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There’s an awful lot of pinot grigio about, so we’re extra particular about ours. The warrant goes to Kiwi winemaker Matt Thomson, and a single vineyard in Valpantena, north-east of Verona in Italy, where cool breezes from the Dolomites ensure steady ripening. Clean-cut, rounded and fruity, with the trademark 'breadcrust' character of the grape, and a world away from some of its namesakes.
Product Code: IT28761
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New Zealander Matt Thomson began his winemaking career in the late 1980s after graduating from the University of Otago. Since 1992 he has been building a reputation as a premium producer of Marlborough sauvignon blanc, but for almost just as long he has also acted as a consultant at wineries in France and Italy. In 1999, he decided to realise his ambition of creating a range of modern, good quality wine from vines in the beautiful hillsides surrounding the city of Verona, and the Alpha Zeta brand was born. Many brands from this area of the north-eastern Veneto region buy their grapes in bulk from a range of sources, but Matt knew that he could have better control over quality and vineyard practice if he instead chose to work with a select handful of growers. He now works with just two co-operatives whose vineyards cover 1,900 hectares in the Valpantena Valley to the north of Verona. The star grapes for Matt’s wines are pinot grigio and the cherry-scented corvina variety.Cool breezes sweep the valley from the foothills of the Dolomites, moderating the temperature and helping the grapes to ripen at a slow and steady pace. This means that harvesting grapes later – something Matt ensures the growers do – helps the fruit to reach its ideal ripeness. The poor, chalky soil also means the roots dig deeper for moisture, putting the vines under stress and increasing the grapes’ concentration, and the Alpha Zeta growers restrict yields to enhance this flavour intensity even further. In the winery, grapes undergo cool fermentation in order to retain their fruity aromas. Matt’s skill at realising the huge potential of Veronese wines made him the obvious choice for The Society’s Pinot Grigio, which comes from a single vineyard for added precision of flavour.
Three regions constitute this wide and varied area. In the very north-east, abutting Slovenia and Croatia lies Friuli-Venezia Giulia. South and east of Venice spreads the broad swathe of the Veneto, one of Italy’s main wine producing areas in terms of volume. Finally, falling from the foothills of the Dolomites is Trentino-Alto Adige.Since the 1970s Friuli-Venezia Giulia has earned a fine reputation for high-quality white wines and a burgeoning one for reds. Most of the estates here are family owned with some co-operatives dotted around. Much of the inland area is hilly or mountainous with flatter vineyards sited around the Isonzo River as it comes down to the sea. The two principal white wine making areas are the Friuli Colli Orientali in the north-west and Collio Goriziano in the centre and east around the curve of the Slovenian border. The Orientali vineyards are in the lee of the Julian Alps and are cooler than the vineyards of Collio Goriziano though they are protected from northerly winds and have a more continental climate. They sit at altitudes of between 330 and 1200 metres on soils that were once beneath the ocean, so marl and sandstone predominate. The Collio Goriziano vineyards enjoy slightly greater influence from the Adriatic to the south, though the cool air draining from the higher ground in the north plays its part, and the vineyards sit upon the many steep slopes in this hilly country.Pinot grigio was an early success here and is still widely made, but chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot bianco have joined local varieties like tocai fiuliano, picolit and verduzzo in producing some of Italy’s freshest and most interesting white wines. Local varieties like schioppetino and refosco have struggled to find an audience outside of the region in the past though this is changing, and some Bordeaux blends from the Grave region of free draining alluvial soils are making people sit up and take notice.Trentino-Alto Adige was once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and in the northern parts of the province (Alto Adige) German is still widely spoken. Indeed, the architecture, food and customs owe much to their Teutonic roots and there are elements that remain in the vineyards