Starting as a mutant clone of Pinot Noir in the vineyards of Burgundy, Pinot Gris was planted all over the world. It probably achieved its greatest heights in Alsace, where the rich, spicy style of wine attained Grand Cru status. The Italian version was always different: lighter, crisper, higher in acidity, a wine for casual meals rather than great occasions.
It was also unknown in the U.S. until wine mogul Tony Terlato tasted it in Northern Italy and decided to import it into this country. Terlato’s brand, Santa Margherita, became the best-selling Italian white wine in America. It deteriorated in quality over the years until it resembled grapefruit-flavored water mildly spiked with alcohol. This never seemed to affect its popularity, although connoisseurs consequently spurned Pinot Grigio as lightweight and non-serious, a ubiquitous and inoffensive hot-weather quaff.
Against that background, I was both intrigued and skeptical when I received a sample of the Tommasi Pinot Grigio, described as “elevated Pinot Grigio.” Tommasi is a venerable fourth-generation producer located in the Veneto region—not exactly Pinot Grigio country. The estate is best known for full-bodied reds such as Amarone. However, the wine hailed from a designated hillside vineyard a few miles from the Alto Adige, the epicenter of high-quality Pinot Grigio in Italy, so the pedigree was sound.
Intense and attractive aromas of peaches and stone fruit highlight the nose of the 2015 Tommasi Le Rosse ($15). The wine is just as vibrant in the mouth, highlighted by sparkling acidity and notes of minerals, white pepper, melon and citrus. It has a rich and persistent presence on the palate, along with a lingering finish. In a more gracious age, it would best be described as charming.
Drink this delightful wine with fish and shellfish of all sorts, as well as poultry, veal or pork in lighter sauces. And don’t hesitate to open a bottle poolside on a hot summer’s day: it will enliven your conversation and your life.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); his first novel, Friend of the Devil, will be published by Black Opal Books in May 2016. for more information, go to amazon.com.