Thursday, August 28, 2008

How come its not bubbly? The Pinot Grigio contradiction.

Here is a good question for your dinner party - what is the most widely planted grape variety in the world? Chardonnay? Merlot? Cabernet Sauvignon? The answer, those wine buffs among you will know, is Airen. Yes, the little known Spanish varietal is grown in vast quantities on the plains of La Mancha in central Spain. So how come we don't see lots of bottles of Airen on our shelves? Well, you can get some in Spain, but in general it is used as a blending wine. So what? Well, that is fine if it is blended in to wine in Spain and is all controlled by the regulatory authorities.

However, when you hear of tankers of Airen making the long journey over to northern Italy for blending in to Pinot Grigio, it makes you stop and think. It's been well known for years that Italy makes more "Pinot Grigio" than it grows, but I always presumed it was being plumped out with the less trendy Pinot Bianco or at worst some sad lonely bunches of Trebbiano, but Airen!?

It does perhaps explain how, with increasing demand and static production, the price is going down instead of up, as would normally be dictated by my rudimentary understanding of economics. So, once again, some unscrupulous producers will kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Watch out for the imminent demise of Pinot Grigio as the trendy tipple of the day.

So, if you like Pinot Grigio and want to drink the real thing, shun that cheapo bottle for €5.99/€6.99/€7.99, even if it has been "reduced from twice the price (because it hasn't, it was never that price in the first place - do you think supermarkets don't make a profit on wine?). Seek out the Pinot Grigio made by a reputable family producer and sold by someone who knows what they are talking about.

So, the question remains - if they are putting Airen, how come its not bubbly? Don't get me started on prosecco.......

4 comments:

Irish Wine Contemplations said...

Gabriel,

Another dinger of a post! I'd never actually heard of Airen. Given all of the stories of goings on in Brunello I don't think I would be surprised about the constituant properties of a number of different wines (even outside of Italy???).

Cheers,
Will

Gabriel Cooney said...

Yes, at least in Brunello, it was just Merlot and they were actually growing the stuff. Unfortunately, the attitude of some producers is "well, if it's not poisoning anyone, it's ok". Of course they have actually poisoned people in the past as well! God knows why I am an Italian specialist!

Will said...

Gabriel,

I was under the impression that in Brunello there were a number of different grapes, reputedly, being added ( Syrah (for softness), Aglianico or Merlot (for body) and either Colorino, Cabernet or Petit Verdot (for colour))? I was also under the impression that some of these were being sourced from other places outside of brunello (i.e. the South of Italy)?

In fairness most of what I have read has been on JancisRobinson.com (http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/20080808) and has not been verified.

There is an offline being planned for early November through the wine-pages.co.uk forums. Have a look here if you have any interest (http://www.wine-pages.com/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=2;t=000310).

Cheers,
Will

Gabriel Cooney said...

Will,

far be it from me to argue with Jancis, so you are probably right. Valpolicella (by poor producers, of course) also gets the bulk wine treatment in poor vintages so anything is possible.