Ultra Vires


In Vino Veritas

Reconsidering Pinot Grigio

Some people dismiss Pinot Grigio as facile. We decided to investigate for ourselves. 

Pinot Grigio is one of Italy’s ubiquitous white wines. Ironically, it is native to France, where it is called Pinot Gris. It gets its name from the grapes’ greyish colour—the result of a mutation from Pinot Noir grapes. Pinot Grigios come in a few different styles, but in this issue, we focus on the dry and minerally expressions common of bottles from the Italian Alps.

If you remain unmoved, we have included a few other bottles to try.

Danica Bennewies

I tend not to be a big fan of Pinot Grigios. So, I decided to try something completely new. Thankfully, Italy produces a huge variety of white wines. Below are two great options for under $20.

Zenato San Benedetto Lugana 2018 

$19.95 at the LCBO

This Trebbiano was much fruitier than I expected. It had a strong peach aroma that didn’t follow through in the taste. Instead, it revealed flavours of cherry and tropical fruits. On first taste, I thought it was a bit too sweet for me, but, on further sipping, I actually found that it had a tartness that balanced out the fruitiness. It’s dry and crisp—not overwhelmingly sweet or jammy. I thought it was great on its own, though I imagine it would also go nicely with fish or light pasta. 

Monte del Frá Ca’ del Magro 2016 

$19.95 at the LCBO

I had never tried Garganega either. This blend definitely had more body to it and was drier than the Trebbiano above. Apple was the main flavour I picked out here, although I also noticed some lemon and floral notes. While I really enjoyed the dryness and full flavour of this wine, I wouldn’t call it an “easy sipper”. I couldn’t really drink it on its own, but I think if you paired it with grilled chicken or a charcuterie board it would be lovely. 

Alexa Cheung

Placido Pinot Grigio Toscana IGT 2018

$12.95 at the LCBO

This wine smells delicious: slightly sweet and lemony with notes of apple. Unfortunately, I am disappointed to report that its taste failed to live up to expectations. The lemony freshness was its dominant note, but it was not balanced—too tart for my taste. Nevertheless, I sipped this wine with a beautifully constructed cheese board (courtesy of Angela Gu and Adrienne Ralph), and it paired best with sweeter, nutty cheeses like Swiss and Gouda.

Tom Collins

Nals Margreid Punggl Pinot Grigio 2016

$29.95 at the LCBO

Punggl means “little hill”, signalling its origin: the hills of Magrè in South Tyrol, which is in northern Italy. The wine is a deep golden yellow colour and it opens to delicate notes of lemon, sourdough, and white chocolate. Its flavours are more assertive: a dry, bracing mix of tart apples, lemon juice, and minerals. There is a lot of acidity and alcohol (14%), but they fade into a long finish that is more a sensation of freshness than a pronounced flavour. In sum, this is a fine example of Italy’s restrained style of Pinot Grigio. Conventional wisdom says to serve it very cold. I preferred it around 12ºC. Pair it with a light green salad.

Photo credit: Tom Collins

La Guardiense Janare del Sannio Greco 2017

$18.95 at the LCBO

Despite its suggestive name, Greco’s origins are uncertain. These days, it is one of Campania’s key grapes. Janare del Sannio is an interesting example. It is a beautiful golden yellow and it has potent aromas of wine gums and tropical fruit punch. The taste is heavy on the citrus with faint peach, pear, and unripe pineapple following behind. Those are my notes from my first time tasting it. I bought another bottle the following week and found it harsh and less aromatic. Small producers occasionally have issues with consistency. So, it is a gamble but a worthwhile one. This particular bottle is currently sold out, but look for its return in early 2020.

Angela Gu

Bollini Pinot Grigio 2018

$18.95 at the LCBO

You know a wine is disappointing when the only remarkable thing about it is its unremarkableness. I read a good review of Bollini’s 2012 vintage by my favourite wine critic, Beppi Crosariol. So, I thought I’d give the 2018 vintage a try. It has about the same amount of character as a bad house wine. It is a straw colour, it doesn’t smell like much, and it doesn’t taste like much—light pear with minerality and acidity. Very meh. I blame climate change. I shared this bottle with friends while watching the 2018 documentary, RBG. We decided that, while none of us particularly liked it, it paired well with Swiss cheese and Ritz crackers.

Amy Lin

Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio Valdadige 2018

$19.95 at the LCBO 

Santa Margherita is known for its Pinot Grigio. In 1961, it pioneered the process of fermenting pink Pinot Grigio grapes off the skins to produce a white wine. This wine is clean, dry, and very minerally, which is typical of Pinot Grigio produced in Alto Adige in the Italian Alps. On the nose, the aromas of green apples and citrus are quite prominent and are subsequently reflected in the clean palate of the wine. This is not a wine I would drink by itself, but it is an excellent option to have when paired with a light dinner of chicken or seafood. It would also be a wonderful wine to have with very sweet desserts or fresh cheeses.

Olivia Mazza

Masi Masianco Pinot Grigio & Verduzzo 2018

$16.95 at the LCBO

In a funny coincidence, a friend had just brought me this bottle as a housewarming gift (shout-out to Jemma Lewis). I don’t drink white wine very often, but this was a nice, crisp, and easy-to-drink wine. Pleasant citrus aroma on the nose and flavours of citrus, apple, and a bit of minerals. Noticeably dry, as you might expect from a Northern Italian wine. This is a pretty typical Pinot Grigio and is perfect if you want something not too overpowering or something refreshing and crisp.

Kimia Veisi Nezhad 

Banfi Principessa Gavia Gavi 2018

$19.95 at the LCBO

This is my perfect white wine: playful, light, crisp, and fresh. Aromas of pineapple, peach blossoms, and lemon zest are the most apparent, but there is more going on here. On the palate, this wine is well-balanced with notes of honeydew melon, green apple, peach, and minerals. A creamy and savoury after-taste follows. The delicate and subtle notes recall the story behind the wine. It comes from the village of Gavi in northwest Italy, which takes its name from Gavia, a Saracen princess. Apparently, she took up residence in a local castle after eloping with a soldier.  Enjoy this wine with light snacks and appetizers. It would go great with salmon or tuna bites.

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