Premier League Pinot Grigio

Published on July 10, 2019

The rise of Pinot Grigio from local varietal wine to international star has been dramatic.  Its commercial success can be traced back to Anthony Terlato, a Chicago importer who, in the 1970s, looking for a single varietal wine for the US market, found Santa Margherita and became the winery’s US importer. Terlato invested heavily in promoting the wine and Santa Margherita became the top-selling premium import in the United States.  Others followed, and by the late 1980s the US Pinot Grigio boom was underway.  The UK boom followed in the 2000s.  Sales grew by over a million cases in 2008 and in 2012 made up 40 per cent of Italian wine sales in the UK.

Pinot Grigio’s style was found to align with consumer demand for lighter bodied, lower alcohol, refreshing, white wines at a good price point.  Pinot Grigio’s success in US and UK was built firstly in Italian restaurants, bars and then spread to drinking at home.   It has an easy to remember name and has managed to navigate around the challenge of Italian wine label complexities.  It has become a “soft” brand in itself – far stronger than its geographical origins or DOC certifications.

Italian producers took measures to meet demand this huge by growing less favourable vines in the plains and in the warm valley floors in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. Overall Pinot Grigio production increased but quality came down, resulting in many thin, watery offerings that has given the wine a bad reputation.

Today if you want to drink top quality Pinot Grigio, it is best to choose wines from the high-altitude sites of Trentino Alto-Adige and Friuli in the foothills of the Italian Alps, in North East Italy.  These wines are a world away from wines of the Veneto.  Here the wines are wonderfully light and fresh with lemon and peach aromas with slight honey and almond undertones.  Winecroft has great examples on the Club Winelist. Try the 2016 Cesconi Pinot Grigio or the 2017 Franz Haas Pinot Grigio.

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