When you Pinot, do you Grigio or Gris?

Comparing the different styles of Pinot Grigio is an interesting experiment. Sometimes it just comes down to taste.
Comparing the different styles of Pinot Grigio is an interesting experiment. Sometimes it just comes down to taste.

Why would you favor drinking a Pinot Grigio from America as opposed to one from Italy?
Key factors should be quality, taste, and price.

Some Americans grab the cheapest bottle on the shelf, believing it’s all the same.

It’s not.

While the Pinot Grigio grape is widely planted throughout the world, its best flavor profile emanates from cooler climate regions in Italy’s Alto Adige and France’s Alsace, where it is called Pinot

Gris.

Pinot Grigio/Gris is the same grape, and it is native to France.

The French version has been consistently good for many years, and even German winemakers like Trimbach specialize in creating Pinot Gris of richer texture and spicier flavors.
The Italians, however, get the credit for building Pinot Grigio’s global popularity. After years of producing mostly nondescript, bland versions, Italian winemakers have stepped up their game in bringing Pinot Grigio to the mass market.

So go back to the original question: Why would you favor drinking a New World Pinot Grigio over an Old World one?

U.S. wineries are turning out good Pinot Grigio/Gris that capture the special traits of the local terroir. Oregon’s cooler locations seem well suited for the grape, as do the vineyards of Upstate New York. I would not turn a glass away.

However, when I think of Pinot Grigio, images of the Alto Adige’s cool, crisp, and clean outdoors come to my mind. It affects my mood. I’m relaxed. Vineyards are situated on hillside and mountainous terrain or wide valleys in view of the Swiss Alps and Dolomites. There’s a lot of unique minerals buried in the land for vines to absorb. The same is true about France’s Alsace, which is tucked between the Vosges Mountains the and Rhine graben (rift) formed tens of thousands of years ago.

The best Italian Pinot Grigio features white garden flower aromas, a delicate if not light mouthfeel, and vibrant, fresh fruit of grapefruit, apple, peach and nectarine. There’s also a subtle hint of smokiness on the finish.

As for the French version, expect a more mineral taste, or as Jo-Ann Ross, my French wine instructor, says, a “purity of crisp flavors.” The texture is also a bit heavier on the palate, delivering a rich coating of citrus fruit and spice flavors of enduring length.

From a consumer standpoint, these white wines cost less than $20, and some of the best I’ve tasted fall into the $10 to $17 range.

It all comes down to preference and what you like. Pinot Grigio/Gris is wonderful for summertime drinking. They go beautifully with Mediterranean salads, light appetizers, soft cheeses, seafood, and light pasta dishes.

I suggest you try an experiment like I did with the Wine Goddess. We compared a bottle of Washington State “Hot to Trot” Pinot Grigio ($7.99) with a Barone Fini Valdadige Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige ($8.99). The tastes were strikingly different. The fun exercise featured a plate of spaghetti and clams in a spicy clam-broth sauce, a caprese salad, and toasty Italian bread coated with light parmesan cheese.

Don’t despair if it ends in a split decision. Rather, take joy in the experience of tasting wines from a world apart and coming to the same conclusion that you’ve just spent a great evening together.

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