Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Ramato – call it rosé or call it orange wine - the realm has gone gaga for it

Pinot Grigio is like this well-worn football that keeps getting kicked and keeps staying in the game, wanting to play. Wine trekkies have long embarked from those shores to the lands of Friulano, Erbaluce, Carricante or Timorasso, but Pinot Grigio keeps reinventing itself. Or, rather, we keep thinking it is. In reality, Pinot Grigio was cool before it wasn’t. And now it’s cool again. For some folks.

For those who have a definite thing against fresh and light and fruity and popular, Pinot Grigio is a super-villain. But it also wears another cloak, with a caliginous umbrage. But fear not, it’s not some shadowy creature lurking in a dark alley, lying in wait to steal your soul. It’s part of the cool kids club now, because it’s also having a renaissance moment - It is once again ramato - which depending on which cool kids club you shower in, is either a rosé wine or an orange wine. And that makes all the difference in the world. We all need something to go with our pineapple pizza, dontcha know?

If you want the history lesson, my first foray into the world of ramato Pinot Grigio was 1982, when I had several to sell my local restaurants and wine shops. But, at the time, white wine from Italy had a pretty bad reputation. The wine never seemed to show up fresh and lively (like we experienced when we went to Italy). A huge part of the reason was because the preponderance of reefers (refrigerated shipping containers) had yet to make its mark on orbis terrarum, et qui (and the rising carbon dioxide count, as well). So, when I brought in a bottle of “dark” Pinot Grigio, the buyer assumed it was faulty from the git-go. I ended up drinking a lot of Pinot Grigio ramato in my 30’s. And waiting to get older, so the yet unborn could arise a visceribus terrae and make Pinot Grigio great again. And how to do that? Well, of course to give it some color to make it cooler. And that is exactly what happened. If you were to fall asleep for 30 years and wake up, it might be a bit confusing. But a white wine with color would probably be the least of the perplexing things one would encounter after taking a 30-year nap.


That said, I did a short wine piece in the Dallas Morning News on a couple of ramato Pinot Grigios that I found in my local wine shops. For my European readers, I’m sorry the link won’t let you see it, so I have attached below a jpeg of the article (ed. note: I know it doesn't necessarily relate to your market or reality, but for those of you who have asked, here it is).


Regarding the orange wine version. Lately, orange wine has being bantered about as a #dogwhistle or bobo chic catch-all for those frantic to belong to “something real and authentic before we all burn up on this rapidly heating up planet.” And one can find Pinot Grigio in that form, especially in Friuli. Methinks the rosé craze has eclipsed orange wine in Instagram-world. Not that any of us would do anything as a result of being influenced by anything on social media. But it does seem like a bit of a tussle. Chic, slick smooth rosé wine vs. hairy armpit “Burning Man” orange wine. My advice? Go for delicious in any color or flavor. Follow your bliss.


Popping into the way-back machine, several of us went to Valter Scarbolo’s restaurant, Frasca, about six years ago, with a wine buyer and an importer. We had a lovely meal with Valter who guided us through his wines over a few hours.

Valter’s label, Scarbolo, was one of the trailblazers for ramato, with a handful of bottlings of Pinot Grigio as it was caught in first blush. Look, it wasn’t an easy sale in 1982, not for a Ramato Pinot Grigio from Friuli or the Veneto or for a Vin Gris from Santa Barbara. The world was looking for sweet and fruity, blushing impersonations of Blue Nun or Zeller Schwarze Katz. California was roaring ahead with White Zinfandel, and that satisfied those who were looking for more residual sugar in their wine. But bone-dry white wines with a tinge of copper or orange? Nah, we drank as much as we could and then we closed ‘em out. Over and over again.

And then the world changed. Suddenly. It only took 37 years. And now rosé is no longer outré. And Pinot Grigio is reminding everyone that they too, were there, in the beginning, with Tavel and Bandol, as rosé forerunners.

Finally, a native expression of Pinot Grigio can come out from the shadows, thanks to the world being gaga for rosé.






written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

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