that echo a Germanic past. Riesling is planted here and the village of Tramin gave its name to the gewürztraminer grape which is now so widely planted in another region with Germanic influences, Alsace. To reinforce that comparison, sylvaner, muscat, müller-thurgau and pinot gris (grigio) are also to be found here. Alto Adige is also known as the Süd-Tyrol (South Tyrol) and lies on the border with Austria and is Italy’s most northerly wine region. Here the vines grow in the foothills of the Alps, on the lower slopes along the Adige Valley. Altitudes vary between 200 and 1000 metres. White wines made the reputation of the region for their lively, fresh purity but reds are grown here too. Schiava and the burlier lagrein are the indigenous varieties much used here, though bracing cabernet sauvignon and merlot wines are made from plantings that can struggle to ripen and escape some greenness. Some very fine pinot noir wines are having an impact for their high-class and poise.The Veneto is something of a vinous bread basket. The soils are fertile, which is not usually propitious for fine wine production, and officially permitted yields are unacceptably high. The region produces enormous quantities of everyday wines for exporting and blending but also embraces the Valpolicella region where the jewel in the crown is Valpolicella Amarone, the sweetly rich, full-bodied expression of semi-dried corvina and rondinella grapes that is sought after the world over. Though bulk production, particularly through large and highly-efficient co-operatives, is still prevalent the improvements in winemaking and viticulture are clear, and there are many producers in formerly workaday DOCs like Valpolicella and Soave who are turning their corvina, rondinella, garganega and trebbiano di lugana (turbiano) grapes into vinous gems. Prosecco is also produced here from the glera grape in the hills around Conigliano almost due north of Venice, and is something of a worldwide phenomenon in terms of sales volume. As ever, there is a lot of basic fizz but the producers who take a little more care in vineyards and wineries are making delicious bubblies at all price levels.
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"really very good"
Mr Thomas Denny (23-Mar-2020)
"I would recommend this wine"
Mr John D Brookes (21-Mar-2020)
"One of my favourite wines and much better than the vast majority of Pinot Grigio from elsewhere. As many have commented, you cannot go wrong with a WS branded wine. Lots of flavour and lovely balance. Drink at anytime."
Mr James Atkinson (08-Mar-2020)
"Like other reviewers this has become a regular on the wine order. Has more character and a more complex taste than many Pinots, but with a nice fresh crispness. A very satisfying glass of wine."
Dr David Bryson (27-Jan-2020)
"Nice, very drinkable"
Mr Richard Simon (04-Jan-2020)
"This is a WS 'never lets you down' wine and the 2018 is as good as ever! Very versatile in relation to food and is perfect to drink on its own too. Well priced and can recommend with confidence. An automatic re-order wine."
Mr Terence Eastham (16-Nov-2019)
"Delicious everyday Pinot Grigio. Good balance of flavours , a good light tart when first opened but then softens. Good value for money. We drink it regularly and are repeat buyers."
Mr Stephen C B Tinton (13-Nov-2019)
"Had a bottle of the 2017 in a mixed case. Wished I had purchased a 12 bottle case. Absolutely delicious, full of character and would hold itself up whatever the food."
Mr Geoffrey N Harrison (03-Aug-2019)
"Wine is inoffensive, with a sharp apple crispness and slight acidity. Flavours are generally quite muted however. Would pair well with a variety of dishes but isn’t that exciting to drink on its own."
Mr Philip Stirups (24-Jan-2019)
"if your like me and a bit bored with pinot grigio but find sauvignon and chardenay a bit of a mouth full this is definitely worth giving a go"
Mr Timothy Walker (18-Dec-2018)
"Entirely inoffensive, but anonymous, and struck us all as lacking something, whether it was a tingle of alcohol, a kick of acidity, or just some more liveliness of flavour. £7.95 seems a little steep for what could have been a supermarket white."
Mr Maximilian Yuen (07-Mar-2018)
Mr Piers Beckley (03-Jan-2018)
"Lovely, easy drinking PG - maybe a little too easy! Great value and will be ordering more."
Mr Jonathan Reed (29-Dec-2017)
"* * *"
Mr Michal Slavik (08-Nov-2017)
"Very nice PG compared to some. Fresh and easy drinking. One of the best I've had this year. Thoroughly recommend."
