and citrus flavours, even white flowers add up to a refreshing summer sip. $18 (Stock #8888).

Just mention the name Pasqua and it brings back fond memories of a time, 1975 to 1980, when I worked for JE Lightbourn. Wine was new to me and when Carlo Pasqua bought his family to Bermuda we took them out to have Bermuda lobster dinner. While visiting the Pasqua booth at Vinitaly a few years ago they said, “You must wait here while we find grampa.” How good it was to see my old friend! 2020 Pasqua Pinot Grigio delle Venezie is fragrant with acacia blossom and hints of freshly cut pear. $16.40 (Stock #8836).

If you want to stay in a beautiful spot with a fine restaurant, then I suggest the 14th century Castello di Gabbiano in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany, but this is about their 2020 Cavaliero d’ Oro Pinot Grigio. It has a sunny, straw-yellow colour followed by floral notes with nuances of pear and honeydew melon. Citrus flavours are evident on the palate along with complex flavours of green apple, orange and faint lemon. $17.80 (Stock #8956).

Now we are moving over to California, and I am going to have difficulty avoiding the use of a word that I have always been advised is a no-no in any sales pitch. Maybe I could say inexpensive? How about economical or budget-priced? If I told you that it lists for $15.80 a bottle, or only $13.86 a bottle if you buy a case of twelve – as I really did last week – then can I please quietly say “cheap”.

Barefoot, in 2021, was the largest selling wine brand in the USA, at many millions of cases. I suspect that it holds the same position here. So, wisdom tells you that you don’t want “big” and you do not want “cheap”. I posit that Barefoot Pinot Grigio first hits you with peach aromas, a favourite of mine. Then apricot and melon follow, both winners for me. It is just off-dry, very clean and bright. I maintain that most of us are savvy and careful buyers, so how could a wine reach this volume unless, in Bermudian parlance, it “tastes well”. This wine does, and that is why we usually have some in our home. (Stock #6824; magnums $29.75).

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

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Published May 13, 2022 at 7:58 am (Updated May 13, 2022 at 7:40 am)

Pinot grigio: a very popular grape

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