12 Days of Vinebox: Day 1

25 12 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

Merry Christmas! And welcome to Vinebox. Amidst all the unwrapping of presents, preparing meals, and dealing with relatives (at least some of whom you like, presumably), hopefully you can find the time to join me in crushing just under half a glass of…Pinot Grigio!? I suppose one has to start somewhere. Although I do not naturally gravitate towards this style, I freely admit that premium offerings often show some interest, perhaps even a little charm, certainly far more than the oceans of antiseptic acid water that comprise the commodity Pinot Grigio market, which is demolished in vast quantities at cafes, bars, dinner tables and bridal showers around the world. Although climate and other viticultural decisions such as yield play a role in separating the wheat from the chaff, most premium PGs from northern regions such as Alto-Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia come from a small-berried clone of the grape with more flavour concentration than the much larger, thin-skinned berries that hail from the vast prolific vineyards of the Veneto plain. As Peter mentioned in his comprehensive preview of this attractive package of super fun wine-laden test tubes, the Vinebox team has assembled this lineup solely for its Canadian audiences from the wares of various European artisanal producers, working only with about 1% of the wines they tried so as to keep quality high. I am cautiously optimistic.

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Although the Vinebox reveal website (hey, no cheating now!) states that this is “Friuli Pinot Grigio”, the vial is actually marked with “Delle Venezie IGT”. This is an older appellation that actually ceased to exist in 2017, being renamed “Trevenezie IGT”. (The word “Triveneto” also appears near the top of the vial!) The new appellation “Delle Venezie DOC” was then carved out of the Trevenezie IGT to primarily encompass Pinot Grigio, and this, I presume, is where the present wine would now be classified. Detective work complete. Delle Venezie DOC includes not just Friuli but also Trentino and the entirety of the larger Veneto plain, meaning that the grapes in this vial could hail from any of these regions. The producer, Vinicola Tombacco, has a website that does not appear to feature this particular wine, or if it does, said wine appears under the guise of one of the numerous sub-labels that fall within the Tombacco stable. Tombacco does produce a Delle Venezie DOC Pinot Grigio labelled “Collezione Privata”. My guess is that this is the very same wine, or something similar. OK, so the detective work was not quite complete. Good enough. Let’s taste.

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The nose immediately asserts a mineral character, and one rather stronger than I was expecting: tons of chalk, gypsum, and something else that evokes deposit-encrusted copper pipes. Some white flower petals (gardenia?) flutter around above the crags, and the fruits register as classic cool fermentation pear drop (complete with powdery dusting) backed up by some genuine fresh golden pears and apples. I eventually get further aromatics in the form of fresh-cut hay or sweetgrass. The palate is an ethereal goblin, more salty mineral than fruit, with the latter transmogrified from the pears on the nose into a spear of lemon rind and pith, a playful swipe of acid that etches into the chalk. There is more body than expected, yet the whole integrated impression remains delicate… An intricate sculpture that could not hail solely from fertile Veneto.

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Although it is human nature to stereotype, one must remain vigilant. Taste a wine you think is going to be insipid as if you are tasting something you have never tasted before. Be mindful. Sure, your suspicion might be confirmed. Or… the wine might just surprise the heck out of you. Alright, Vinebox. I’m officially intrigued.

89 points

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