Wednesday, January 27, 2010

PizzaExpress Leggera Wines

On Tuesday night I had the pleasure of attending a PR event at PizzaExpress in Mayfair. The event was a promotion for their Leggera range of pizzas and wines, and an attempt to interact with the blogging community. Several bloggers were invited, and not just of the wine persuasion - food and fashion were represented as well.

I arrived slightly early, and therefore was able to corner PizzaExpress wine consultant Adrian Garforth MW and monopolize his time for a good hour or so before he was pulled away to mingle with the other guests.

The idea behind Leggera (Italian for 'light') is low calorie, specifically 25% lower than the usual range. This applies to the wine as well as the food. This goal of 25% fewer calories in achieved with the wine by producing a low alcohol product with grapes that are less than fully ripe. This is the preferred method for making low-alcohol wine, as opposed to reverse-osmosis or centrifugation, which can leave the wine tasting unbalanced.

Myself (centre), Adrian Garforth MW
(right), and some random Aussie bloke.

There are currently two wines in the Leggera range, a Sangiovese and a Pinot Bianco, both produced in Italy. The key to these wines is encouraging slow ripening of the grapes using canopy management techniques and using grapes planted in cooler areas.

The wines were introduced in restaurants on January 1st, and they are from the 2009 vintage. This is the first attempt by a major restaurant chain to do this sort of thing, so I tried to look at the wines as a work in progress. The wines were sampled along with several pizzas from the Leggera range.

A Leggera pizza

PizzaExpress Leggera Pinot Bianco 2009
This is produced in northern Italy around Lake Garda. Initially this was served very chilled, so wasn't too expressive on the nose, except for a bit of armpit (not unlike a Sauvignon Blanc). As it warmed up it it became fruitier, but was still quite muted. The wine is made from grapes that aren't fully ripened, and to be honest that's what this wine tasted like. It's main flavour signature was sour green apple. I'm not saying it's bad, because it isn't, and I've had far worse. Like the Sangiovese, I thought it went well with the food, in this case a chicken and spinach Leggera pizza. 9% alcohol.

PizzaExpress Leggera Sangiovese 2009
This was produced in Sicily, and has about 4% Merlot added to improve aromatics and fruit character. It certainly helped, as the nose on this was much more happening that the Pinot Bianco. I thought it had a brown sugar, cakey aroma. It's very light on the palate (as expected), and quite quaffable, especially with the food. 9.5% alcohol.

Adrian with The Winesleuth

So all in all it was an interesting evening. I thought the wines were a good first attempt. It sounded like a huge challenge to get to the point where they are with these wines, and I think they've done a good job. The wines are balanced and above all, enjoyable. They do taste like diet wines though, and perhaps there is room for improvement in this regard, although it would be a major challenge.

There is something to be said for low-alcohol wine as well. I was drinking the Leggera wines all evening (with the exception of a couple of glasses of Prosecco), and I managed to get up at my usual time of 6 AM the next morning, without a hangover. If wine is your preferred tipple on an evening out, something like this would be welcome.

1 comment:

  1. As you said, it was an intersting experiment. As Adrian explained, this is a work in progress and I will be curious to see if they improve on the wines. One thing I can say for sure, I too did not have a headache the next day so I guess you can score one for low alc wines on that point.