Way back when I was 19 and Pinot Grigio wasn’t fashionable, a sommelier gave me a taste of some. I (an aspiring sommelier), asked him what it was supposed to taste like. He told me “bananas, and rustic country honey”. It was something cheap but at that stage relatively obscure, from the Friuli region in Italy. I remember thinking, “yes, I suppose there was some fresh banana aroma in there”, but overall, I thought it smelled like a goat had eaten a beehive, then peed all over a hay bale next to a pile of rotting apples then left it all to dry in the sun for a while.
I didn’t return to Pinot Grigio for quite some time, and it was via Mornington Peninsular (Australia) Pinot Gris, a variety fairly much pioneered in Oz by Cathleen Quealy, who was then at T’Gallant, and who now still hovers in the region doing wonderful things under her label Quealy Balnarring. It took me some months to figure out that this was actually the same grape variety, because all that goat’s piss mixed with straw and honey had been replaced by pears and spice and some quite charming structure and texture.
I’m of the belief that it has been new world winemakers who have exalted Pinot Grigio. They took a variety that in Italy was floundering between cheap and undrinkable rubbish, and supreme but prohibitavely expensive and rare wines, and turned them into a marketable, and incredibly drinkable everyday wine. Of course, on the tails of this, demand for what was a very interesting wine pushed suppliers into producing vast quantities of what everyone thinks they want. Unfortunately they have ended up giving us a whole stack of mildly grapey alcoholic water, occasionally with the aroma of a vitamin c tablet. It’s taken my “wine presented at dinner parties most likely to make me groan” medal from Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. (Although I still infinitely prefer goat’s pee over cat’s urine.)
Funnily enough, this wine is one of less than 10 I have tried in recent years that actually displays any of this varietal character I seek whenever someone places an infernal Pinot Grigio before my schnoz. Nose all banana and pears, palate very fruit forward with the same. Some honey notes and saline finish. Not long or holding any serious acid structure, but gulpable. Good
58 AED plus tax (Available at African + Eastern)