You’ve probably seen those television commercials for a well-known pinot grigio — the slow-motion pouring of the wine; the subdued lighting; and the baritone voice of the announcer invoking the wine’s elegance and stature.
That is not the wine I'm going to tell you about. There’s nothing wrong with this particular wine, but at around $25 it’s overpriced (those TV ads don’t come cheap), and it’s certainly not the only pinot grigio out there. So let’s move on to something else.
Let me suggest a wine you may not have heard of, one that I’ve never seen advertised — the distinctive 2005 Pinot Grigio from Bruno Verdi in the Oltrepò Pavese area of Lombardy in northern Italy. At about $16, it’s not exactly cheap (the least expensive pinot grigios can be thin and dull), but this one is a good value because it demonstrates the level that pinot grigio can reach when in the hands of a small, talented producer.
The Verdi family, which has farmed its land since the 18th century but has made wine only since the end of World War II, mainly produces red wine, including an intriguing sweet, low-alcohol sparkler called Sangue di Guida Paradiso, which is served cold.Verdi's pinot grigio (the grape is also known as pinot gris) is a wine that begs for fish, plain and simple — broiled flounder or sole, clams on the half shell or classic linguine with clam sauce, fried calamari, sushi or even smoked bluefish, a delicacy from an underappreciated species that demands the counterpoint of a snappy, fresh wine with cutting acidity.
And that's just what Verdi’s pinot grigio is. Beyond that, the wine shows notes of pear and lemon, minerals and a slightly smoky quality that adds to its complexity. It is fermented and aged without oak.
This is not a wine for contemplation about the deeper meaning of life or a wine that will gradually unfold for hours to reveal subtle layers as you swirl and sip it. It’s light, refreshing and focused — and just made for your next fish dinner. For more information you can contact the importer, Rosenthal Wine Merchant, at www.madrose.com.
Edward Deitch's wine column appears Wednesdays. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at EdwardDeitch