MOVIES & BOOZE: Fancy a drink this weekend?

Martin Moran reviews Mezzacorona Star Series Pinot Grigio Riserva 2014 and Torre de Beati Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2013

The funniest line in the 2004 wine movie Sideways was when Miles says ‘If anyone orders Merlot I’m leaving’. Miles was the archetypal wine snob, sneering at the choices of others who knew little about wine. Incidentally sales of merlot dropped following the film’s release.

Is anyone really a snob these days though? Wine’s pretty democratic, available everywhere and drunk my most of us to some degree, so surely not? Wrong. Much as a coffee geek wouldn’t be seen dead drinking instant coffee those of us who are involved professionally with wine, say writing about it or selling it, wouldn’t be seen dead drinking a cheap pinot grigio. It’s viewed as the Budweiser of the wine world, a flavour free joke. Other wines that attract the same derision include Californian Blush Zinfandel, Liebraumilch, in fact anything sweetened up. Merlot curiously isn’t viewed on this side of the Atlantic as a xxx.

The odd thing is that there are good versions of some of these wines available. Cheap Pinot Grigio del Veneto may taste like watered down vodka but much tastier, more interesting versions are made elsewhere in Northern Italy such as Alto Adige, Trentino and Friuli Venezia Giulia. Pinot Grigio is also grown further south in Sicily where the grapes get riper and even the cheap versions have some flavour. It is also called Pinot Gris in France where it grows in Alsace and is anything but bland.

Another wine that can be a byword for boring is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, the ubiquitous house red in almost every pizza place in the country. Most of it is made in large co-ops from very high cropping vineyards resulting in dilute flavours. Today we’ll taste one made by a conscientious producer who has restricted yields dramatically compared to most and ages in oak with impressive results.

Wines Tasted on the Show

Mezzacorona Star Series Pinot Grigio Riserva 2014, Trentino, €16.75, Mitchells, Avoca, Wilde & Green in Milltown

Aging in small barrels for eight months adds a light nuttiness to attractive peach, pear and apple fruit flavours. Quite unlike the sub €10 ones found in supermarkets.

Torre de Beati Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2013, €18.95, Redmonds, Donnybrook Fair and Mitchells.

The name translates as ‘Tower of the Blessed’ and it’s a blessing that it delivers lots more than the average version. There’s plenty of plum and cherry fruit with a slight bitter twist.