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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Pinot Grigio is Boring

There. I Said it. I'm not taking it back either. For those of you that don't know me, I'm the wine guy. I don't know what it says on my business card. Some fancy title like wine director or wine manager. Whatever. About twice a year, I get a customer complaint. It's usually because I offended someone. The rest of the time, I'm running around the store, sometimes arguing with my customers about what's in their shopping carts. "Why would you buy that?" "Give me that. Come with me. I know what you really want." Sometimes, the reaction I get from people is like a deer in the headlights. I'm sure that some of them are thinking "Did he really just take my wine away from me?"

Yes. I did.

I have an understanding with most of my sales reps, who are all very familiar with what I do. I break wine up into 3 general categories.

1. I highly recommend it.
2. I won't take it away from you. Maybe.
3. I wouldn't drink that with a gun to my head. 

My understanding is simply this. I know that there is no way of stopping the big corporate, overmarketed, mass produced, cleverly labeled wine, or as I like to call it, "hot liquid garbage." It's on every awful wine list in almost every restaurant in the country. I'm just one guy. What I can do, is try my best to educate everyone I meet, and hopefully bring some of them back from the dark side and into the light.

Every wine has a circle, or comfort zone as I like to say. These circles overlap. I wouldn't take someone who is buying a popular brand of Pinot Grigio, and hand them a bottle of 2005 Muscadet, even though it's amazing. They're not even close to being able to wrap their head around that yet. Baby steps. I like to ease them out of their comfort zone by suggesting something that overlaps a bit, but I don't just throw it in their cart. I will almost always tell them why, give them a description of the wine, food pairing suggestions, why it works so well with certain dishes, and why trying something new won't hurt a bit. Very often, they will leave with my suggestion, but shaking their head, saying something like "If I don't like this, I'm going to come back and find you." I love it when they do come back and find me, only to ask "What else do you have?"

What was I talking about again? Pinot Grigio is boring. Well, maybe not boring. Inoffensive. Truth be told, I like my wines to offend me a little bit. It gives me something to think about. I like it when a wine in my glass almost argues with me. Not sure if any of you have been there, but it's fun.

That being said, there are a couple that I do recommend to people that simply just got to have it. Here goes.

Vigneti del Sole, Pinot Grigio Tre Venezie (2015)

We get this one from one of the smaller companies we deal with. It's a lighter style of PG, and it's been selling like hotcakes. A little bit of citrus, green apple, with a hint of almonds on the finish. It's fine. It's $8 a bottle, and even cheaper if you buy it by the case. I usually keep a few bottles on hand for cooking at home, and it's great for when the neighbors come over and I know that they're just going to pour it down their gullet anyway. That's right. Sometimes I'm off the clock, and don't feel like giving a wine lesson.

Like I said. It's fine. That's about as exciting as it gets. It's much better than any domestically produced PG. Pinot Gris? I know it's the same grape, but it's a different style entirely. Let's table that discussion for now. If you're looking for a decent, inexpensive white wine for everyday drinking, or to serve at parties, this one, along with their Montepulciano D'Abbruzzo (also pretty decent) is at the top of my list. Yes. It has a screwcap. Trust me. That's not even a thing anymore. Screwcaps are cool. I'm not a fan of synthetic corks. They're simply the worst. More on that another time.

Elena Walch, Alto Adige Pinot Grigio Selezione (2015)

If you're looking for a "step-up", look no further than this one. It's more rounded and elegant, with ripe pears and stone fruit on the mid palate. Look for a dash of white pepper and a hint of herbs on the finish. This is what that other, more popular brand of PG should taste like, if they didn't completely screw it up. I won't mention it by name, but if you're spending more than $20 on a bottle of it, you're out of your mind. I will take it from you.

Elena Walch is $16 on the shelf, which makes it more than $4 cheaper than that other one, and it blows it out of the water. It's still Pinot Grigio, but as Pinot Grigio goes, this is a good one. Also, it's sustainably produced, so you should feel extra cool buying this one.

Working in a large liquor store is kind of cool. There are so many good wines to choose from, and I rarely drink the same thing over and over again. I get bored even with wines that I'm in love with. Right now, I'm on a Sicilian kick. Let's see how long that lasts.

OK, PG drinkers. When was the last time you met a new grape? How about some
Grillo? What's that?

Tenuta Rapitala Grillo Sicilia D.O.C. (2015)

This is a fantastic bottle of white wine for the money. Look for a pale, golden yellow-greenish hue in the glass. Lots of herbs, floral notes, and citrus. I love wines from the Mediterranean area, as they seem to take on an additional layer of savory, along with the fruit, which makes them great food pairing wines. Sometimes, when I work late, my wife will have some late night snacks for me, which is usually some black olives, hummus and pita chips, a few different cheeses, and capers. I'm spoiled. It hasn't really warmed up yet here in South Jersey, so I've been more into reds. Come spring and summer, this one will be in my regular lineup. This one is on the shelf for $10, and it's sustainably produced, which makes it a no-brainer.Tenuta Rapitala has kind of a cool story, which is what caught my attention. We carry 7 different wines, both red and white from this producer, and they're all excellent.

Tamí Grillo IGT Terre Sicilane 2015

I've been a fan of winemaker, Arianna Occhipinti for many years now. This is one of 2 wines under her 2nd label, Tamí. Although classified IGT, not D.O.C., this is a bit of a step up in quality. Her wines are 100% organically produced. Her own label is biodynamic. If you get the chance to try any of her "higher-end" wines, don't hesitate for a second. They're phenomenal.

Compared to the Tenuta Rapitala, this wine is a bit more lightweight, with brighter acidity, and a lengthier finish, but it's also $16, compared to $10. I carried this wine when I worked at another store years ago, and was very eager to bring it into our lineup. It's also about a billion times more interesting than the best Pinot Grigio I've had, so be sure to check this one out.

I'm always on the lookout for new wines. I'd love to hear about some of your favorites. Tell me what knocks your wine socks off. Cheers! -JFWD

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