Pinot Gris (French) or Pinot Grigio (Italian)
The Pinot Gris grape origins are in Burgundy, France. It is one of the best known mutations of Pinot Noir. It is mentioned in the early writings of Roman historians and dates back to the beginnings of the Roman Republic. The city of Aquileia was founded in 181 BCE and traces of Roman architecture are found all through the area. Pinot Gris is extensively planted in Eastern Europe, France, Germany, Italy and California. Pinot Gris is known as Pinot Grigio in Italy. The grape first arrived in Switzerland in the 14th Century. It was planted extensively by the Cistercian monks in Hungary and in Italy by 1375. The grape skins are not white. In the 1960s, the famous Santa Margherita Winery in Italy began producing dry untinted wine which became one of Italy’s largest wine exports to the United States. Americans tend to associate Pinot Grigio with this style of winemaking.
The grapes range in color from greyish blue to brownish pink and the color variations can occur within the same cluster.
WINEMAKING STYLE: RAMATO WINE
The heartland of the Italian region of Friuli is famous for its historic winemaking style called ramato.
Pinot Grigio grapes are crushed and fermented on the skins. Traditionally the wines made in the ramato style range in color from a light blush to a salmon. Ramato comes from the word ‘rame’ which means ‘copper’. The copper-like luster is attributed to the extended maceration of the must on the skins during the winemaking process in the amphora. The wine has unique flavors, aromas and structural complexity. According to one winemaker, “Ramato has flavors and aromas of orchard fruit skin and acacia flowers with a mineral, tactile finish.”
This style has continued to be used in the Friuli region and in other parts of Italy. It has recently been used by a few winemakers in California.
This region is located in northeastern Italy. Over 40% of the area is mountainous alpine terrain. It borders Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east. The capital is Trieste.
This area is influenced by three distinct cultures – Italian, Germanic and Slavic. All three languages are spoken. It was occupied by the Romans, the Byzantines, the Venetians and the Habsburgs. Each group introduced new grape varieties to the area. The main agricultural product is wine.
The area has always been important as the center of Europe, connecting Italy and the Mediterranean to Central and Eastern Europe.
Brian Terrizzi sources his Pinot Grigio grapes from the Bassi Ranch vineyard owned by viticulturist and winemaker Mike Sinor. Mike farms using biodynamic principles and produces premium grapes.