Meet the Whites: Pinot Grigio


Bottle of Pinot Grigio

We’re going to kick off this trip down the white wine aisle with a look at the easy-to-drink, easy-on-the pocket book Pinot Grigio.

In Northern Italy, as this bottle shows, it’s called Pinot Grigio but in Alsace, France, where it grows especially well, it’s known as Pinot Gris (pronounce GREE). And, yes, it is a cousin to my favorite Pinot Noir. This grape also grows well in California and Oregon.

What you’re looking for in a bottle of Pinot Grigio is a light color (sometimes it can go to golden yellow, but usually you want pale) and a recent year. This is not a wine that’s meant to be aged in the bottle more than 5 years, tops, and most of them should be served much sooner than that! Give it a good chill and then take it out of the fridge or cooler about 20 minutes before you’re ready to drink it.

Wine that’s too cold will taste like nothing–your taste-buds will be too busy being cold to find anything decent about the wine–you have to give it a chance to wake up a little bit.

You probably won’t smell a whole lot from this wine, even after swirling it around in your glass a few times, the nose tends to be subtle-to-nonexistent, though the French Pinot Gris will give a little bit more, as I understand it (the Alsace wines tend to be richer, even for light-bodied wines). The flavor, along with the aforementioned “light” and “crisp”, may contain hints of fruit, like pear or even melon.

Pinot Grigio falls under the heading of a light-bodied white. It pairs well with fish, such as sole or flounder, as well as clams and oysters.

Now, if you’ve ever had really good oysters on the half-shell–ice-cold, firm and clean-tasting–you know you want something light and crisp to go with them. Pinot Grigio is your wine!

In fact, most seafood, as long as it’s not covered in a super-heavy sauce (cream or tomato) will mesh quite well with the humble Pinot Grigio. You might want to steer clear of acidic (tomato, again, and citrus) foods with the Grigio as the levels of acid in both might clash.

So, you know, don’t use a Pinot Grigio in your next Mimosa, but it might make a great white-wine spritzer.

Really, though, it’s a great wine for general drinking when the weather starts to warm up and you want something refreshing. Having a cocktail party? Stock up–it tends to whet the appetite.