Pinot Grigio, I love you just the way you are @EatingOurWords

November 9, 2012

best pinot grigio texas

That’s the cover from the November 3, 1980 issue of New York that I quote today in my post for the Houston Press.

Incredible, no?

Click here for today’s post on one of my favorite expressions of Pinot Grigio.


Pinot Grigio overload @EatingOurWords

August 31, 2012

Honestly, when I walked into a Kroger in Houston the other day to pick up a bottle of the 2011 [Drew] Barrymore Pinot Grigio to review for the Houston Press, I had no idea that there would be a Pinot Grigio section at the supermarket (if you don’t know Kroger, it’s like Ralph’s in California or Gristedes in NYC).

And as much as I was surprised by some of the European offerings at Kroger (much better than at Ralph’s, where California dominates), I was simply overwhelmed by the selection: Menage à Trois, Middle Sister, Gnarly Head, Naked Grape, Be… Who are these people and why do they make wine?

The question is as rhetorical as the answer is obvious.

Pinot Grigio has become a lucrative brand in the United States, a misappropriation and colonization of an Italian grape variety.

Italians created the Pinot Grigio mania in the 1980s, marketing their wines to Americans. But they’ve been trumped at their own game.

I really wanted to like Drew Barrymore’s wine. After all, I like Drew Barrymore, the brand, and I imagined that the wine would be in line with the standard bearers of Italian Pinot Grigio, clean and fresh, however anonymous and forgettable.

I’m sorry to report that I was deeply disappointed.

Here’s my post today for the Houston Press.


Nuns and wine (Coenobium) and a report from Montalcino

August 22, 2011

Above: “Decameron” by Waterhouse (1916). The countryside outside the city of Fiesole served as diegetic backdrop in Boccaccio’s Decameron. Fiesole lies in the hills above Florence.

If you’ve visited my blog before, you probably have already tasted Coenobium, a wine raised by Cistercian sisters in the Province of Viterbo and vinified by natural winemaker and co-founder of Vini Veri, one of Italy’s leading natural wine movements, Giampiero Bea. Most Italophile wine lovers have heard the tale of this wine many times before.

But when I posted about it today over at the Houston Press food and wine blog, I couldn’t resist making an allusion to Boccaccio’s Decameron, Third Day, Novella 1, “Masetto da Lamporecchio [who] feigns to be dumb, and obtains a gardener’s place at a convent of women, who with one accord make haste to lie with him.”

The funny, sexy tale is one of those depicted by Pasolini in his 1971 filmic version of the Decameron (which we watched the other night) and I’m always looking for excuses to talk about literature when writing about wine.

    Fairest ladies, not a few there are both of men and of women, who are so foolish as blindly to believe that, so soon as a young woman has been veiled in white and cowled in black, she ceases to be a woman, and is no more subject to the cravings proper to her sex, than if, in assuming the garb and profession of a nun, she had put on the nature of a stone: and if, perchance, they hear of aught that is counter to this their faith, they are no less vehement in their censure than if some most heinous and unnatural crime had been committed; neither bethinking them of themselves, whom unrestricted liberty avails not to satisfy, nor making due allowance for the prepotent forces of idleness and solitude. And likewise not a few there are that blindly believe that, what with the hoe and the spade and coarse fare and hardship, the carnal propensities are utterly eradicated from the tillers of the soil, and therewith all nimbleness of wit and understanding. But how gross is the error of such as so suppose, I, on whom the queen has laid her commands, am minded, without deviating from the theme prescribed by her, to make manifest to you by a little story…

Here’s the link to my post.

And here’s the link to the tale. Buona lettura!

In other news…

Above: My friends have begun harvesting their Pinot Grigio in Montalcino. As you can see in the image, Pinot Grigio is not a white grape.

I’ve been following my friends father and son Fabrizio and Alessandro Bindocci’s posts on the vegetative cycle and harvest 2011 over at their blog Montalcino Report.

They’ve been doing an amazing job of documenting the 2011 vintage and to my knowledge, they are the only Italian winemakers who have attempted a project like this.

Today they posted the above photo of Pinot Grigio grapes and reported “Heat Spikes But Grapes Are Healthy and Correctly Ripened.”

