It’s been difficult to think of crisp summer white wines like pinot grigio when hot chocolate had seemed more appropriate for the recent cold spring days.
While chardonnay remains the best-selling white varietal, pinot gris/grigio made it into the top six, according to Wine and Spirits Magazine’s 2012 poll of top restaurants in America.
The Wine and Spirits poll revealed that Santa Margherita pinot grigio from Italy is among the top 50-selling restaurant wines in America. It ranks 15th among top-selling wines by the glass and second as the most popular wine imported from Italy.
As can be seen from the survey, pinot grigio has a following, but what is pinot grigio? Is it pinot gris? Yes. Pinot grigio and pinot gris are one in the same. Is it pinot blanc? Somewhat. Pinot grigio and pinot blanc are cousins. What about tokay? Pinot grigio was called tokay in Alsace in France until the European Union made the region adopt the name pinot gris.
In Italy, wines made from this grape are called pinot grigio. In Alsace and Oregon, pinot gris. In other wine regions in America, wines made from this grape are called by whichever name the winemaker elects. Confused yet?
Pinot grigio is the progeny of pinot noir. Pinot noir is a red grape and pinot grigio is a lighter-skinned grape.
When writing about pinot noir over the years, I’ve often mentioned its ability to morph into something else entirely. Pinot grigio is a mutation of pinot noir. The hue of pinot grigio can range from pale green to a dark grayish purple. Leaves of pinot noir and pinot grigio are almost identical. When pinot grigio takes on a dark-purplish hue, it is easily confused with pinot noir.
Today pinot grigio is grown predominantly in Italy, Alsace in France and in Oregon. It was first introduced in the U.S. by Oregon’s late David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards in 1965. Later it made its way to California and other growing regions.
Pinot grigio is abundant on local grocery and wine retailers’ shelves in all price ranges and ranging in quality from outstanding to don’t bother. Listed below are some recently tasted wines made from pinot grigio.
J Pinot Gris 2012. $15 range by special order from your favorite wine merchant. Best-selling California pinot gris in the over $14 range according to the Nielsen folks. Fruit is sourced from some of California’s best sites for growing pinot gris/grigio including multiple vineyards in J’s. A soft approachable concoction laced with flavors of lemon, lime, apricot and other tropical fruits. Hint of floral on the nose. Delicate but with balancing acidity. Paired nicely with a spicy shrimp casserole and an arugula, goat cheese and fresh apricot salad.
King Estate 2011 Pinot Gris. $18 at both Publix and Tyson’s Fine Wines and Things in Golden Springs. This Oregon pinot gris is a perennial favorite. Tropical fruit flavored light honeyed wine with zingy acidity that lingers through the finish. More substantive than some pinot gris. Great as an aperitif but also good with roasted chicken or fish tacos with mango salsa.
Santa Margherita Pinot Gris 2011 Valdadige or Santa Margherita Pinot Gris Alto Adige. $23.99 at Publix. Valdadige is large northern Italy growing region once part of the Austrian Empire. Alto Adige is a province within Valdadige.
Tart citrus flavored pinot grigio but no wow factor for me.
Kris Pinot Grigio 2011. In the $12 range at the Wine Cellar on Quintard and at Tyson’s. Crisp floral nosed Italian wine with citrus and apricots in the flavor profile. Better quaff for the price than the popular Santa Margherita.
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