What’s Happening to Pinot Grigio?
Every edition we ask John Mansfield of The Society of Vintners what is happening in the world of wine. This issue, his focus is Pinot Grigio…
Pinot Grigio, the staple wine for the British wine drinker is about to undergo significant changes. Given the huge popularity of this grape, these changes are likely to impact on almost every on trade licensed business in the UK.
The surge in demand in the last 20 years for Italian Pinot Grigio has been astounding, and whilst this has obviously brought huge benefits to the trade, in many ways it has also been its’ downfall. At its best, with low yields and given time to develop to full ripeness, Pinot Grigio can produce deep-coloured, fairly rich wines with relatively low acidity, and a heady perfume. However, the demands for ever increasing volume and lower prices have meant that in many cases the wines being produced are considered to be fresh but somewhat flat and lacking in flavour and character. Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that there is a strong market for wines at this price/quality level.
The Italians are keen to return to a higher quality product, and so from the 2017 vintage – which is just about to be released – the quality standards of Pinot Grigio from Veneto have changed.
From the 2017 harvest, the three most important Pinot Grigio producing areas of Italy – Veneto, Trentino and Friuli – have combined to work to a common standard of quality – the new DOC Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie, this classification covering their rosé Pinot Grigio wines too.
The result is a set of DOC standards covering all aspects of wine production, from the grape to the bottle, including improved traceability; but more importantly, specified maximum yields from the vineyards.
Under this classification Pinot Grigio will return to a fuller flavour and more characterful style. However, this will come at a price, as lower yields and the investment in quality have to be paid for. Additionally, 2017 saw a dreadful harvest, with a drought, a heat wave, and hailstorms so violent they dented car bonnets; meaning production in Italy was down some 30%.
As a resut the industry should expect to see prices rise by 10-15%, and whilst the consumer will see the DOC collar around the neck of the bottle and in some cases the front labels, it will be the responsibilty of the on trade channel to explain to customers the reasons and the benefits of a bottle of this higher quality, albeit more expensive wine.
The final thing the industry needs to know is that alongside the changes to Pinot Grigio production and yields is a new rule preventing the blending of Veneto Pinot Grigio with other grapes – so blends like Garganega/Pinot Grigio as an IGT from Veneto will disappear. They will be classified as DOC Garda.
The Italians are very excited about the quality improvements that this new DOC Pinot Grigio Della Venezie classification will undoubtedly bring. Time will tell whether the UK consumer is prepared to pay the price…
“It will be the responsibilty of the on trade channel to explain to customers the reasons and the benefits of a bottle of this higher quality, albeit more expensive wine.”
Therefore, from the 2017 vintage the Pinot Grigio market will fall into four quality/price groups: