Two Pinot Grigios for Your Holiday Table

Think you know Pinot Grigio? How about cool climate Pinot Grigio? Did you know that the Pinot Grigio grape has been documented for 2,000 years? I hope I’ve piqued your interest because I’ve recently sampled* two Pinot Grigios that benefit from more than 400 years of family tradition and wine making experience, and I’m excited to share them with you.

Albino Arman’s name is on the label of the wines, but he is continuing a family legacy that dates to December 7, 1607 – and Pinot Grigio has always been a part of that story. The Armani family currently represents the 16th and 17th generation of their family to make wine in the Adige Valley region of Italy. Pictured here are Armani, his wife Egle, and their son Dario.

L to R: Dario, Egle, and Albino

Today, the Armani operations consist of 750 acres of vines over the three regions of the Triveneto area. As strong as the ties are to the past, there is an equal commitment to the future. A love of the region, tradition, and of course the grapes, are what drive the Armanis to continue making incredible wines that reflect all of these things. Albino has lead more than 40 years of research focused not only on Pinot Grigio, but on recovering grape varieties indigenous to this region. All of the vineyards were certified sustainable in 2019, a direct reflection of the commitment to future generations, while continuing to honor the traditions of the past. His own words convey this best:

“I’m from this valley. Like a stone or a plant, I’m bound to this land. I never go away without the intention of coming back, it’s natural. Here the teachings one receives come from the silence of small things: you get the notion of your own niche in the universe, and it becomes clear what you have to do. The rhythm of growing grapes and making wine is slow. It can take years, even generations”, Albino Armani.

I learned on a recent Zoom call with the Armanis, that the winery produces yeasts from the indigenous yeasts of their own vineyards – that is completely fascinating to me. Perhaps the perfect balance of nature and technology, or tradition and innovation?

The Valdadige DOC is particularly well suited for growing Pinot Grigio grapes, and for these two wines, we are going to dial in a little further to the southern end, where Lake Garda borders, and the Adige River runs through it.

Average temperatures of 57-59F definitely makes this spot a cool climate region for growing Pinot Grigio. Like any other grape variety, there are noticeable differences in the wines produced from cool versus warm climate growing regions.

Speaking of the grape variety, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the Italian and French spellings of the exact same grape. Despite being the same exact grape, they are most often perceived as having very different profiles in wine. Often, Pinot Grigio is thought to be a fuller, fruitier, and lacking in complexity. Pinot Gris on the other hand has some of its best examples coming from cool climate regions, and in these areas, it is considered a much more serious wine with complexity and even ageability.

Here is another thing that must be pointed out. Pinot Grigio is not a white grape variety. The vast majority of wines made from this variety are white, yet Pinot Grigio is not a white a grape. As the name implies, it is a grey grape. A mutant clone of Pinot Noir.

Pinot Grigio/Gris grapes cluster. Not a white grape. Photo from Wikipedia

There are some versions of rose Pinot Grigio to be found for sure, but certainly not the majority. It’s always exciting when I come across one, but I didn’t realize until my chat with the Armanis that skin contact Pinot Grigio, called Ramato, was once the traditional version of Pinot Grigio wine in Italy.

Albino Armani 1607|Colle Ara Pinot Grigio|Valdadige Terradeiforte DOC|2020|$21.99

Albino Armani is proud to make this wine in the traditional Ramato method. The grapes are 100% Pinot Grigo grown on ancient terraces in the Terradeiforte region of the Adige Valley. The climate is ideal with large diurnal shifts, afternoon sun exposure, and strong winds, all of which bring intense phenolic development.

The Colle Ara on the right has a pale copper color from contact with the Pinot Grigio skins.

The grapes are cold macerated for one night before beginning fermentation with native yeasts. The wines mature in stainless steel and oak prior to bottling, giving this wine excellent depth and complexity. It is perfectly enjoyable all by itself, but was absolutely amazing with food.

Aromas of stone fruit, pomegranate, and minerality all carried over onto the palate. The mouthfeel was silky, smooth, and rich with a long finish that brought a bit of baking spice. I paired this wine with a pumpkin mascarpone pasta sauce and it was heavenly. Mashed potatoes, herbed stuffing, turkey, roasted veggies, fish, I really can’t thing of anything this wine wouldn’t complement, it would even go well with tender cuts of beef.

Albino Armani 1607|Corvara Pinot Grigio|Valdadige DOC|2020|$14.99

This wine is the modern version of Pinot Grigio, offering itself as a white wine, but with the 400 plus years of regional expertise that Albino Armani brings to the table, it’s a step above the average Pinot Grigio that I’ve experienced – especially at this price point!

Albino is quick to point out that this is an every day wine, and that is the intention. Wine should be enjoyed everyday with people and food you love and this wine is certainly priced to serve that purpose. The grapes grow at lower elevations and along the Adige River, benefitting from the same diurnal shifts and winds, and resulting in that intense phenolic development.

This wine undergoes a slow stainless steel fermentation, again with native yeasts, giving you an unadulterated reflection of what Pinot Grigio can be. The acidity is fantastic, with notes of lime, pear, minerality, and an herbal note that is both unexpected and delightful. I paired this wine with a cauliflower and chickpea soup, and then with potato soup, and a potato gratin – all were excellent with the acidity cutting through all of that fat and creaminess.

Have you considered Pinot Grigio for your holiday festivities? I think these two wines will be part of my regular rotation year round.

*These wines were received free of charge to me from Albino Armani, however, all opinions are honest reflections of my own personal thoughts and impressions of the wines.

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