published about 1 hour ago
The idea that European wines are going to be more expensive than their domestic counterparts persists, but in my experience the opposite is often true. I’m more suspicious of, say, a wine from California that’s less than $10 than a similarly priced bottle from Europe. Inexpensive table wine has been a part of the culture in many European countries for centuries, so they’ve got it down!
I periodically cruise through Aldi’s wine section and on my most recent trip I focused on finding a crisp, refreshing summer white. I grabbed several bottles — including an inexpensive bottle from California — and held a wine-tasting event for one. My top pick? Well, it even surprised me.
Elementalist Pinot Grigio, $7.99 for 750 ml
Pinot Grigio gets a bad rap. Too often it conjures up memories of bland pours on planes and at happy hour — unless one of my customers asks for it specifically, I have a hard time getting anyone to consider it. And that’s a shame because when it’s done well, it’s a great neutral white. It’s neutral in a good way, in that it’s pleasant and goes with a wide variety of foods, but it’s also happy to fade into the background if need be.
While Pinot Grigio is a variety we mostly associate with Italy, it’s actually the third most widely planted white grape in California after Chardonnay and French Columbard. Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris both mean “gray pinot” in Italian and French, respectively. So Pinot Grigio is the pinky-gray colored clone of Pinot Noir — it’s actually not a white variety at all.
When the juice is given more contact with the skins during the winemaking process, it will pick up a coppery pink color, as in my Trader Joe’s pick. When you see wines made with this grape variety labeled as Pinot Grigio outside of Italy, it’s usually a signal that the wine is made in a more Italian style: light, crisp and fresh. When it’s labeled as Pinot Gris, that’s usually a signal it’s made more in the style you’d find in France: richer, fuller-bodied, and more unctuous. This isn’t 100% foolproof, but it’s a good rule of thumb.
The Elementalist combines the crisp, light style of Italian Pinot Grigio with a little more ripeness from all that California sunshine. It’s got some nice, round fruit flavors of peach, ripe pear, and a touch of sweet citrus. No oak here (typical for most Pinot Grigios), and those nice ripe fruity flavors are what linger on your palate. It has fairly soft acidity and a pleasing fruity finish, so I think this would be great to sip on its own — and it would be perfect for an afternoon at the beach or pool.
Have you tried this white wine from Aldi? Tell us about it in the comments!