What is Pinot Gris? A guide to the basics

Pinot Gris, also known as Pinot Grigio, is one of the most famous white grape varieties in the world. Ironically, the best expressions of it – the age-worthy Grand Cru bottlings of Alsace and the increasingly compelling ones of Oregon’s Willamette Valley – aren’t the most famous. That title belongs to the often bulk-produced Pinot Grigios from northern Italy. These are some of the most popular white wines in the world, and what they tend to lack in complexity and depth they usually make up for in straightforward palatability. Although wine professionals tend to frown on these big-name bottlings, they don’t tell the whole story: producers like Silvio Jermann and Cantine Terlan, among others, are making Italian pinot grigio a serious success story. In other words, the world of Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris is far more complicated, in the best possible sense, than one might think.


What is Pinot Grigio wine?

Pinot Gris, or Pinot Grigio as it is known in Italy and much of the world, is a wine produced from the grape of the same name. Depending on where it’s grown, Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio can be turned into cheap, cheerful bottles that sell for less than $10 and offer the kind of simple wine pleasures so easily associated with style: citrus , fresh acidity and relatively short finish that does not overpower the accompanying foods. Yet there are also plenty of producers who work magic with the varietal, crafting wines of serious craftsmanship and refinement.


Where does Pinot Grigio come from?

Pinot Gris is most famously grown and produced in the French region of Alsace, where it represents some of the finest bottlings, whether Grand Cru classified or not. It can be found dry or sweet, and also plays an important role in many sparkling Crémant d’Alsace blends. In Oregon, particularly the Willamette Valley, Pinot Gris is an increasingly important grape variety, producing wines that are both energetic and refined in equal measure. And in Italy, where it is known as Pinot Grigio, the variety is used for wines that range from mass-produced wines to single-vineyard gems that are among the most exciting examples of the variety in the world. Pinot Gris is also enjoying success in Washington State, California, New Zealand, Australia and Germany.


Why should you drink Pinot Grigio?

In a world where the reputation of grape varieties seems so well anchored with the oenological public, Pinot Gris has a remarkable ability to surprise and seduce. Whether it’s a cellar-worthy bottle of Pinot Gris Grand Cru from Alsace, a scintillating and deeply delicious single-vineyard Pinot Grigio from the Alto Adige, or a simple bottle and inexpensive from a well-known brand, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are produced in a remarkable range of styles. For something really interesting, be sure to try a Pinot Grigio Ramato, which is made in contact with grape skins, giving the finished wine an amber or rusty appearance – the word ramato in Italian is a reference to the coppery color of wine – and more nutty, stone fruity aromas and flavors. The 2021 Conte Brandolini d’Adda Pinot Grigio Ramato is a fine example of the style, full of energy and notes of hard apricots and cranberries, and under $20.


Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are also excellent at the table. The more acidic ones are suitable pairing partners for buttery sauces, light fish and seafood, and even fresh vegetables. In their richer versions, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio can work well with lighter meats like chicken and veal, giving them a fresh hit of acidity and fruit.


What does Pinot Grigio taste like?

High quality examples of Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio reflect the land in which the grapes were grown, which means that the individual vineyards of the Grands Crus of Alsace will each tend to produce wines of idiosyncratic character. The same goes for the best single vineyards in South Tyrol. Ambitious producers of Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio typically strive to manifest the land, vintage conditions, and their particular vision for each year’s winemaking, while more volume-oriented brands typically opt for white wines. harmless, fruity and consistent year after year. year.


In general, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio exhibit fruit on the citrus side of the spectrum, primarily with lemon and lime. You can also find crunchy apples like Granny Smith and hard pears. Floral notes like honeysuckle and citrus blossom are usually present only in the best examples.


Both Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio should be enjoyed at cooler temperatures, although the specifics depend on the style of bottle you will be opening. Bulk-produced Pinot Grigio is best enjoyed straight out of the fridge, as the cold helps bring out its acidity and citrus. High-quality examples from top producers in Alto Adige, Collio, Friuli, Alsace and the Willamette Valley are best enjoyed with a little less freshness, enough to keep the wines fresh, but not so much that the underlying and often the more subtle fruity and floral notes are muted. A standard white wine or universal wine glass will work well for getting the most out of Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio.



Five Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio to taste

There are countless great Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio wines on the market today. These five producers, listed in alphabetical order, are a perfect way to start exploring all that Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio have to offer.


Banfi Castle


Banfi produces a wide range of wines in Tuscany, from Brunello di Montalcino to Pinot Grigio “San Angelo” under $20, which can be found (perhaps literally) everywhere. Yet despite this ubiquity and the volume in which it is produced, it manages to offer plenty of bright citrus and pear notes accompanied by hints of flowers and honey.


Chehalem


In addition to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (and more!), Chehalem produces lovely Pinot Gris from the Chehalem Mountain AVA of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The 2018 shows lots of hard pear, lemon blossom and honey-coated almonds through the long, mineral finish.


Ostertag domain


The venerable producer’s 2018 Pinot Gris “Les Jardins” is terrific, a ripe, honeyed white whose creamy texture carries flavors of caramel apples and lemongrass, a pulse of almonds and minerality punctuating the citrus-speckled finish. In addition, it is certified biodynamic.


Elena Walch


The 2019 Castel Ringberg Pinot Grigio de l’Alto Adige is an excellent wine –– it’s subtle, structured, layered, but still very energetic. Aromas of mineral, hard apples and herbs and lemon peel are followed by a concentrated, vibrant palate of chalky mineral, lemon peel and a finish that rolls on a subtly salty, donut-like wave. yellow apple. If you’ve got a bottle, Alto Adige’s 2015 Pinot Grigio Alois Lageder “Porer” is also worth a try, a silky gem speckled with caramel, hazelnut and dried peach that proves just how high quality Pinot Grigio can age well.


Gustave Lorentz


Pinot Gris d’Alsace Réserve 2020 is a pure and mineral wine that shows notes of lemon-lime and a touch of candied ginger. The fresh acidity makes it an excellent choice for fish and seafood.

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