Friday, August 26, 2011

In the Glass: 2010 Pinot Grigio, Venezia Giulia IGT, Attems, Italy

Picture: 2010 Pinot Grigio, Venezia Giulia IGT, Attems

When I used to live in Zagreb, Croatia, we basically had two options for going back to Germany to visit the family and friends: via Austria or via Italy. We would alternate and take advantage of getting to know different regions that lie between Zagreb in Croatia and Frankfurt am Main in Germany. On the Italian route, we would necessarily pass through Friuli - Giulia Venice and during lunch or dinner have a couple of glasses Pinot Grigio like the one I am writing about in this blog posting.

Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio/Grauburgunder in the World

Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio/Grauburgunder has grayish-blue fruit. This explains the name: Pinot Gris (in France), or Pinot Grigio (in Italy) or Grauburgunder (in Germany) - Gris, Grigio and Gris mean “grey”.

There are about 25,000 hectares of Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio/Grauburgunder in the world, accounting for less than 0.5 percent of total wine production. With about 12,000 hectares, Italy (Pinot Grigio) is the front-runner, with Germany (4,000 h, Grauburgunder), California (3,000 h, mainly Pinot Grigio), Alsace (2,000 h, Pinot Gris) and Hungary (1.500 h) following. Oregon, with about 500 hectares, belongs to the group of smaller producers, along with New Zealand (700 h) and Australia (300 h).

Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris/Grauburgunder is a heat-sensitive grape that does not fare well in hotter climates as it needs colder temperatures to ripen fully and produce distinct flavors. It prefers a cooler climate with long, temperate summer days.

In Italy, plantings can be found in the Lombardy region and in Alto Adige, Italy's northern most wine region, as well as in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. Some 9 million cases are produced in Italy today, of which 90% is exported. Italian Pinot Grigio tends to be light-bodied, often lean; light in color; neutral, sometimes spritzy flavors, crisp and acidic. Almost all Italian Pinot Grigio wines are dry.

A German merchant by the named Johann Seger Ruland (re)discovered grapes growing wild in the fields of the Pfalz region in Germany in the 1700s. The wine he produced with these grapes became known as Rulaender; the Rulaender was later discovered to be Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris). Many wine producers in Germany sell their Grauburgunder still as Rulaender. German Grauburgunder/Rulaender tends to be medium- to full-bodied; typically dry but sometimes with noticeable residual sugar, but always well balanced with good acidity.

French Pinot Gris from Alsace can be rich and almost oily in texture. Like the German Grauburgunder, Alsatian Pinot Gris can be made in a dry or sweet-style.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Friuli-Venezia Giulia is in northeastern part of Italy. It was once part of the Venetian Republic and sections of it were under the influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for some time. The area is known predominantly for its white wines. The Friuli-Venezia Giulia region is bordered by the Alps to the north separating it from Austria. Slovenia borders the region on the east and the Italian region of Veneto forms the western border and part of the southern border with the Adriatic Sea. The northern half is very mountainous and gives way to flatter terrain and plains on the way to the sea.

Picture: The Wine Regions of Italy

Classification of Friuli-Venezia Giulia Wines

All Friuli-Venezia Giulia wines – as all Italian wines – belong to one of the following 4 quality levels.

(1) Vino da Tavola (VDT): A very basic wine, made for local consumption; the bottle label does not indicate the region or grape variety. This is the wine you typically get served in a Pizzeria or Trattoria in Italy, when you ask for the “house wine”. Simple, cheap and decent.

(2) Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT): Wines that are considered to be of higher quality than simple table wines, but which do not conform to DOC and DOCG regulations. Sometimes, these are premium wines of winemakers who dropped the DOC designation and instead carry the broader IGT designation, allowing them to try to improve quality by using nontraditional grapes, blends, viticultural practices or vinification techniques that are not included in DOC and DOCG standards. The region has 3 IGT designations: Alto Livenza, delle Venezie and Venezia Giulia. The Pinot Grigio I tasted was an IGT wine.

(3) Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC). There are 11 DOC in the region. Almost 2/3 of the wine produced in the region falls under a DOC designation.

(4) Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). DOCG wines are a tick higher in terms of quality requirements than DOC wines (maximum yield for example), which is the highest category in Italy's wine-classification system. There are3 DOCG in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia area.

The Producer: Attems

The Attems Estate has 40 hectares of terraced slopes to the west of Gorizia under vine. The vineyards are located about 15 kilometers from the Adriatic coast. The slopes face the south and thus are protected from both the cold winds from the north and from Trieste.

Winemaking in the Attems family goes back almost 1000 years; in 1106, records show that the Bishop of Salisbury gave the Attems family the estate for the purpose of cultivating vineyards and making wine. A few years ago, Attems entered a joint-venture with the renowned Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi family.

Tasting Notes

The grapes were manually harvested in the third week of September and then for 2 weeks temperature-controlled fermented in stainless steel tanks. There was no malolactic fermentation. 15% of the production was then aged for 2 months in barriques.

Tasting notes: Rich straw yellow with shimmering, ripe tropical fruit, along with apple and pear on the nose, refined, smooth palate, lively finish.

The Importer: Michael Mondavi’s Folio Fine Wine Partners

The wine was provided to me by Folio Fine Wine Partners. Robert Mondavi’s son Michael Mondavi established Folio Fine Wine Partners in 2004, with his wife, Isabel, and their children, Rob and Dina. He co-founded Robert Mondavi Winery with his father Robert in 1966 and worked for many years in the company.

Snooth’s Global Tasting Initiative – Pinot Grigio

I am sharing this posting with the Snooth community in the framework of the Snooth Global Tasting Initiative, using the hashtag #GTiPinotGrigio on Twitter.

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