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Marco Felluga Pinot Grigio 2010
Viticulture has thrived in Colli Orientali del Friuli since the reign of ancient Rome and today its verdant, rolling hills support a long list of autochthonous varieties, each playing a unique and important role in the modern Colli Orientali wine scene.
The region is primarily recognized for its white wines. Its indigenous varieties of Ribolla Gialla, Verduzzo, Picolit and perhaps most importantly, Friulano are made into single variety wines or blended, and often blended with the international varieties of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco. The latter are not a new addition but have been flourishing in the area since the 1800s. But it wasn’t until the 1970s when producers started using cold fermentation techniques to produce fresh, fruity, crisp and aromatic whites that this area began to attract international attention.
While reds only make up about a third of the area under vine, Colli Orientali is home to some of Italy’s most exciting and rare red wines. Refosco, Schioppettino, Tazzelenghe and Pignolo are among the autochthonous varieties while Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir also have a stronghold.
Colli Orientali holds much in common with its neighbor, Collio; the only thing dividing them is a political line. Both are influenced by the cooling effects of the Julian Alps and moderated by the Adriatic Sea. A unique soil of alternating marine layers called flysch also dominates Colli Orientali, providing a mineral-rich environment for vine roots and optimal water drainage.
One grape variety with two very distinct personas, Pinot Gris in France is rich, round, and aromatic, while Pinot Grigio in Italy is simple, crisp, and refreshing. In Italy, Pinot Grigio is grown in the mountainous regions of Trentino, Friuli, and Alto Adige in the northeast. In France it reaches its apex in Alsace. Pinots both “Gris” and “Grigio” are produced successfully in Oregon's Willamette Valley as well as parts of California, and are widely planted throughout central and eastern Europe.
In the Glass
Pinot Gris is naturally low in acidity, so full ripeness is necessary to achieve and showcase its signature flavors and aromas of stone fruit, citrus, honeysuckle, pear, and almond skin. Alsatian styles are aromatic, richly textured and often relatively high in alcohol. As Pinot Grigio in Italy, the style is much more subdued, light, simple, and easy to drink.
Alsace is renowned for its potent food–pork, foie gras, and charcuterie. With its viscous nature, Pinot Gris fits in harmoniously with these heavy hitters. Pinot Grigio, on the other hand, with its lean, crisp, citrusy freshness, works better with simple salads, a wide range of seafood, and subtle chicken dishes.
Outside of France and Italy, the decision by the producer whether to label as “Gris” or “Grigio” serves as a strong indicator as to the style of wine in the bottle—the former will typically be a richer, more serious rendition while the latter will be bright, fresh, and fun.