By Celia Strong
At this time of year, Pinot Grigio always comes to mind – or at least it used to. Ten or 20 years ago, when the weather got hotter and humidity reared its oppressive head at us, Pinot Grigio became the white wine of choice. It was even more popular than Chardonnay. As the years passed, and the number of wine drinkers increased along with the choices of wines, Pinot Grigio became a year-round favorite, as it should be. Now, there are a plethora of Pinot Grigios to select from, and our chore is to find the good ones.
The Veneto, located in northeastern Italy, is the region many Pinot Grigios come from. The Veneto is the eighth-largest region in Italy, with over four million people and 220,000 acres of vines. It is the country’s largest producer of DOC wines, 55 percent of them being white. One of Italy’s leading wine schools, Conegliano, is here, along with their most important wine fair, Vinitaly. Glera, a local variety which we all know as Prosecco, is their most popular grape, followed by Verduzzo, Cabernet, Chardonnay and Pinots. The United States is one of the region’s largest markets.
Pinot Grigio, or Pinot Gris, depending on where this grape is produced, is one of four members of the Pinot grape family. (Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Meunier are the others.) Like other varieties, it reflects its origins with its flavors and textures. From France, where the wines are know as Pinot Gris, it shows more fruitiness with lemon, peach and honey flavors and more body. From the United States and Australia, and other warmer climates, its wines are fruity, dry and fuller bodied, with nectarine and peach flavors and often produced with some oak treatment. These wines are most often called Pinot Grigios, a more marketable name. From northern Italy, with its cooler climate and leaner soils, Pinot Grigio wines are lighter-bodied with citrus (lemon and lime) flavors, salinity and minerality.
Our Pinot Grigio comes from Villa Sandi. The villa dates back to 1622 and is located in an area known as the “Garden of Venice” – 60 miles from the city of Venice. Its cellars run underground for almost a mile, a perfect environment for aging wines. Villa Sandi is one of the leading producers in this area. It is owned by the Moretti Polegato family, who have a long history in grape growing. Besides a group of excellent, sparkling Prosecco wines, they produce still wines.
The Villa Sandi DOC Pinot Grigio della Venezia is our wine. Worth noting is its DOC status. Many Pinot Grigios, though good, do not have this high a level, legally speaking. The wine is a very pale, straw yellow color. It is full of fruit and floral aromas and flavors. Lemon, lime zest, tangerine, yellow apples, nectarines, peaches, green pears, melons, orange blossoms, acacia, honeysuckle, so similar to the countryside where the grapes grow. It has a rounded texture in your mouth, with a crisp, lingering acidity and a mineral finish. Refreshing and beautifully balanced. Perfect for sipping, but also exceptional with many foods that are basics in our area, such as shellfish, seafood, tomatoes, salads, chilled pastas, and sushi. For $9.99. Enjoy.
Celia Strong works at Bill’s Liquor & Fine Wines on Lady’s Island.