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Santa Cristina by Antinori Pinot Grigio 2011
A large, geographically and climatically diverse island off the toe of Italy, Sicily has long been recognized for its fortified Marsala wines. It is also home to red and white table wines that have been steadily increasing in quality and popularity over the past few decades, allowing Italy’s fourth largest wine-producing region to shed its former image as merely a supplier of bulk wine. Certainly, plenty of bulk wine is still made here, but those who look beyond that will find plenty of high-quality wines for every-day drinking as well as bottles from boutique producers who espouse thoughtful vineyard practices (the organic wine movement thrives here). Though most think of the climate here as simply hot and dry, there is some variation on the sun-drenched island, particularly at high elevation on the slopes of Mount Etna.
Although Sicily’s comeback began with clever labels and easily recognizable international varieties, its charm lies in its indigenous grapes. Nero d’Avola is the most widely planted red variety, responsible for full-bodied, berry fruited wines throughout the island. In Cerasuolo di Vittoria, it is blended with the lighter, more floral Frappato to create an elegantly balanced wine. On the volcanic soils of Mount Etna, many noteworthy wines are being produced in every color—whites from Cataratto and Carricante, and rosés from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. All of these wines share a racy streak of minerality and at their best can bear more than a slight resemblance to their respective Burgundies. Grillo and Inzolia, the grapes of Marsala, are used to produce generally simple, crisp dry whites. Pantelleria, a subtropical island belonging to the province of Sicily, specializes in Moscato di Pantelleria, made from the variety locally known as Zibibbo.
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.