It takes a lot of courage to be so honest about the vintage but it also gives Italian wine enthusiasts an entirely new perspective into the vegetative cycle. It will be fascinating to taste the wines when they are released and compare our tasting notes with their documentation of the vintage.

Chapeau bas, gentlemen!


Old Pinot Grigio, old Tocai Friulano, young Picolit

February 8, 2011

The younger bottlings of Picolit actually impressed me more than the older at our Butussi in situ tasting yesterday because, as the young Filippo Butussi explained, in the early 00s, his family moved away from a lighter style (for which not all the Picolit grapes were dried before vinification) opting for a richer, 80-100% dried-grape style.

But the wines that REALLY blew me away were these bottlings of 1996 and 2000 Pinot Grigio and 1999 Tocai Friulano. Pinot Grigio is SO misunderstood in the U.S., where we mostly know it as a light, inoffensive, anonymous white wine that arrives in marketing-driven packages.

These older bottlings were not intended for long-term aging, explained Filippo, but he wanted to show the COF2011 team how these grapes, when vinified correctly, retain their quality and actually develop more and more character. Man, the 1999 Tocai was fan-friggin-TASTIC, with the white fruit balanced by some grassy and nutty notes and beautifully balanced acidity and low alcohol.


Dorothy, here you come again

March 12, 2009

Half-jokingly, a wine publicist and good friend recently remarked to me: “I mean, come on, let’s face it. No offense, but how many people read your blog anyway?” As much personal satisfaction that my blog gives me, I recognize that I’m no Eric, Alder, Tyler, or Franco.

But that’s partly what makes me all the more angry (and I promise this is my last rant for the week) when one of the truly influential sources of food and wine journalism publishes disinformation, like Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher’s supercilious take on 2004 Barolo, published last week in The Wall Street Journal, or their truly offensive and imbecilic “10 Ways to Save Money Ordering Wine,” published on Saturday. (I apologize in advance to my friend J, a WSJ editor and writer I admire greatly for this second harangue about his colleagues: the poorly delivered humor in my post about the 2004 Barolo piece was simply that — poorly delivered.) Especially in this day and “age of responsibility,” when many of our nation’s restaurateurs find themselves gripped in a day-to-day battle for survival, Dorothy and John’s tips for not being “hosed” by restaurateurs (they actually use the word hose! in the WSJ!) and the accusatory, paranoid tone or their article are no less than nefarious. It’s important to acknowledge that restaurant-going consumers are feeling the financial pinch these days as well: Dorothy and John’s readers would have been better served by “tips on how to find value on the list at your favorite restaurant.”

Here are some highlights from their piece…

1. Skip wine by the glass.

I studied Italian literature at university but it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to figure out that a glass of wine costs less than a bottle. Wine by the glass is one of the ways that we find new wines we like without having to pay for the bottle. Better advice would be: when ordering a wine by the glass, ask your server if you have the option to purchase the whole bottle at the bottle price if you like the wine.

3. Bypass the second-cheapest wine on the list.

A generalization like this is simply stupid, irrelevant, and inappropriate. Honest restaurateurs (and most of them are honest) price their wines in accordance with the prices they are charged by wholesalers. Better advice: figure out what you want to spend and ask your server or sommelier which wines in that price point meet your expectations in terms of style, aromas and flavors, and desired pairing.

6. Never order Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio.

Even Eric and Charles — two palates who really do know something about Italian wine — liked Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio when they tasted it blind in a New York Times tasting panel. Dorothy and John, come on: this is insulting. Better advice: order what you like and enjoy when you go to a restaurant. Whether you like Pinot Grigio by Santa Margherita, white Zinfandel by Beringer, or first-growth Bordeaux (wines many would consider over-priced but coveted and thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless), then go for it. You go to a restaurant to have fun… not to be scared of being ripped off!

9. BYOB.

Dorothy and John, I hate to break it to you but bring-your-own-bottle is appropriate in two cases: 1) when a restaurant doesn’t have a beer and/or wine license; 2) when you bring an illustrious and expensive bottle that doesn’t appear on the restaurant’s list. And remember: whenever you bring your own bottle to a restaurant, be sure to order a bottle of equivalent value. Thrift, Dorothy and John, is no excuse for rude behavior or bad tipping.

Here you come again, Dorothy and John, Just when I’m about to make it work without you.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,129 other followers

%d bloggers like this: