Sartori Pinot Grigio 2003
To Juliet’s question “What’s in a name?” the Sartori family would answer “Everything!” For over a century, Sartori, a leading name in fine wines from northeast Italy’s Veneto region, has stood for traditional values elevated by innovation, a dedication to quality and — above all — a boundless passion for quality winemaking.
The family took its first step in 1898, when Pietro Sartori bought Villa Maria, a vineyard with a small cellar attached, in the heart of the Veneto region’s Valpolicella district, to assure a source of high quality wine for his hotel. This marked the advent of Sartori di Verona. A few years later, Pietro’s son, Regolo, built the winery into the family’s core business, and by the 1950s Regolo’s two sons expanded the winery and brought these wines to international recognition, exporting them around the world.
Today, Andrea Sartori, Pietro’s great-grandson, is at the helm. Like his forefathers, he has taken steps to broaden the reputation of Sartori di Verona and to guarantee the quality behind it.
In 2002, the company joined with Cantina Colognola, giving the family rare guaranteed access to more than 6,200 acres of high-quality grapes in the Soave and Valpolicella zones, where few wine houses control their own vineyards.
In 2003, Sartori hired the renowned Franco Bernabei as consulting winemaker. His work with the winery marks a return to Bernabei’s roots: although he has lived in Tuscany for over 25 years, he is, in fact, a native son of the Veneto.
Most recently, in 2006, Sartori introduced a new premium collection of Veneto wines crafted by Bernabei at its new winery, I Saltari, in the Mezzane Valley, east of Verona. The winery is named after the mercenary vineyard guardians, known in native dialect as Saltari, hired by vineyard owners from the 16th through the 18th centuries to protect their grapes from thieves and bandits. With legal authority to shoot grape thieves on sight, the Saltari were ready defenders of the vineyards. The choice of the name reflects the winery’s own dedication to defending tradition and expressing these vineyards’ unique terroir.
A constant theme over the last century has been the Sartori family’s bond with their land: it is a heritage that has evolved and is reflected in their new interpretations of the great classical Veronese wines, as well as in their innovative expressions of traditional varietals.
The source of some of Italy’s best and most distinctive white wines, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is where Italian, Germanic and Slavic cultures converge. The styles of wines produced in this region of Italy's far north-east reflect this merging of cultures. Often shortened to just “Friuli,” the area is divided into many distinct subzones, including Friuli Grave, Colli Orientali del Friuli, Collio Goriziano and Carso. The flat valley of Friuli Grave is responsible for a large proportion of the region’s wine production, particularly the approachable Pinot grigio and the popular Prosecco. The best vineyard locations are often on hillsides, as in Colli Orientali del Friuli or Collio. In general, Friuli boasts an ideal climate for viticulture, with warm sunny days and chilly nights, which allow grapes to ripen slowly and evenly.
In Colli Orientali, the specialty is crisp, flavorful white wine made from indigenous varieities like Friulano (formerly known as Tocai Friulano), Ribolla gialla and Malvasia Istriana.
Red wines, though far less common here, can be quite good, especially when made from the deeply colored, rustic Refosco variety. In Collio Goriziano, which abutts Slovenia, many of the same varieties are planted. International varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc are also common, but they tend to be Loire-like in style with herbaceous character and mellow tannins. Carso’s star grape is the red Teranno, notable for being rich in iron content and historically consumed for health purposes. It has an earthy, meaty profile and is often confused with the distinct variety Refosco.
Showing a unique rosy, purplish hue upon full ripeness, this “white” variety is actually born out of a mutation of Pinot noir. The grape boasts two versions of its name, as well as two generally distinct styles. In Italy, Pinot grigio achieves most success in the mountainous regions of Trentino and Alto Adige as well as in the neighboring Friuli—all in Italy’s northeast. France's Alsace and Oregon's Willamette Valley produce some of the world's most well-regarded Pinot gris wine. California produces both styles with success.
In the Glass
Pinot Gris is naturally low in acidity but full ripeness is necessary to achieve and showcase its signature flavors and aromas of stone fruit, citrus, honeysuckle, pear and almond. Alsatian styles are aromatic (think rose and honey), richly textured and sometimes relatively higher in alcohol compared to its Italian counterparts. As Pinot Grigio in Italy, the style is often much lighter, charming and fruit driven.
The viscosity of a typical Alsatian Pinot gris allows it to fit in harmoniously with the region's rich foods like pork, charcuterie and foie gras. Pinot grigio, on the other hand, with its lean, crisp, citrusy freshness, works well as an aperitif wine or with seafood and subtle chicken dishes.
Given the color of its berries and aromatic and characterful potential if cared for as it is allowed to fully ripen, the Pinot grigio variety is actually one that is commonly used to make "orange wines." An orange wine is a white wine made in the red wine method, i.e. with fermentation on its skins. This process leads to a wine with more ephemeral aromas, complexity on the palate and a pleasant, light orange hue.