Better Know A Varietal – Pinot Gris/ Pinot Grigio One Grape Two Styles

The highly popular white wine grape most known in the US as Pinot Grigio originated in the French Provence of Alsace where it is known as Pinot Gris.

Alsatian Pinot Gris is usually a fairly full bodied wine. While it is not as aromatic as other Alsatian wines such as Riesling, it is still much more aromatic than Pinot Grigio. Flavors and aromas of honey and nuts are typical and they can have some spiciness. The acidity is medium for an Alsatian wine. Pinot Gris is not considered by Alsatians to be among their best varieties so they tend not to be planted on the very best sites. They still make very pleasant wines that go well with lighter pork and chicken dishes as well heavier fish dishes. In addition to Alsace, there are some nice examples coming from Oregon.

The grape may have come from France but it is in Italy that it has prospered. The wine was little known in the US until it was popularized in the late 80’s and early 90’s, largely by the wine concern Santa Margherita. Their wines at the time were fine examples made in the Trentino-Alto Adige region. Today they are mass produced from grapes grown all over the Veneto and quality has slipped. This Illustrates a problem with the grape. When grown on hillsides in cooler climates with low yields Italian Pinot Gregios can be very good wines with a light honey and fruit aroma, a good balance of acidity and a nice mineral finish. All too often they are made as a mass produced wine grown on the plains with high yields. These wines are bland, slightly fruity and acidic. The better ones may cost a few dollars more but are still fairly inexpensive coming in at around $20 a bottle or less. Look for wines made in Trentino-Alto Adige or Friuli.

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