For years, it seems the response to Pinot Grigio has either been “Yes, I love ice-cold, easy-drinking Pinot Grigio” or “I can’t stand that insipid alcohol water!” There didn’t seem to be a great deal of middle ground. I’ll admit that I was in the latter group for quite a while. For many, Pinot Grigio had suffered the fate of Chardonnay (remember the “ABC – Anything But Chardonnay” movement) and Merlot (“I’m not having any f*cking Merlot exclaims Miles of Sideways fame).1 But things changed for me when I had some PG from Alto Adige that made be swoon. Like who knew?! And then I had a few from Collio and my appreciation continued to grow. I was like, where HAS this PG been?! After that, I began to be more open-minded whenever I saw Pinot Grigio and didn’t automatically write it off. When I began hearing about the Delle Venezie DOC, I was even more intrigued.
Just recently at the Wine Media Conference in Eugene, OR, there was a choice of a breakout session called “DOC delle Venezie, Discovering the Revolution of Italian-Style Pinot Grigio.” When I saw it as a choice, I instantly knew that it was a session I’d be attending. The session was led by Regine T. Rousseau of Shall We Wine who took us on a deep dive of all the changes in the Triveneto area, which is the spiritual home of Pinot Grigio. And what did I discover? More nuanced, delicious Pinot Grigio.
Creation of a New Pinot Grigio DOC
Pinot Grigio has quite a long history and even showed up in Alsace around 1500 where it was vinified as a coppery colored wine. But its present form, vinified as a white wine, can be traced back to eastern Veneto around the end of the 19th century. Back in 2017, the regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino, and Veneto (the Triveneto or Tre Venezie) came together to form the Delle Venezie DOC region.
Pinot Grigio is particularly suited to the region due to its very cool climate (the average growing season is between 57 and 59 degrees F) and large diurnal range (temperature swings) between day and night. The goal of the region’s consortium is to create a positive identity for Pinot Grigio and showcase the best of this oft-maligned varietal. To that end, the consortium has engaged in a major rebranding and marketing campaign to protect, strengthen, and elevate the wines.
One of the first things the consortium did was to decrease the yields,2 which increases the quality of the wines. They also established a blind tasting and certification process that every wine that comes out of the region must go through. Wines that meet the strict requirements have the region’s official seal affixed to them. Additionally, the consortium put a great deal of focus on sustainability and vineyard practices. All of these efforts have resulted in Pinot Grigio being moved up from IGT to DOC status. At the end of the day, the consortium wants the consumer to have confidence that they are getting a quality wine.
Basics of Pinot Grigio
Under the rules of the Delle Venezie DOC, Pinot Grigio wines must be a minimum of 85% Pinot Grigio with the remainder comprised of any permitted white varietal including Chardonnay, Friulano, Garganega, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Bianco, and Verduzzo. The wines must also have at least 11% alcohol.
There are four basic categories of wines allowed in the DOC:
- Pinot Grigio or Pinot Grigio Ramato/Rosato
- Pinot Grigio Frizzante or Pinot Grigio Frizzante Ramato/Rosato
- Pinot Grigio Spumante or Pinot Grigio Spumante Ramato/Rosato
- Bianco (no Pinot Grigio required but must contain white grapes approved by consortium)
The sparkling wines must must be tank-fermented and sweetness levels can range from zero dosage up to dry with sugar levels less than 32g/L of residual sugar.
Overall these are fruity, easy-drinking (but not simple) wines that are quite versatile and pair with a number of foods. They have tingling acidity, minerality, and more. In other words, they are more than mere alcohol water. For many, these wines represent a great segue for Sauvignon Blanc drinkers. And even better is that most of these wines come in under $20.
Delle Venezie DOC Wines We Tasted
During the session, we tasted six different wines that showcased the quality of the region.
The trio of Pinot Grigio wines we tasted included the 2020 vintages of Ecco Domani, Prophecy, and Kris. All three wines exhibited the hallmark easy-drinking nature as well as a marked freshness along with bright acidity. Some fresh Gulf seafood would certainly be at home with these wines.
After that, we switched to three Pinot Grigio Rosato wines from Poesie, Canaletto, and Bacaro that were equally as fresh and delicious. Like to the point that I’m going to get a few to keep on hand at home.
Overall, I so appreciated the opportunity to love on Pinot Grigio a little more. And I’m down with eating a little crow. I hope you take the opportunity to try some wines from the Delle Venezie DOC. And if you find any that you love, please let me know. Cheers!
Note: Cover Image Courtesy of Delle Venezie DOC Facebook
- I went though the ABC movement but never gave up on Merlot.
- When it comes to grape yields, the general thought is lower is better. Like anything else, there are always exceptions. But generally you want vines with fewer grapes so that the grapes that remain build more concentrated and intense flavors and aromas. The more fruit on a vine, the more spread out the flavors and aromas and the less flavor the grapes will generally have.