Last month, some of our pub teams were lucky enough to be flown over to Mezzocorona in Northern Italy, to discover exactly where our beautifully crisp Pinot Grigio comes from. Mezzocorona is a co-operative winery whose 1,300 members cultivate their grapes in the heart of the Dolomites, an area often described as the “most beautiful wine garden of Europe”. The vineyards are cultivated according to old traditions and the mild climate, as well as its location, also pull their weight in the production of some of Italy’s most beautiful wines.
Here, Ellis from the Windmill pub in Mayfair shares what they got up to (spoiler: lots of wine was drunk)…
We landed in Milan airport mid-morning then drove to the Mezzocorona winery where we were treated to a delicious lunch in their historical cellar. After filling our bellies, the winery tour commenced! We saw cellars filled with over 6 million bottles of Rotari bubbles, giant silver cylinders holding litre upon litre of Castel Pinot Grigio and hundreds of oak barrels housing merlot aplenty.
Our wonderful tour guide, Luco, explained the importance of the Dolomite rock, soil minerals and mild climate of Mezzocorona; the accumulation of these factors means the region benefits from perfect grape-growing conditions in the valley. Every agricultural factor of the region mean the grapes grown are of a mighty high standard and are perfect for wine-making.
We kicked off our second day with a tour across the Mezzocorona vineyards. The entire valley is crammed with miles upon miles of vineyards, growing grapes of every variety from Chardonnay to Pinot Grigio to Malbec. The vineyards were all positioned slightly differently, some were angled facing towards the wind, some angled towards the sunshine, some were even growing along steep mountain edges. Height, altitude, sun & wind are all factors which affect the grape-growing process hugely. Our tour guide explained this was very important as each grape variety needed different things in order to thrive e.g. sunlight, wind, water and minerals. Each plot received different amounts of each of these things depending on where they were positioned in the valley. We were lucky enough to walk through the Pinot Grigio vineyards, the very grapes end up being used in our Castel Pinot Grigio which we sell in our pubs! It was incredible to see the origins of a wine we pour every day.
On our final day, we were treated to a visit to the famous Lake Garda, which was absolutely beautiful. We enjoyed a wine-paired lunch at Hotel Castello, overlooking the lake from their very own terrace. We were served fresh fish from the lake itself along with home-baked bread and the tastiest of accompaniments. The wine served throughout the meal was exquisite; each red, white and rosé had come directly from the Mezzocorona winery, knowing the wines journey made it taste even better! Later that day, we flew back home to London and ended our trip by sharing a bottle, or two, of our Castel Pinot Grigio at the Young’s pub, The Windmill Mayfair.
I’ll admit, I used to, unfairly, dismiss Pinot Grigio as an unexciting wine. Now, it’s my go-to tipple. After a busy day in the pub, the first taste of that crisp and cold wine immediately transports me back to the sun-drenched slopes of Northern Italy and I can’t help but smile.