For White Wine 201, a less obvious grape than Chardonnay is called for: Pinot Gris. After all, to begin to cope with the intimidating wall of wine in the average wine shop, with its hundreds and thousands of selections, you need to explore. Even experts find the number of choices daunting. Knowing a relatively unusual variety is just one way of confronting that “I-know-nothing” feeling.
Expert tasters appear to retain no more than seven models in their minds of what wines should be like. Most of us have merely one or two internal representations of ideally delicious reds and whites. Time to aim for more, perhaps.
And time to forget, maybe, that sweetness is akin to cheapness and nastiness in white wines.
Tommasi Viticoltori’s Vigneto Le Rosse Pinot Grigio 2007 (#910497) $17.95 is in the best known and simplest style from Italy’s Veneto region. It rises above the ordinary with its intensity and roundness, and happily makes one think of shellfish pasta in Venice.
From a clearly hotter climate and with more alcohol is MacMurray Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Gris 2006 (#47787) $19.80. Made by an Australian in California, it has some of the oiliness you come to look for in good white wine and lovely unnameable tropical fruit that finishes dry.
But it’s Fernand Engel’s organic Tokay Pinot Gris Reserve 2006 (#66068) $20.95, from Alsace, that may convince you of the greatness of the grape. The classic honeyed minerality on the nose and palate and fruit-laden middle palate sweetness should tell you that sweetness is no reason to think less of a wine.