Pinot grigio has a reputation for being an inoffensive grape that produces straightforward wines. It often shows up as the house wine in many restaurants because of its easy, uncomplicated drinking style. It is this combination of characteristics that contributes to its mass appeal.
However, this grape isn’t as simple as it appears. Like a spy, it can change its identity according to country or climate. Sometimes it can taste as nothing more than wine-flavored water; other times it expresses remarkable range.
Adding to the confusion, this wine is known by different names depending on the region. For the most part in California and Italy it is known as pinot grigio, while in Oregon and France this wine is often labeled pinot gris. Even more confusing is that the names are used interchangeably depending on the producer.
Even though it produces a dry, fruity white wine the grape is actually a mutation of the famed red grape pinot noir. The leaves and grape shape are almost identical to pinot noir but the berries are colored anywhere from grayishblue to brownish-pink. Historically, it was grown in the midst of pinot noir vines and harvested as a blending grape — adding a touch of softness and acidity to round out the tannins of the red pinot noir.
Selecting the best pinot gris/ grigio can be easy if you know its growing preferences. It excels in climates on the cooler side of warm such as the Vosges foothills of Alsace, France, cooler areas of Sonoma Valley, the Willamette Valley of Oregon, New Zealand’s Marlborough region and the Lombardy region of Italy.
- 2008 Sterling Vintner’s Collection Pinot Grigio, California (about $11 retail)
- 2008 Kris Pinot Grigio, Italy (about $15 retail)
- 2008 Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio, Italy (about $14 retail)
- 2008 MacMurray Ranch Pinot Gris, California (about $20 retail)
- 2008 Trimbach Pinot Gris, Alsace France (about $21 retail)
- 2008 J Vineyards and Winery Pinot Gris, California (about $22 retail)
- 2008 Anne Amie Vineyards Pinot Gris, Oregon (about $20 retail)