Pinot Grigio has gotten a bad rap, which is deeply unfair to producers like my friend Valter Scarbolo, who makes serious, substantial wines from the variety in Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. I’ve proudly served Scarbolo wines to Pinot Grigio skeptics, and there are many other bottles in both Friuli and neighboring Alto Adige I’d pour in my ongoing campaign to get this grape the respect it deserves.
Today, we have one that defies all preconceptions, be they qualitative or stylistic: Scarbolo’s 2018 “Il Ramato,” a wine that is both novel and deeply traditional at the same time. Macerated briefly on its skins at the start of its fermentation, it could correctly be characterized as a vin gris style of rosé, or as an “orange” wine (which Friuli is famous for), but regardless of category, it’s Pinot Grigio being true to its nature—and delivering loads of pleasure in the process. It is neither as juicy-fruity as most rosés at this price point, nor is it oxidative and funky like many orange wines. It’s just delicious, substantial wine that’ll stand toe-to-toe with top-tier Bandol Rosé (Tempier and Terrebrune come to mind). It’s also a perfect style of rosé for the upcoming fall season, with flavors to complement many of the foods that are going to start showing up on your table. You’ll never look at Pinot Grigio the same way again!
Scarbolo’s winery and a portion of his 30 hectares of vineyards are in the town of Lauzacco, about 15 minutes south of Udine and at the eastern edge of the “Friuli Grave” DOC, right where it runs up to the Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli appellations. The soils in Grave are more alluvial in origin in comparison to Collio/Colli Orientali, but the positioning of the vineyards enables them to take advantage of the same “air conditioning” that makes Friuli so unique—warmer Adriatic air from the south is tempered by cooling breezes from the Julian Alps to the north, which creates wide diurnal shifts and a longer growing season for white grapes. There is no shortage of ripeness and intensity in Friulian whites, but they retain freshness and focus as well, which is why the region has emerged as Italy’s premier white-wine destination.
In addition to making wine, Valter runs a perfect little Friulian osteria called “La Frasca,” and I think his sensibility as a restaurateur (and maker of incredible salumi and other cured meats) informs this wine. There are lots of food-friendly savory notes in this 2018, which, true to its name, displays a uniquely “coppery” (ramato in Italian) color. Pinot Gris/Grigio is effectively a red grape when ripe, so the wine required only 24 hours of cold maceration on the skins to extract this appealingly deep hue. It was fermented in stainless steel and aged for eight months in tank, where it was subjected to weekly bâtonnage (lees-stirring) to add depth and complexity. Aromas of pomegranate, blood orange pith, wild berries, white tea, orange oil, wet leaves, and rose petal carry over to the generous, juicy palate, which rides a wave of bright acidity through a mineral and floral finish. It’s got good weight but also good “cut” for pairing with richer seafood dishes, cured meats (it’d be great with prosciutto), or a spice-rubbed pork loin. I’ve got it right at the top of my shortlist for Thanksgiving, too. Serve it at 50 degrees in all-purpose white (or red) stems and try it with the attached recipe in the lead-up to turkey day. There are plenty of occasions it’ll be perfect for, so stock up accordingly!
Pinot Grigio 100%