Peter Ranscombe threw his Scottish Field colleagues a pinot grigio party to demonstrate why not all examples fall into the watery white category.
WE’VE all been there – you’re standing at a friend’s party or at an exhibition launch or at a work function and you’re handed a glass of pinot grigio.
It’s watery, it’s acidic and it’s lacking the concentrated pear and apple flavours it needs to provide balance.
You smile weakly and nod and crack a joke about its “freshness” getting your tastebuds ready for the canapes.
There’s no excuse for pinot grigio being a party pooper though.
It may be one of the UK’s most-popular white wines, but crowd-pleasing appeal doesn’t mean it has to bland.
Just like different party guests will have different personalities, so pinot grigio from difference places can have different characteristics, as Scottish Field’s team of tasters discovered when we put a selection of bottles through their paces…
THE DISCO DIVA: The 2017 Pinot Grigio delle Venezie (£4.50, Lidl) is the classic pinot grigio from the grape’s heartland in the Veneto region around Venice in north-east Italy. The nose has the characteristic pear aromas and the acidity is fresh, like all the moves of the best disco divas. There’s a good balanced between that crisp acidity and the green apple flavours for the price.
THE ETERNAL OPTIMIST: Another offering from the German discount grocer came in the form of the 2017 Pinot Grigio Garda (£5.99, Lidl), which hails from just across the border in the Lombardia region. It’s far more lemon centred, with a savoury edge to its long finish that could work well with food. We all have a friend who’s so upbeat that if life gives them lemons then they make lemonade – and this is them in a glass.
THE EARTH MOTHER: Fellow Teutonic chain Aldi entered the fray with its 2018 Organic Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie (£5.99, Aldi), which proved popular with tasters. Just like Aldi’s organic prosecco from our Christmas night oot, the old wives’ tale about organic wines not giving you a hangover due to their lower sulphur content resurfaced, but – while the jury decides on those facts – let’s sit back and enjoy its distinct red apple skin and lemon rind aromas and flavours, which balanced the acidity beautifully.
THE POSH ONE: I could almost hear Dervla Kirwan’s dulcet tones whispering “This isn’t just a pinot grigio, this is an M&S pinot grigio” as I tasted the 2018 Pinot Grigio delle Venezie (£6.67 on 2-29 April then £10, Marks & Spencer). Perhaps a little over-priced at a tenner, but stonking value during the special offer, with intense lemon juice flavours to balance its refreshing acidity.
THE CANNY SCOT: Looking for a bargain? Then look no further. The 2017 Wildflower Pinot Grigio (£6.50, Spar) is made in Romania by British wine producer Philip Cox at his Cramele Recas operation. It impressed me when I visited last year and it’s still impressing me now, with its fragrant lemon and pear aromas and flavours to balance its acidity. Great value for money.
THE SERIOUS ONE: A step up in price and also a step up in quality with the 2017 St Michael-Eppan Pinot Grigio (£8.99 from 17 April to 14 May, then £11.99, Waitrose). Hailing from the Alto Adige region in northern Italy, this is a much more serious and savoury style of pinot grigio, with lemon rind aromas and flavours, plus red and green apples to balance its mouth-watering acidity, and provide a more food-friendly wine.
THE SOCIAL CLIMBER: Another higher-altitude version comes from Spar in the form of the 2017 Pinot Grigio Vigneti delle Dolomiti (£7, Spar), which boasts even more floral honeysuckle aromas, accompanied by pear and peach. On the palate, those peach and pear flavours are joined by lemons. The acidity is assertive, yet balanced by the concentration of the fruit flavours.
THE THINKER: Pinot grigio is often known as pinot gris outside Italy and that would probably be a more-fitting description for the 2018 Villa Maria Private Bin East Coast Pinot Grigio (£8.99, Ellie’s Cellar) – pinot gris usually denotes a riper and more complex style, which is what we have here, with riper pear, lemon sherbet and peach flavours plus a tiny bit of sweetness to add a more rounded feeling in the mouth. One to chew over, like the thinker.