Monday, March 8, 2010

Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio

Ever since I tasted the Branko Pinot Grigio a few weeks ago, I have decided to open my mind about what I have wrongly  considered to be one of the less interesting wines being made today.  It's terrible to generalize about any sort of wine that way, but my experience has unfortunately led me to that bias.  I am happy to report a new found love of the grape and the wines produced from it in Northern Italy.  Alois Lageder's "Classic" Pinot Grigio is yet another example of Pinot Grigio that is breaking down my personal bias for this underestimated and severely neglected grape.

The problem with Pinot Grigio, and the reason why I have developed my bias, is that it is grown just about everywhere in Italy and there are only a few winemakers who give it the serious treatment that it deserves.  Typically, it is picked too early and made into a thin, tart, insipid wine that lacks any sort of varietal character or complex aromatics.  In some of the examples I've tasted, you may as well be drinking alcoholic lemonade for a cheaper price and equally satisfying results.

What makes the Pinot Grigio from Lageder so special is the intense care taken with the vines and in the winery.  They follow biodynamic practices, which I feel consistently produces interesting wines.  The region itself, the Alto Adige, is also marked by a long cool growing season with long daylight hours and cool nights, which is ideal for coaxing phenolic maturity out of grapes which characteristically are less aromatic such as Pinot Grigio.  The family's history with wine-making dates back to the 19th century and Alois Lageder, himself, has made a significant commitment to quality rather than quantity, though he does produce a myriad of styles.

I'm sure you can tell already how impressed I was with this wine just from what I've written so far about its producer, but to taste the wine on its own justifies its praise even without knowing all of the background.  The color is a crystal clear and bright straw gold with a silver gleam.  Aromatically, it reminded me of Chablis.  It was steely, and had some of the struck match scent that associate with those great wines of Burgundy, some of my favorites.  There is a also a purity of pear and ripe melon, and I picked up a little cucumber as well.  Maybe it's just the impending Spring in New England, but I also got a whiff of wild flowers.  I'm getting carried away because I quite enjoyed the complexity and subtlety of the wine so much.

On the palete it was equally engaging.  It had a focused linear quality balanced with the right amount of acidity that gave the wine backbone without it seeming tart.  The finish was long and mineral as expected for Lageder's wines.  Dan commented on how well it went with our meal.  We were eating Chinese as usual on these late nights after work - I had shrimp with cashews, celery, and peppers and he was having chicken with scallions and ginger.  The alcohol in the wine is also on the lower side, around 12% which I also appreciated.  It's nice to be able to have two glasses and not feel like going to sleep right away.

I also have to admire Lageder for his passion for the arts.  His labels are all designed by artists Elisabeth Holzl, Mario Airo, Eva Marisaldi, Marcello Maliberti, and Luca Vitone representing light, earth, vines, man, and wine respectively.  He also supports new music commissioning new works from composers and hosting chamber music concerts in his enoteca, which he calls Paradeis.  For now I will dream of performing a concert there in the beautiful setting of Northern Italy.

All of this for a relatively inexpensive and humble bottle of Pinot Grigio.  As I mentioned, the wine drinks great on its own, but knowing all of the tangential information regarding the producer has made the experience of drinking it even more special.  You can be sure that I'll be looking for more great wine from Lageder and, if you are a lover of art, music, and all delicious thing as I am, I would encourage you to do the same.  Cheers.

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