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When You Need A $10 Pinot Grigio
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Nov 7, 2017
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Riff Pinot Grigio delle Venezie IGT (Italy), Progetto Lageder, 2016 (Dalla Terra, $10):  The Pinot Gris grape makes some impressive white wines in places such as Alsace, Italy’s Alto Adige and Friuli regions, New Zealand and Oregon.  But inexpensive, ordinary Pinot Grigio wine from high-volume vineyards in northeastern Italy has come to be the dominant style for this grape variety.  Even as we critics look down on neutral, light-bodied Pinot Grigio wines, they remain dominant, and hugely popular.

When you entertain people who enjoy wine but don’t take it seriously, you might think about buying an inexpensive Pinot Grigio as a logical fit for their tastes and your budget.  Fortunately, with the release of this new Pinot Grigio wine from Alois Lageder, there is a $10 Pinot Grigio option that stands above the quality norm for this price point.

Alois Lageder is a large, family-owned winery from Italy’s Alto Adige region, well-respected for the quality of its white and red wines, including several excellent single-vineyard wines.  Retail prices range from about $15 for wines in the “classical grape varietals” line to $30-plus for single-vineyard wines and special bottlings -- prices that represent great value for discriminating wine drinkers.  Now the winery has developed a Pinot Grigio for the highly competitive $10 price tier that likewise over-delivers on quality.

Riff Pinot Grigio does not carry the Alto Adige DOC but instead is labeled as “Pinot Grigio delle Venezie IGT,” indicating a larger district that stretches across the Trentino-Alto and Veneto regions.  Sourcing grapes from a wider area lowers wine cost.  The vineyards for the most part are on the foothills of the Dolomites; the name “Riff” translates as “reef,” a reference to the geological origin of the Dolomite soil formed by fossil deposits from an ancient seabed.

The style of Riff Pinot Grigio is what you would expect: a dry, crisp, un-oaked white wine. But it differs from standard inexpensive Pinot Grigios by being more flavorful, more textured and less dilute than the norm.  The wine is medium-bodied, with fairly pronounced aromas of peach, apple, and orange peel.  In your mouth, the juicy flavors echo the aroma, along with notes of peach-stone and a savory mineral tone on the finish.  The wine’s somewhat “oily” texture sets it apart from watery-textured competitors -- just as its dryness sets it apart from inexpensive California Pinot Grigio wines that tend to have some sweetness. 

This wine is the product of stainless steel fermentation followed by several months of development on the lees, which has likely contributed to its texture.  In all, this is a well-made, good-quality Pinot Grigio at a bargain price.

89 Points