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Zonin Pinot Grigio 2002
Bouquet: fruity, relatively full, extremely fine
Flavor: soft, fresh, terading toward dry, light
Food combinations: appetizers, delicate introductory dishes, fish, eggs, vegetables and white meats.
The source of some of Italy’s best and most distinctive white wines, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is where Italian, Germanic, and Slavic cultures converge. This is represented in the styles and varieties of wines produced in this region of Italy's far north-east. 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 ubiquitous Pinot Grigio and the popular Prosecco. The best vineyard locations are often on hillsides, as in Colli Orientali del Friuli. In general, Friuli boasts an ideal climate for viticulture, with warm sunny days and chilly nights that 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 continues into 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.
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.