Mr Tom Rodger (22-Oct-2017)
"There's an ocean of Pinot Grigios out there but I just loved this one. It seems to have just the right amount of everything in just the right order. At this price... 5 star."
Mr Alan Kingsbury (15-Sep-2017)
"Very enjoyable Pinot Grigio, slightly honeyed on the nose with perhaps a touch of almond. A hint of minerality and reasonable length for a wine at this price point. Probably 3.5 stars but halves are not an option and only 3 seems churlish."
Mr Bob White (18-Jun-2017)
Mr Robert Hudson (12-Aug-2016)
"Characterful medium-bodied Pinot Grigio with ripe fruit (pears, apples) rather than the neutral thinness one finds in the brands. A repeat order."
Dr Andrew Rawnsley (12-Aug-2016)
"I'm fairly new to the Wine Society and am building a repeat order list. This Pinot Grigio finds a place, it's got body and a refreshing finish, good value and a satisfying drink."
Mr Tom Bulley (04-May-2016)
"Good solid Pinot Grigio"
Mr Anthony O'Halloran (09-Mar-2016)
"I have been prepared to pay over the odds for good Italia Pinot Grigio. Not anymore, this flavoursome wine was excellent to drink on its own or with food, Fantastic value! I shall be ordering lots more."
Mr Bill Raftery (11-Mar-2014)
"Having just returned from holiday in this area and tried plenty of local stuff, this is fine example and excellent value. I will be back for more, and no need to travel to Verona."
Mr Philip Hesketh (03-Sep-2013)
"Opened this for the family after a very busy, hot day and it certainly hit the spot. Comes from a single vineyard and the attention to detail shows. Light golden colour, with a full rounded body containing excellent fruit. A tad sweet at the end for some perhaps, but not the least bit cloying. Very good value and would suit a patio/BBQ very well indeed, without implying it is in any way middle of the road/average; a lot more work than that has gone into this offering. Will re-order with confidence and recommend to members."
Mr Terence Eastham (03-Sep-2013)
"A pleasant everyday wine, having tried it with a chicken and pancetta salad would say it is a big improvement on the previous Society Pinot Grigio."
Mr Christopher M Holmes (19-Aug-2013)
Cambridge Evening News (9th Mar 2014)
"Recently I was
impressed with this example of flavoursome pinot grigio. - Mark Anstead"
"I am afraid to say I did not enjoy this wine, which had a very strange chemical aftertaste. The first Society Label I will not repeat, after many years happy buying.
Mr Thomas G Christopherson (11-May-2013)
"I have found this wine to be very unreliable. Some batches are fantastic, but some are very poor with a rather unpleasant vermouth type after taste. Personally I have stopped buying this wine and would not recommend it. The unreliability makes it poor value I feel.
Mr Simon Raybould (14-May-2012)
"Pleasant but unexciting wine..."
Mr Najam Asghar (06-Dec-2011)
"Current Society pinot grigio unexciting and feeble? A tad frizzante also?"
Mr John Brocklesby (27-Feb-2011)
"Dry but not too dry - tasting of granny smiths and a hint of gooseberry. Good with shellfish and light chicken meals. Having stayed away from Pinot Grigio for a long time this was an extremely pleasant surprise"
Miss Carolyn A Dakers (16-Aug-2009)
"Much enjoyed the Pinot Grigio and I have no qualm about recommending it to other members."
Dr Duncan C Kerr (11-Aug-2009)
"Excellent wine, with or without food. Refreshing, well balanced, excellent value. It gets our evenings off to a great start - and is always well received by guests."
Mr Jeffrey Jaycock (08-Aug-2009)
"I buy quite a lot of the Society's Pinot Grigio. I think it is excellent. You can buy cheaper PG elsewhere, but the quality is nowhere near that of the Society wine and it is well worth paying that little bit more."
Mr Graham B Marsh (07-Aug-2009)
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