by Fred McMillin
for June 10, 1998

The Gray Grape


French—gris (gree)
Italian—grigio (gree-jo).

Much Pinot Grigio makes pretty dreary drinking, since the grape characteristically looses acid rapidly at full ripening. However, improved clonal selection has precipitated a renewal of enthusiasm in California.

...Master of Wine Jancis Robinson

The Rest of the Story

The gray grape (called Pinot Gris in France, Pinot Grigio in Italy) evolved from the Pinot Noir in Burgundy some seven centuries ago. Emperor Charles IV thought enough of it to send cuttings to Hungary in 1375.

As to that loss of refreshing acid at full ripening, one solution was to harvest the grapes early. However, at that stage flavors are not fully developed; hence, those "dreary" white wines.

But, California's Bargetto Winery has gone for the better clones instead of premature harvesting...very successfully. Here's the wine.  

The Wine

1997 Pinot Grigio, Central Coast, CA.
Bargetto Winery, Soquel, CA.
Tasting Notes—A clean, refreshing change from high-oak Chardonnay. Hugh Johnson calls the Grigio "tasty," and so did my panel.
Food Affinities—While we enjoyed it with Cajun catfish, we turn to Hungary for further ideas, since they have had it around for some 600 years...the recommendation is "pork fried in breadcrumbs." (J. Robinson)
Contact—(408) 475-2258, Martin Bargetto (left, in photo, receiving Sweepstakes Award at Reno Wine Competition)
Price—$15 range  


Why do the Bargettos use the Italian Grigio name instead of the French Gris? The Santa Cruz Mountains winery was founded in 1933 by the brothers Philip and John Bargetto, born in Piedmont, Italy.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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