Pinot Grigio with class? Believe it

13 June, 2008

There's a far more seductive style of the variety that often gets a slating from critics

Adored by consumers and equally derided by critics, Italian Pinot Grigio has in the past decade swept aside all comers in its rise to become the default choice for anyone looking to quaff an unpretentious, thirst-quenching glass of white wine. A quick look at bean-counters' numbers reveals that 31% of all Italian wine sales in the UK over the past year were accounted for by Pinot Grigio, meaning we collectively slipped down around 48 million bottles of the stuff in take-home sales alone.


critics claim that PG

has little to offer beyond being (at best) a crisp, moderately citrussy-fresh, uncomplicated wine of little other discernable character. But these are exactly the attributes so loved by the vodka generation of drinkers - wines easy on the palate that serve simply to ease along a meal or social gathering without demanding too much attention.

Often overlooked, though, is

that not all Pinot Grigio is unremarkable easy-quaffing wine. Pinot Gris, as it is known in Alsace, is highly prized for making remarkable, intensely scented, rich wines, and so too in Italy, it is possible to find examples with character and complexity, especially in the cooler regions of the north east.

Pinot Grigio vines are found across northern and central Italy, with examples coming from regions as diverse as Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Trentino, Alto Adige, Friuli and even Tuscany. From the warmer plains and valleys of Veneto, Lombardy and elsewhere (including the less illustrious vineyards of Trentino, Alto Adige and Friuli), much of the mass-produced, simple Pinot Grigio emerges. But beyond these low aroma crowd-satisfiers lies a whole new level of Pinot Grigio wines, at their most distinguished in the cooler hills of the north east and especially Friuli and Alto Adige.

The Pinot Grigios

from the Friuli-Venezia region capture some of the breadth and texture one might expect to find in Alsace, delivering wines with body and charm as exemplified in the wines of producers such as Jermann. Examples from Alto Adige tend to be crisper, more aromatic and less weighty on the palate, but nonetheless structured enough to stand up to food. Here Franz Haas and Lageder are two of the best-known producer names. Elsewhere, in terms of quality, much comes down to the producer and how hard they work with their vines to make decent wine. For example, top end Chianti producer Banfi in Tuscany makes a very respectable, rounded Pinot Grigio in quite large volumes .

While these styles of higher quality Pinot Grigio may come as a surprise to those used to quaffing 3.99 brands, a useful point to bear in mind is that drinkers of everyday Pinot Grigio are very likely to trade up . Thus it should be possible for the retailer to offer a couple of higher-end examples

both to keep

customers happy and, importantly, boost

your bottom line.

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