What makes a vintage? Examining 2015 and 2016 Friuli Pinot Grigio
Wine has been made in Friuli since the days of the Roman Empire (and possibly earlier). And while white wines have dominated the region since that time, it was not until relatively recently (the decade of the ‘70s) that the wines received international recognition. Since then, the white wines of Friuli Colli Orientali (“the Eastern Hills of Friuli”) have largely been considered the best white wines in Italy and many see the region as the top area for the production of Pinot Grigio—not just in Italy, but across the globe. Why? Well, grapes from the region have both intense flavors and vibrant acidity, the former due mostly to the higher altitude (up to 1300 feet) and long growing season, while the latter occurs thanks to the diurnal temperature shifts, resulting in cool nighttime temperatures, preserving the natural acidity.
The Grape—Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio (also known as Pinot Gris), a mutation of Pinot Noir, is actually a darker-skinned grape variety with the color of the grapes ranging from an earthy pink to a purplish gray, but since there is no skin contact during production, the resulting wine is clear. Perhaps the variety most often associated with “Italian White Wine,” Pinot Grigio is planted in several regions across Northern Italy: Lombardy, Trentino-Alto Aldige, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, and of course, Friuli. While Pinot Grigio might not be the most widely planted white variety in Friuli (that title belongs to Friulano) many argue that the variety reaches its greatest heights in the region.
The Importance of Vintage
It would be easy to say that the vagaries of the vintage are important for every region, but in Italy that is perhaps more the case for Friuli than for any other. Given its altitude and proximity to the ocean and the Alps, the region is particularly susceptible to Spring frosts and Fall rains—neither particularly advantageous to winemaking. Due to the at times challenging conditions, viticulturists and winemakers in Friuli have often been seen as innovators with their techniques adapted by their counterparts in other parts of Europe and around the world.
2015 Terlato Vineyards Pinot Grigio Friuli Colli Orientali: Despite many wines in the region that seemed to be lacking in overall acidity, through effective canopy management and prudent harvesting, the 2015 Terlato Pinot Grigio maintained a significant amount of tartness and minerality. The nose is characterized by white peach, wet stone, and chalk while the palate introduces some pear and a vibrant pink grapefruit, leading to a lasting finish, highlighting the wine’s depth and minerality.
2016 Terlato Vineyards Pinot Grigio Friuli Colli Orientali: The 2016 Terlato Pinot Grigio is a near perfect reflection of the vintage with intense candied fruit (melon, peach, Fuji apple) that carries through to the palate along with ideal levels of tartness. The area’s characteristic minerality shows up just before the finish, pairing once again with the lovely fruit flavors. One of the best expressions of the variety that Terlato has produced.
If you have the opportunity to taste both vintages, please let us know what differences and similarities you find. Also, try comparing to other Pinot Grigio brands and you will find that with our Terlato Vineyards Friuli Pinot Grigio, taste is the difference!