Puiattino Pinot Grigio, Friuli, Itay 2020 (£10, Tesco) Much as I like to think of myself as a fair and objective critic of all things vinous, I have to admit to a few stubborn prejudices. I’m instinctively suspicious, for example, of any wine poured from a bottle with a bright animal cartoon on the label; of any wine selling for much more than £30 in its very first vintage; and of anything with the words oak, barrels, coffee or chocolate too prominent in the name or back-label description. I’m not saying that the prejudices are insurmountable. But in each case the wine has to be really quite exceptional if it’s going to break down a resistance built on years of disappointments. All of which is true, too, for another of my most resilient unconscious biases: supermarket pinot grigio. So dull and interchangeable are most examples of the popular dry white, that when a wine as fluent, pear-juicy and subtly honeyed as Puiattino’s crops up among the also-rans in a Tesco lineup I think I can be forgiven for doing a double-take.
Cavit Rulendis Pinot Grigio, Trentino Superiore, Italy 2019 (from £14.99, aitkenwines.com; kwoff.co.uk) I said “supermarket pinot grigio”, but you can find plenty of examples of the bland, watery, industrial version of the grape in pubs, restaurants and independent wine merchants, too. In many cases these aren’t bad wines exactly, just not something to capture the imagination or provoke a shiver of pleasure or misty-eyed reflection like the best wines do. That pinot grigio has this reputation must be infuriating for the producers who use it to make wines full of distinctive personality and style. You can find these producers dotted throughout pinot grigio’s northeastern Italian homeland. Most of them are of the small, family-run, artisanal variety, but one of the most attractive pinot grigios I’ve tried recently is from one of Italy’s larger producers: the 4,500-grower Trentino co-operative, Cavit. The key is in the vineyards: steeply sloping, south-facing, high-altitude spots in the foothills of the Brenta Dolomites, producing a wine as coolly energetic as a mountain stream, and as fragrant as a spring meadow.
Radikon Sivi Pinot Grigio, Italy 2019 (from £36, juicedwine; buonvino.co.uk) Many of the best pinot grigio producers ply their trade in the far northeastern Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region. In the west, I’d pick out the racy purity of Russolo Pinot Grigio Ronco Calaj 2020 (£14.01, shelvedwine.com). To the east, in Colli Orientali, you can find a combination of unforced depth of flavour with subtle spice, white flowers and that crucial driving freshness in a wine such as Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio 2020 (£27, petershamcellar.com). In Isonzo, in the southeast of the region, you can get a richer dose of mouthfilling spicy and exotic-fruited ripeness that is akin to the wines made from the same variety under its French alias, pinot gris, in Alsace in the shape of Lis Neris Gris Pinot Grigio 2018 (£35.90, hedonism.co.uk); and in Collio in the far east of Friuli, straddling the border of Slovenia, you get the intensely herby-nutty, tangy, subtly grippy swirl of Radikon’s Sivi orange wine, made with extended contact between the juice and pinot grigio’s pinkish-grey skins.
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