For Albino Armani, a true pioneer in Pinot Grigio, I can’t imagine the frustration of 400 years of winegrowing, studying history, terroir and trying to capture the true identity of one grape only to have it described as “mass produced and uninteresting.”
Spending time with a man known as “the Pinot Grigio Specialist” opened my eyes about a collective story of the history, what a difference terroir can make, the origins of a place and its wines, how many variations exist and the complexity of this grape. He talked about the “uninterrupted history” of being able to focus on the evolution of one grape and six generations of family farming history behind it.
The History of Albino Armani Viticoltori dal 1607
For 400 years, Albino Armani has been growing wine and today has five estate wineries, composing a total of 330 hectares of vineyards. The family vineyards are situated in three major Italian winegrowing regions: Veneto, Trentino and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
The first winery was established in the Trentino part of Vallagarina in 1607 when Domenico Armani was bequeathed land with “trees and vineyards” by his father. Today, “Albino Armani Viticoltori dal 1607” means territory, or rather territories. The historic property in Dolcè, in the Adige Valley, works together with other estates in Veneto and with those situated in Trentino and Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The traditional production of the company underwent a change in the late 1980s, when current owner Albino Armani joined his father and began to experiment with new styles of wine.
More About Terroir
Originally of French origin, Pinot Grigio grows well in the “Triveneto.” Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Trentino – starting from the Dolomites to the north and Lake Garda up to Venice, the Adriatic Sea and to Collio – with climates, soils and temperatures showing different expressions of the grape. In fact, there are more than 20 local historical appellations within the Triveneto area.
For generations, the family has focused on high altitude in the foothills of the Dolomites and Lessinia Mountains. Albino talked about how each of these regions were a mosaic that was a gift to an enologist to see truly how pinot grigio expressed itself in different regions.
In Southern Trentino, there is a stretch of vineyards called Vallagarina, where the vineyards border the Adige River at the foot of Monte Baldo and the Lessinia Mountains. The soil varies from calcareous to morainic to alluvial. The microclimate is influenced by the proximity of Lake Garda and defined by important shifts in temperature.
Since 1962, the headquarters have been in Dolcè, with vineyards that connect the regions of Veneto and Trentino. There are 8 ancient fortifications that dominate the land from above. The valley lies in a tight gorge between the rocky bastions of Monte Baldo and the Lessinia Mountains with a backdrop of limestone rocks and strong winds. There are glacial moraines with gravely, draining alluvial soil.
The winery is known for its efforts to bring back ancient varieties. This effort is known as the company’s “Conservatory” project, which was started in the 1990 and comes from several rows of grapevines from 13 native varieties in danger of becoming extinct situated alongside the Dolcè winery.
Added In the late 1990s, in the province of Sequals, this is a region known for harsh climates, poor soil composed of more than 80% gravel, and actually stones, which are called “claps” in the Friulian language. The wines are known for their intense characteristics and aromas and are known to age well.
Sustainability was described by Albino as an “ancient value known as wisdom” or producing harmony with nature. He talked about the integration of environmental, social and economic sustainability with a respect for place and community.
Since 2019, 100% of the production is SQNPI (National Quality System for Integrated Production) certified. The SQNPI is a national certification that aims to help agricultural ecosystems to monitor and reduce environmental impact, reducing the use of synthetic chemicals and rationalizing all agronomic practices such as fertilization and irrigation.
Creation of a New Pinot Grigio DOC
In 2017, the regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino, and Veneto (the Triveneto) joined to form the Delle Venezie DOC region and Albino has played an instrumental role as the president of the “Consorzio del Pinot Grigio DOC delle Venezie since 2016.
After gaining the DOC status from IGT, the goal of the region’s consortium is to make the best wines possible, create a positive identity for Pinot Grigio, showcase the best of the varietal and work to show the quality of these wines in a rebranding and marketing campaign. The consortium decreased the yields to improve the quality of the wines.
White or Red?
The grape is often considered Italian, it comes from France and is called Pinot Gris. Gris is the reference to blue-gray grapes used. Even though Pinot Grigio is a white wine it’s made with a red grape, not a white grape. Surprising to me too.
NV Albino Armani Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC – this wine from the Triveneto, had lots of crispness with notes of apple, pear, stone fruit and a nice minerality.
NV Albino Armani Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave — produced in the “magredi” in Sequals, known for “clap” (white stones) and gravel that covers a territory rich in limestone which contributes to a pleasantly salty and elegant wine that brings out lots of minerality. Lots of saline, herbs, citrus, lime, jasmine, fresh and floral and very balanced.
Albino Armani Pinot Grigio “Corvara” Valdadige DOC, which is a single estate wine from Verona, where two varieties of Pinot Grigio are produced. I tasted pear, wildflower, chamomile, herbs and spice.
Albino Armani Pinot Grigio “Colle Ara” Terradeiforti DOC was easy drinking with notes of apple, mineral and hints of spice. The color was deeper than the others and it was incredible aromatic.
The wines are served in different bottles – both Burgundy and Bordeaux – which I thought was interesting as they made decisions based on the style of the wine.
Albino ended our conversation with his personal responsibility to the grape variety combined with his 400 years of family commitment. The winery’s name, Albino Armani, means “inheriting for the future,” and Albino completely understands protecting the varieties, defending the ecosystem and protecting the legacy of this maligned grape is what will carry it forward.