Week 3 of Wine Tasting is devoted to learning about white wine. There are hundreds of grape varietals, but let’s dig in to Pinot Grigio, also known as Pinot Gris, a very light, white wine:
Pinot Gris grapes were originally grown in Burgundy, France. Around the 1300, they were brought to Switzerland and then into Northern Italy, where they flourished. Pinot Grigio (the Italian name) is now the most popular Italian white wine. Pinot Gris/Grigio grapes are a cousin of Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc grapes. Pinot Gris/Grigio gets its name because of the color the grapes; Gris/Grigio means grey. The grapes are not really grey (they’re a bit pink or light purple), but they are in between the color of the Pinot Blanc grapes, which are very light, and the Pinot Noir grapes, which are very dark.
Pinot Gris/Grigio is now grown all over the world, though predominantly in Italy, France, and the United States.
Pinot Grigio can have a few different styles, though the most prominent is dry and crisp with a taste of minerals. Higher quality Pinot Grigio’s may also undergo some malolactic fermentation and become more fruity and oily in quality. Finally, Alsatian Pinot Grigio can be incredibly fruity and sweet. In Alsace, Pinot Grigio can be made into desert wines called “Vendage Tardives” (late harvest) or “Sélection de Grains Nobles.”
Pinot Grigio is often slightly fruity – think lemon, pear, white nectarine/peaches, and green apples – with possibly some floral honeysuckle notes and almonds. It’s an easy drinking wine, often known for lacking a depth of flavor, which is part of the reason it is so popular – to me it’s like the vanilla ice cream of white wine.
Pinot Grigio pairs well with semi-sweet and spicy dishes with clean and simple preparations – like a chicken cutlet or fish fillet. You should avoid pairing with bold or overly-sweet dishes and red meats. It’s also great without food or with semi-hard cheese like Gruyere.
Do you like Pinot Grigio? It’s not my favorite, but it’s hard to hate vanilla.