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 contribute to its mass appeal. However, this grape isn’t as simple as it appears. It can change its identity according to country or climate.
This grape wine is known by different names depending on the region. For the most part in California and Italy it is known as pinot grigio; however, in Oregon and France this wine is often labeled pinot gris. Even more confusing — 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 grayish-blue 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 such as the Vosges foothills of Alsace, France, cooler areas of California’s Sonoma Valley, the Willamette Valley of Oregon, New Zealand’s Marlborough region and the Lombardy region of Italy.
- 2011 Francis Ford Coppola Winery Pinot Grigio, California (about $15 retail)
- 2011 Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio, Italy (about $14 retail)
- 2011 Trimbach Pinot Gris, Alsace, France (about $26 retail)
- 2011 J Vineyards and Winery Pinot Gris, California (about $24 retail)