Pinot Grigio is a white wine grape also known as Pinot Gris in many parts of the world. Wines made from these grapes are among the most popular white wines in the world, second only to Chardonnay. Unfortunately despite, or perhaps because of their popularity these wines have often been looked down on by wine experts.
While not all Pinot Grigio wines are of the highest quality, we think these wines have earned an unfair reputation. We want to highlight the many fine wines available from around the world. If one is willing to search a little deeper and explore a little beyond the Santa Margaritas, there are some truly excellent gems out there.
The Pinot Grigio grapes
The grapes are known under many names and when we talk about a Pinot Grigio, we are really using their Italian name. Another common name for the same grape is Pinot Gris, and we have a short explanation on the differences between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris for you to read.
The grapes are a mutation of the red wine Pinot Noir grapes. At harvest time their skin have a brownish red color, that at a distance can be mistanken for a red grape. One of the most fascinating things about the these grapes is that the taste of a ripe grape is very close to the finished wine. Except for the sweetness from the sugar, the flavors of fruit, honey, and lychee are already present in the ripe grape when plucked right from the vines.
Wine production and storage
These wines are typically not stored in oak barrels, but stored in stainless steel containers. They are kept away from oxygen to preserve as much flavors as possible, and control the amount of alcohol present in the wines.
It is considered a young wine that is usually not ment to be bottled for more than two years, although some wines can be bottled for up to four years.
While the grapes prefer cooler climates to develop their acidity, they are still grown in many places all around the world. Where the grapes are grown have a huge influence on the characteristics of the wines.
Italian Pinot Grigio
In Italy these wines are grown in the norther regions, most prominently in Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adigo, and Lombardy. The wines produced here are typically dry wines with a mineral rich taste with a hint of spices, and a light yellow color.
White Italy produces the largest quantity of wine, a tendency by some growers to over crop have tarnished the Italian reputation somewhat. The best wines are now generally recognized as being produced in Alsace , France and Oregon, America.
American Pinot Grigio
In the 1960s the grapes were introduced to America and the region of Oregon. Today the vineyards of Oregon are the world’s foremost producers of premium Pinot Grigio / Pinot Gris. The wines are medium bodied, with fruity flavors of apple, pear and melon.
The Californian wine variety is slightly lighter bodied and has a refreshing quality often with a hint of pepper and arugula.
French Pinot Gris
The French Pinot Gris (often referred to as Tokay Pinot Gris) wines of Alsace have a unique character. The volcanic soil and dry climate of Alsace is well suited to growing the Pinot Gris grape. The long dry autumns give the grapes ample time to ripen on the trees. The resulting wines are of the highest quality, and have an exotic rich flavor of spices, muscat nut, and honey.
Wines from the rest of the world
In the rest of the world growers have used the grapes to develop their own white wines with characters that vary considerably from region to region. The Pinot Grigio wines have many names around the world, in Germany a Grauburgunder is a dry wine, and a Ruländer is a sweet wine. In Switzerland it is called a Malvoise.
In New Zealand and Australia the Pinot Gris wines are very fruity, with flavors of apple, pears, mango, apricots and spring flowers. With their fruity flavors they are usually a very easy drinking wine and a good desert wine.
When to chose a Pinot Grigio wine
It is often considered a summer wine, because of its light and fruity quality . It’s an excellent wine to drink on the porch on a warm summer evening or enjoy when relaxing by the pool. But that does not mean it is not also an excellent food wine. If you would like to know more about what food to serve with your favorite wine, we have some recommendations in a separate article about the best food to serve with Pinot Grigio.
What wine to choose?
While a lot of people will always reach for the classical italian Santa Margherita when wine shopping, there are just so many fantastic wines out there today that we urge you to explore.
Please also have a look at our FAQ that answer a lot of the most common questions we get about Pinot Grigio wines.
As for external resources that we recommend, Gary Vaynerchuck of WineLibraryTV fame has on numerous occasions highlighted these wines. We have included one of his more in-depth episodes below. It is quite old, but still filled with some great information for those who would like to know more about Pinot Grigio wines.