Today, enjoying Pinot Grigio can be a little complicated. Pinot Grigio’s association with cheap, bulk (dare we say “basic”) wines have clouded the grape’s perception among the wine-buying public.
It’s ironic, given that Pinot Grigio’s ability to become a grocery store staple is rooted in the grape’s easygoing appeal. Just because something is easy to drink doesn’t mean it can’t be complex, elegant and expressive.
Case in point: Ramato, a uniquely Italian take on Pinot Grigio.
What is Ramato?
Ramato is a wine, traditionally made with Pinot Grigio from Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Italy, that’s somewhere between rosé and orange wine.
The name “ramato” comes from the word “rame,” which basically translates to “copper” in Italian. As the name implies, ramato is going to look darker than pink rosés, but lighter than the deep amber hues associated with many orange wine styles.
History of Ramato
The history of ramato is really tied to the spread of Pinot Gris, thought to be a derivative of the globally-grown Pinot Noir. Like many of the noble grapes—a selection of six grapes that have major historical and agricultural significance on wine worldwide—Pinot Noir is rooted in France. Pinot Gris, effectively a mutation of Pinot Noir, ultimately made its way into Italy sometime in the early-19th century. It found particular success in the northeastern provinces of the nation—especially in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, which borders Austria, Slovenia and, just across the Adriatic Sea, Croatia.
Given the pinkish-grey pigment of Pinot Grigio grape skins, wines made from this varietal were traditionally amber or light red. When modern production methods—ranging from artificial chilling to the use of stainless steel—were introduced into the region in the 1950s, it became possible to create the lighter, crisp, white Pinot Grigio we know today. By the 1960s, producer Santa Margherita was exporting this contemporary Pinot Grigio around the world, cementing its position as a white wine in the minds of most shoppers.
This de facto rebrand of Pinot Grigio didn’t inherently kill off traditional production methods or eliminate ramato entirely, but global consumer expectations forced most Pinot Grigio producers to either pivot to this new style, or keep ramato production to a small-scale affair.
Ironically, the rise of rosé (and inevitably, orange wine) over the past two decades has helped ramato come back into favor, inspiring producers both inside and outside of Friuli to explore this unique skin-contact iteration of Pinot Grigio.
Why Pinot Grigio: What does Ramato Taste Like?
Pinot Grigio—also known as Pinot Gris in francophone countries—is technically a “grey” grape (“grigio” means “grey” in Italian). That may not seem like much, especially since most consumers will usually find it on the shelf presented as a white wine. Its slightly darker skin (ranging from greyish-blue to pink-purple in color) makes it the perfect candidate for creating a wine that can be light and refreshing white wine, or colorful and complex ramato—when exposed to the skins for an extended period of time.
That extra time macerating on the skins turns a “cheap and cheerful” Pinot Grigio into something with much more complexity and texture. If your average supermarket Pinot Grigio tastes closer to lemon-infused water, a ramato can add hits of baking spice and herbaceous notes to the familiar citrus, pear or tropical fruit qualities inherent to Pinot Grigio.
The positive factor with Pinot Grigio (or Pinot Gris) ramato wine is its flexibility. While this certainly depends on how it is produced and where the grapes come from, its spot in between rosé and orange wine makes ramato quite flexible—going with anything from salads and soft cheeses, to barbecue or pizza.
Ramato, Rosé and Orange Wine: What’s the Difference?
To cut to the point: If rosé needs red grapes, and orange wine needs white grapes, ramato needs grey grapes.
Whether we’re talking about a brunch-adjacent rosé, a tangy orange wine or a traditional ramato, the key thing to keep in mind is skin contact. In wine speak, this is technically understood as “extraction,” or how much tannin and color is absorbed into the literal wine liquid as it sits upon and remains in contact with the grape seeds and skins.
Strictly speaking, rosé is just a wine made from red grape juice with very little time—usually a few hours—spent sitting on the skins and seeds. Less time equates to a rosé’s light red (see: pink) color. A similar principle applies to orange wine, where white grape juice spends a longer-than-average period on the skins, resulting in higher extraction and the style’s “orange” color.
Ramato is interesting in that it can fall into either category, especially when you’re browsing your local wine shop. Some ramati wines will have a pinkish color, and likely fall into a “rosé” designation on the shelf. Other ramati might have a cloudy peachy hue and therefore be considered as “orange” wines. A great example of the latter is The Marigny’s Carbonic Pinot Gris, which really embodies how a “grey” grape can become an orange-like ramato.
Where to Get Ramato Wine
Here on MYSA of course!
The weather profile in Friuli—the de facto home of ramato—is known for its warmer summers and very cool winters, on top of its proximity to the Gulf of Trieste and, by extension, the Adriatic Sea. When it comes to producers based in the Friuli region who are pushing the natural wine conversation forward, there are few quite as storied as Radikon; if you’re looking for ramato-style wines, we’d suggest getting your hands on a bottle of “Sivi.”
Even if ramato wine is inherently rooted in Italy, the nation does not have a monopoly on the production of Pinot Grigio grapes—and, by extension, ramato wine production.
With that in mind, there are other regions that are able to create Pinot Grigio in places that closely mirror Friuli’s climate. Long Island’s North Fork or the Willamette Valley in Oregon can produce some incredible Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris that may become ramato. These regions can serve as domestic jumping off points to the style.
For our money, we love the ramato from Jared and Tracey Brandt’s Donkey & Goat, which is based in Berkeley, California. We also love the aforementioned ramato-like Pinot Gris from The Marigny, which uses carbonic maceration to serve up a distinctly fruit-forward take. Fossil & Fawn and Purity Wines (especially the “Rosehaze”) also create orange-like ramato that blend earthy notes with tart acidity.
When in doubt, you can always search for Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris and simply look at the bottle—if the wine boasts that signature copper, amber (or even peachy) hue, chances are you’ve stumbled upon a bottle of ramato.