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Pinot Grigio Cut from a Different Cloth
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Dec 6, 2016
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Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio “Porer” 2015 (Dalla Terra, $25):  There’s Pinot Grigio, and then there’s Pinot Grigio.  Most of the Italian Pinot Grigio wines that you find in wine shops or restaurants epitomize the descriptor, “simple.”  They are light-bodied, high-acid whites with neutral flavors, and their main virtues are that they are refreshing and easy to drink.  But it is possible to find Pinot Grigio wines that actually have character.  Together with the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Italy’s far northeast, Italy’s northernmost region, Alto Adige, is one of the places where winemakers take Pinot Grigio seriously.

Despite its northerly latitude, Alto Adige is a warm and sunny region, thanks to the sheltering influence of the Alps that form the border with Austria -- although night temperatures are cool.  The growing season is long, enabling slow ripening of the grapes and full flavor development.

The Alois Lageder winery is one of the leading producers in Alto Adige.  Founded almost 200 years ago, it is currently run by the fifth and sixth generations of the founding family, whose nearly 125 acres of vineyards are certified biodynamic.  The winery’s annual production of 125,000 cases -- 80 percent white -- falls into three ranges, from the “classic” line that’s sourced mainly from partner grape growers to the “terroir” line that incorporates estate fruit from single vineyard or single parcel sites together with some grower fruit, and the “farm” line of entirely estate-grown wines from individual family farms.  Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio “Porer” falls into the intermediate, “terroir” line of Lageder wines.  Its grapes come from selected estate-owned vineyard parcels that lie at an altitude of 750 to 790 feet and are certified biodynamic. 

On pouring this wine, the first thing you will notice is its deep color, golden in hue with a pinkish tinge --a far cry from the typical, water-pale, mass-market Pinot Grigio.  The wine’s nose is rich with earthy and ripe-fruit aromas such as peach-stone and smoky minerality, as well as a bit of oak spiciness.  In your mouth the wine is full-bodied and richly textured —creamy and soft but also offering a bit of grip on the tongue.  Its flavors suggest dried peaches, peach stone, a bit of honey and some nuttiness.  Despite being broad and rich, the wine has enlivening acidity that brings a lift to its taste.  Altogether, it is a Pinot Grigio that envelops the tongue with richness of flavor and texture.

This wine owes its character and style to several factors.  Chief among these is its raw material, fully ripe, high-quality grapes with developed aromatics and balanced acidity.  Winemaking techniques enhanced both the richness and the freshness of the wine by treating half of the juice in a typical Pinot Grigio fashion -- fermentation and aging in stainless steel tanks -- and half in a more traditional manner, fermenting and aging for about five months in large oak casks.  Furthermore, about ten percent of the juice experienced ten to twelve hours of skin contact; this skin contact is probably responsible for the pinkish tones in the wine’s color, as well as its intensity of color.  (Pinot Gris grapes have a bluish or pinkish tinge.)  The skin contact likely also accounts for the wine’s grip in the mouth.

Stylistically, I would place Lageder’s 2015 Porer Pinot Grigio halfway between typical Italian Pinot Grigio and Alsace Pinot Gris.  Its peach-stone character and its weight suggest Alsace, but the wine is lighter than many Alsace Pinot Gris wines, and dryer than many of them, also.  The refreshing acidity that balances the wine’s richness is an Italian signature.

The 2015 Porer Pinot Grigio has just entered the U.S. market and is still a young wine. I believe that it can easily handle a couple of years of aging in good storage.

90 Points