The fourth white wine we sampled on April 13th in the tasting group after the Sancerre, Chablis, Grüner Veltliner, and Albariño was a Pinot Grigio from Italy.
The Ermacora Winery
The Ermacora winery is a family business. In 1922 the first vines of Ermacora were planted on the hilly land of Ipplis in the northeastern corner of Italy in the Denominazione di origine Controllata (D.O.C.) Colli Orientali of Friuli, not far from the Slovenian border. The soil consists of calcareous clay, marlstone and sandstone. The grapes are harvested by hand and they use traditional vinification methods.
The name Ermacora has roots in the history of the ancient Romans. Ermacora was in fact the name of the first bishop of Aquileia, who lived around the middle of the third century and it was the Romans who constructed the historical bridge on the Natisone River, along the antiquated route that still today leads to Ipplis. It is in this village of Lombard origin that Dario and Luciano Ermacora operate their winery.
Pinot Grigio is the same grape as Pinot Gris (Alsace) and Grauburgunder (Germany) and yet I have found that if you were to taste these side-by-side they would seem more like distant cousins. The climate, soils and styles of winemaking of these regions are too dissimilar which is reflected in the wine.
One of the most helpful resources for studying wine and preparing for exams is the web site of the Guild of Sommeliers (www.guildsomm.com) which provides useful maps, study guides and typical profiles for the most well-known grape varieties that may appear on a Sommelier exam. One way of studying wine is to write your own notes for a wine and then compare them to the profile provided on the web site. While nobody can tell you what you smell and taste in a wine as such perceptions are very subjective, there are characteristics that are commonly found in wines. According to the Guild the following is a typical profile for an Italian Pinot Grigio:
Typical Descriptors and Structure for Italian Pinot Grigio
(basic commercial examples)
(basic commercial examples)
- Visual: Pale Straw with Hints of Green (possibly with slight copper and pink tones), Moderate Concentration
- Aromas/Flavors: Moderate Intensity
- Fruit: Citrus (Lemon), Tree Fruit (Red and Yellow Apple), Creamy Stone Fruit (White Peach, Nectarine), Melon
- Floral: White and Yellow Flowers
- Herbal: Watercress/Arugula
- Other: Peanut Shell, Lager Yeast/Stale Beer
- Earth: Moderate to Moderate Plus Minerality, Stone/Chalk, Ashen Notes, Saline
- Oak: None
- Structure: Dry, Moderate Body, Moderate Plus Acidity, Moderate Alcohol, Slight Phenolic Bitterness
Now compare the above descriptors with my tasting notes and see how many show up in the wine’s profile (indicated in bold):
The 2012 Ermacora Colli Orientaili Del Fruili Pinot Grigio is a clear white wine, straw-lemon in color with moderate concentration and medium+ viscosity. On the nose it has subtle aromas of lemon pith, blanched almonds, peach skins, dried white flowers, and a very distinctive waft of peanut shell. On the palate is quite different with flavors of bitter oranges, creamy stone fruits, cantaloupe, lemon tart candies, and a hint of chalk with no signs of oak. It is dry with medium+ acidity, medium body and moderate length bitter finish of persistent bitter oranges.
The key indicators in my mind that this wine was a typical example of an Italian Pinot Grigio are the stone fruits (peach, peach skins), the peanut shell, and the bitter notes, particularly in the finish. Many of the other descriptors are also found in other white wines.