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.




The Rule of Food & Wine Pairings used to be: Red with Beef, White with Chicken or Fish and White Zin with nothing at all (okay, that last part I made up, don’t hate me because I hate the cool-aid of wines and I won’t hate you for ordering Filet Mignon well done, though I will feel sorry for the cow). Some people still hold this to be gospel and it’s okay because, well, it make sense: colors match, it’s easy and, for the most part, the heavier the food the heavier the flavor of the wine.

Now, though, most people are fine to live and let dine with whatever your choice of wine. Like Merlot? Drink it! Prefer Chablis? Stock your shelf with a case and enjoy. But don’t be surprised if you fine yourself noticing what does and doesn’t enhance the flavor of your wine or your meal.

This is where pairings come in. It’s a true art form which requires an extensive knowledge of wine, the flavors that go into them, as well as a good knowledge of food. See why we ended up with the red with red guideline? Wineries are actually helping to demystify wine a bit as some will put on the label what foods their wine goes best with and there’s always the helpful Wine Guy at your local store–make friends with him (or her!)–who can steer you in the right direction. Paying attention to menus that suggest certain wines with certain dishes can also give you an idea of what goes with what.

Of course, nothing beats just experimenting at home. Try this: the next time you open a bottle of wine, plan to have a variety of basic foods around to try with it. A few basic proteins, some spreads and dips, anything with a definite flavor and try each with a little sip of wine. Better yet, make it a party: invite some friends, make up some score-sheets and maybe even cloak the bottles so that no one is prejudiced against a particular wine. You know, I’ve been meaning to have a wine party and this might be just the thing!

I’m really surprised to have four more wine-related offerings from Entrepreneur to share, but I guess some things if not recession-proof are at least recession resistant (i.e., drown your sorrows much?). Of course, these gorgeous places may not be the ideal spot to moan about money woes, better to let them envelop you and forget your troubles for a few hours.

I’d happily spend some time in any of these beautiful spots: Wine o’Clock from Brunnel Family Cellar, the Newsome-Harley Winery, Thunderbolt Winery or Tulip Hill Winery & Vineyard. Doesn’t someone want to send me to California, huh? No? Oh, well, I’ll just have to add it to my list!