Maso Canali Trentino Pinot Grigio 2007
Maso Canali takes a unique approach in producing their Pinot Grigio. They use the Passito
Method to add that special something. The method aside, many current Pinot Grigios from
Italy or elsewhere can use a little extra oomph; too many go down just a little too smoothly,
with demerits in the aromatic column. This is not the case certainly in the case of this wise
wine, a $23 offering I have seen for around $17.
The red wine Amarone is perhaps the poster-wine for Passito. The winemaker puts the harvested grapes through a patient process of drying on straw mats or racks. The drying concentrates the sugars in the grapes, yielding some very special concentrated aromas, flavors and textures in the resulting wine. A certain yeast-math cannot be avoided, however. If you ferment the super-sweet juice to dryness, as is done with Amarone, you arrive at high alcohol wine that can push 17%. (Of course, if you stop fermentation at 14% or so you end up with a sweet wine.)
The Maso Canali Pinot Grigio is bone dry at 1.9 grams of residual sugar per liter (it would still be dry at twice that level) and yet weighs in at a modest alcohol level of 12.8%. The secret—or call it the restraint—is that Maso Canali only takes six percent of the final blend from Passito grapes they vinify separately. All the wine, including the other 94%, is the product of late harvested grapes. It is all vinified in stainless steel, avoiding malolactic fermentation to keep the crispness in, cold-stabilized and entirely wood-free.
The result, from the high-altitude growing region of Trentino in northern Italy is an extremely well-balanced wine that is at the same time clean and crisp (but with greater aromatic depth than so many other wines from the clean and crisp camp). The crispness is expressed without too much acidity, letting a first-class fruit basket shine through. The wine is a clear pale gold. I want to indicate pear on the nose, but it is not just the fruit, rather the entire orchard, with delicate floral accompaniments. The palate brings more apple than pear, some peach, honey, apricot, a touch of tropical mango and a hint of fresh pineapple. The finish is lengthy and well-balanced, with a final note of citrus.
A wine of this quality shows just what Pinot Grigio can be in the hands of a winery that
knows what it is doing, as should be expected from a family that has been planting this
varietal since the late nineteenth century. The Canali family has been living on the estate for
more than five centuries, so it's a good guess they stake their reputation on getting the most
out of this hillside terroir. I would be just as diligent if my name were on the label.
Verdict: Raises the Pinot Grigio standard
When it comes from Italy, I never know what to expect, but pleasant surprises are always welcome.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman