Like Chardonnay, then Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio is enjoying the popularity that comes to a grape when large segments of the population of North America order their wines simply by it’s name. In Canada, and around the world, when someone tells their server they’d like a glass of Pinot Grigio, what they probably mean (and what they’ll probably get) is a glass of Santa Margherita, which makes more of the crisp and lean white wine from Northeast Italy than anyone else. In fact they were the first producer in the early 1960s, in the Alto Adige, to vinify it as a fine wine and bottle it – before then it was sold roughly as bulk to tavernas.
Success has its price, and among much of the wine cognoscenti Pinot Grigio has become a metanym for commercial wine, and its drinkers considered mindless and dim palated. As such, not a lot of it is poured or tasted at trade events, especially from big name brands. So, when I was recently handed a glass of the 2013 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, at an event to promote the winery’s ambitious environmental program in Canada, I was taken aback and pleasantly surprised at how crisp, lean and food friendly the wine was. I had expected it to somehow be made to suit popular tastes, which usually means sweetness of some kind. Instead, the wine is perfectly indicative of its terroir and exceptionally refreshing: I get why they sell 120,000 cases of the stuff in this country alone. (I’d love to slip it into a blind tasting… hmmm…)
That glass of wine was poured by sommelier Federico Trost, who manages Santa Margherita’s exports to Canada. It was at their very civilized “wine garden” in the middle of the Canada Blooms show down at the CNE grounds. I was there on the invitation of Ponte wine and Spirits, who imports the wine. Ponte’s ‘Grand Fromage’ Steven Campbell was on hand to explain to me and a handful of lifestyle journalists that the wine we were tasting was the first ever 100% carbon neutral one in Canada to be audited and certified by a company called Carbon Zero.
Campbell had begun importing Santa Margherita a few years ago, and he was impressed with the company’s environmental record, which included generating their own power through solar panels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by processing their bio waste. He contacted them with an idea to let Canadians know about it and use the wine’s popularity to increase environmental consciousness and do some good. He set them up with Canadian-based Carbon Zero who they allowed to perform a year long carbon impact audit of every aspect of a vintage of wine from the time that buds broke on the vines of their grape suppliers to the emissions created by the trucks that delivered the cases of wine to the liquor store.
Trost said that although the Santa Margherita winery is environmentally sound, because of the energy expended on transatlantic and transcontinental shipping, the company ultimately had to buy offset credits to achieve zero impact. So, as a way of going just a little bit farther on the campaign, again through Campbell, they’ve partnered with another Canadian organization for the month of April (which includes Earth Day): Tree Canada.
Santa Margherita will donate 50¢ from the sale of every bottle in Canada in April to go towards planting trees. And, as if all of this wasn’t enough by some magic cardboard tab hanging on the neck of the bottles, Santa Margherita customers will receive a gift with purchase of some basil seeds that can be planted as they are.
Malcolm Jolley is a founding editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the company that publishes it. Follow him at twitter.com/malcolmjolley