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From Low to Alto
Whilst shopping at my beloved Trader Joe’s last Friday for supper club, I cruised through the wine aisle. There was a big display of pinot grigio, that ubiquitous summer sipper. Two bottles next to each other were vastly different prices.
I’m an endlessly curious wine nerd. Why were the prices so different? What is pinot grigio anyway, apart from the favorite tipple of the Real Housewives of New York?
Obviously more research was required. And luckily the next night, I was going to have a house full of experimental subjects.
Pinot grigio — or pinot gris as it’s known in France — is a mutation of pinot noir. (Remember that the vast majority of grapes have white flesh, and the color is determined by the amount of contact with the skin.) It’s got an interesting history:
Pinot Grigio reached Italy early in the 19th century, according to “The Oxford Companion to Wine.” It gained a foothold in the country’s northeast region in areas like Friuli and Alto Adige, where rich and aromatic styles are commonly found. Today, however, the majority of light and dry Pinot Grigio is found in the Veneto region.
The Villa Sonia didn’t have much of a nose. I got some light melon and citrus on the palate, and a slightly short finish.
The Santa Margherita also had a slight nose, but on my first taste…
OK, I apologize in advance. This is going to be the luvviest goddamn thing I’ve ever written on this blog. Possibly in my entire life.
But upon drinking the Santa Margherita, I got an image of a clean fresh page of lined loose-leaf paper. Like the first day of classes.
I know, I know. But I’m here to give my truthful impressions.
So it turns out that Santa Margherita is one of the oldest producers for pinot grig exporting to the US, since 1979! It hails from Alto Adige, in the very northern part of Italy:
It constitutes the northern half of the Trentino-Alto Adige wine region (the southern half being Trentino). Immersed in the Southern Limestone Alps, Alto Adige is bordered by Veneto to the east, Lombardy to the west and the Tirol region of Austria to the north.
So want to guess the price differential?
The Villa Sonia retailed for $6, and the Santa Margherita for $28.
My test subjects didn’t consider the Santa Margherita to be worth the extra cost. And as you can tell from the picture, folks seemed to prefer the Villa Sonia. For me, the Villa Sonia would make a nice aperitif on a hot hot day (hello, new addition to the party wine list!), but I’d serve the Santa Margherita with dinner. Maybe sushi or something with cold leftover grilled chicken.
What are your feelings on pinot grigio, at any price point? Like it, hate it? Any whites you’d rather have? Let me know in the comments!