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When Pinot Grigio Detractors Get It So Wrong

The case for pinot grigio (when it has verve and citrus elements) and praise for an often overlooked red variety.

 Today, Top Tips takes aim at the “baby and bathwater” brigade that loudly condemn almost all versions of pinot grigio.

Regular MidWeekers will not be surprised that my disagreement with that stance is supported by “bottled evidence”.

The South African PG concerned will make the point more eloquently than any words of mine.

Its companion wine is a red from an often overlooked variety – carmenere.

That wine often has more savoury elements than many reds but compensates with more than its fair share of chocolate influences.

Try it and see – and also consider broader online tasting opportunities with the retailer of the wine – the Co-op.

Once again, pictures and hyperlinks are included where possible to make it easier to track down the wine in question.

So, to that “bottled evidence”.

2023 Origin Wine ‘South Point’ Pinot Grigio (from £7.99 at Majestic and 10.5% abv):

While the snootier wine commentator’s “we hate pinot grigio” stance is overdone, there is a point there.

So often, acidity is a casualty in the quest for the ripeness needed to capture standard versions’ sought after tropical fruit flavours and aromas.

Consequently, the results can indeed be bland – and, if that is your experience, try this version from South Africa.

It is anything but flavourless with attractive fresh apple, grapefruit pith and vaguely peachy constituents.  

In addition, there are pear drop touches alongside a contrasting savoury twist and … wait for it …. lively acidity.

A perfect case for the defence against those naysayers – and available at a good price too.

And its companion red

2022 Irresistible Chilean Carmenere (£8.00 at the Co-op and 13.5%): 

Co-op’s “Irresistible” wines consistently strike an excellent balance between quality and cost and, in doing so, provide a diverse yet reliable range.

This example uses the carmenere grape – once a blending component in Bordeaux before (like malbec) starting a new life in South America.

Nowadays, it is the signature red variety in Chile.

Inky dark and smooth, the result here centres around full plum and bramble flavours.

These are partnered by lively acidity, firm tannin and bell pepper aromas with hints of dark chocolate and paprika joining in.

NB:- Prices may vary between those on the website and those in store.


Linking both my points about the Co-op range and last week’s piece on Rioja, the retailer has resumed its free online wine tastings.

These offer members exclusive access to the producers behind its wine range and focus on two different wines every month.

They will be hosted by the winemaker and a member of Co-op’s wine buying team.

So, April 24 sees a tasting featuring Co-op’s Irresistible Rioja and Irresistible Rioja Blanco in the company of Muriel Wines producers Javier Murua and Chema Ryan.

Becoming a Co-op Member is really simple, the Co-op tell me.

It costs £1 and gives members access to exclusive offers, discounts and events.

Once signed up, members can book for events via the Co-op Membership website, https://joinin.coop.co.uk/opportunities/.

For this tasting, members will receive a Zoom link to join the event on the day and will also get advance notice of what wines will feature.

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8 Responses

  1. Hi Brian

    Thanks for the tip on the Carmenere. Tesco stocked a Finest variety which was remarkable value for the money but it seems to have been dropped, unfortunately. I’ll pop in to my local Co-op to buy one.

    M & S also does a decent Pinot Grigio as part of their Classics range. A lovely summer wine.

  2. Asda Extra Special Carmenere is one of my favourites. Currently reduced to £7.50, but later in April ( from the 24th?? ) Asda have a “25% off when you buy 6 or more” offer, which makes it about £5.60. I will get at least 6, this wine always sells out within a couple of days at my local store

  3. As I hinted in the post, Carl, carmenere is not a big seller anywhere and that is a pity as it should be on more people’s lips – in more ways than one! I agree about the M&S pinot grigio – very nice example (and another push back against the naysayers).

  4. Thanks for the “heads up” Dave and certainly a sound example. As Carl mentions, though, carmenere can disappear from the shelves quite quickly.

  5. Hello Brian,
    I do not think anyone would be disappointed with Morrisons The best Trentino Pinot Grigio either.£8 but on 25% discount on buy 3 until near the end of April.Keep on with the fight against PG naysayers!
    I have had the pleasure of trying out your recommended TWS Californian Morning Fog Chardonnay £14.95.I don’t normally go for California wines as they seem expensive and I don’t know a lot about them,but this was outstanding and worth every penny.Incedible balance- better than Simone Biles on the beam.

  6. Hi Brian, I recently opened a bottle of Chianti, from Lidl, that was clearly corked, and this prompted me to consider the issues of faulty wine.

    Over the years I have taken back faulty bottles, either corked or oxidised, to Sainsbury, Waitrose and Tesco. These shops have a Customer Help desk, and when presenting the receipt and bottle have never had any problem getting a refund or replacement. Lidl don’t have such desks and I was pleased to discover that you just take the faulty bottle to a normal checkout, and they will offer a refund, or in my case give a replacement bottle. Very efficient and friendly. (The replacement Chianti was fine).

    I haven’t taken a bottle back when it was purchased some time back, and I no longer had the receipt. If it was, for example a TtD wine, I guess Sainsburys may refund without a receipt?

    Yet another advantage of The Wine Society is the efficient handling of faulty bottles. As a long standing member, I have reported the odd faulty bottle over the years – you just let them know by email, and they credit your account. They will refund even if it was bought a year or two previously – and have done that for me, for 3 bottles of an oxidised Cru Beaujolais. Great service, and reassuring to know, if laying down wines.

    The best current view of the percentage of corked bottles seems to be around 3%. Assuming half or more of my wines are either screw cap or the more reliable Diam corks, I guess I would expect to encounter only 2 or 3 corked bottles a year, maximum, which is probably accurate.

    So a much better situation than, say, 10 years ago when I would regularly open corked bottles and also encounter them at tastings.

    Have you also experienced this improvement, Brian?

  7. Good advice about taking back faulty wine and I, too, have experienced the excellent quibble free way that The Wine Society handle that (inevitable) problem.
    As for cork quality, yes things have improved markedly as cork producers (who had become a shade complacent) upped their game as screw caps become common. That said, screw caps are not immune from defective wine – if what was in the bottle in the first place is flawed, then the screw cap just locks it in.

  8. True comment about Trentino, it is one of the words to look for on Italian pinot grigio bottles. Altitude and latitude usually mean that acidity levels there stay up until harvest.
    So pleased you endorse my thoughts on that chardonnay. Californian versions can still be oak heavy, so this was a welcome exception and I love your gymnast analogy. Could Charles Blondin crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope be another?

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