Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio

Dynamite Pinot Gris/Grigio from the Dolomites. | Lou Phillips

Need a sophisticated wine that delivers crisp mineral-laden citrus and palate-clearing acidity? Or a simple, inexpensive people-pleaser that offends none? How about a complex vino that is full of luscious tree fruit and honeysuckle flavors? Or a blush wine with spice and structure? Well, then look no further than Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio.

Unlike most wines that achieve their highest potential in one specific region when crafted in a certain style, Pinot Gris/Grigio is one of the wine world’s beautiful chameleons. Even at full ripeness, this grape can present skin color from almost clear to grey — hence the name — to a soft, dusky rose or purple blush. We mostly see it made into white wine; the pigmented skins are removed as soon as the grapes are pressed.

Pinot Gris/Grigio wines make for the most refreshing of drinking experiences and a seafood match of the highest order.

When grown and produced in the Dolomite mountains of northeast Italy, the grape expresses an intense almost clear laser beam of classic, crisp citrus flavors and an undeniable lick-a-rock minerality. These wines make for the most refreshing of drinking experiences and a seafood match of the highest order.

Pinot Gris/Grigio in full blush. | Courtesy Wikipedia

A Grand Cru-level Alsatian Pinot Gris will be a full-bodied, complex, golden-hued beauty with luscious fruits and winter spices. Alsatians and others adore these wines with vegetable courses and meat dishes with rich sauces. This wine goes well with notoriously difficult vegetables to pair with wines, such as asparagus or artichokes.

Oregon wineries have taken Pinot Gris as their signature white wine and quality versions come in either of the above-mentioned styles. Depending on what you are serving them with, they make for wonderful wine matches for northwest cuisine, but also make for great aperitif pours. As you have probably guessed, it is best to know which Pinot Gris/Grigio you are getting into. Even the simple, watery versions ubiquitous in California and much of Italy make for good cheap quaffs and sort of an intro-to-wine wine. These are best served chilled.

Here are the rules of thumb for your Pinot Gris/Grigio wine exploration.

  • Ask your knowledgeable wine purveyor because he or she should know exactly what style wine is in the bottle.
  • Regions are another good rule for success in your Pinot Gris/Grigio experience. When following the wine descriptions and experience matches given earlier for each type, you will rarely go astray.
  • The best tip of all is to fetch examples of each of these types, gather some friends and have yourselves a Pinot Gris/Grigio party extraordinaire.