All about Pinot Grigio
For those who prefer to stay away from high tannins and enjoy a light-bodied wine, white wine is usually the drink of choice. Pinot Grigio has as rich of a history as it does a flavor palate. While thought to originate in Italy, Pinot Grigio is actually a mutant from a popular French grape known as Pinot Gris, derived from the red wine grape, Pinot Noir. Its name comes from the greyish blue hue of the grape, translated into Italian when it migrated to the country and has been continuously harvested due to the popularity in flavor. In the 1300s it was brought from Burgundy, France to Switzerland and eventually made its way to Italy where the modern story beings. The world-wide popularity of this varietal has led to countries developing variations of the wine. The grape generally prefers cooler climates and hillsides. The temperature and aging style directly impact the grape’s fruit character, aromatics and acidity. While 13% of the wine is produced in Northern Europe due to their volcanic soil and cool climate, the varietal has had modern success in the U.S.A., most notably in California.
This popular white wine has massive success in Northeast Italy, specifically Lombardy, the Veneto, Friuli, Trentino and Alto Adige. These are hilly locations where the mountains help protect the grapes from harsh winter winds and allow them to be produced year-round. The Alsace region of France, which borders Switzerland and Germany, has also started growing Pinot Grigio and is maintaining success in the production. In recent years, there has been high demand for the varietal from Hungary, Australia and Moldova. These locations also provide rich soil and warm sea breezes that encourage the grapes to ripen faster. Pinot Grigio has become the second most popular white wine in America. It is grown primarily in Central and Northern California, Washington and Upstate New York.
Pinot Grigio is a light-bodied white wine. It ranges in color from clear to a pale yellow with a slight greenish hue. Pinot Grigio tends to be on the dryer side of the white wine spectrum, but its characteristics often vary depending on the region in which it is grown. If you are looking for a smooth transition from red wine to white, we recommend a dry Pinot Grigio that introduces the acidic and floral flavors with a similar mouthfeel to a red wine. It has very high acidity levels and usually highlights flavors like lemon, lime, green apple and honeysuckle. The traditional flavor palate is refreshingly crisp with delightful notes of clean and vibrant citrus flavors and tends to have more salinity than other white wines. When produced in regions like Germany, expect a wine with a medium to full-body and a sweet, citrus profile. This is because they grow in the steep slopes along the Rhine River, which has soil that imparts complex flavors. Distinctive flavors of honeycrisp apple and lemon are highlighted in German Pinot Grigios, when the grape has been harvested to remove some of the acidity. Warmer regions like Australia, yield wines with stone fruit notes such as peaches and nectarines. Similar to other white wines, Pinot Grigio reveals its flavors the most when chilled. Experts recommend Pinot Grigio to be served between 48-53 degrees Fahrenheit. The more full-bodied the wine is, the warmer on the spectrum it can go. It is best consumed from a thin glass with a narrow rim due to its high level of acidity. This shape helps highlight all parts of the body, including the aroma and flavors.
Pinot Grigio pairs nicely with lighter dishes. As a general rule, white wines pair well with seafood and chicken, while reds highlight the flavors of heavier and heartier dishes that use red meats. Pinot Grigio is no exception, it goes well with mussels, clams, shrimp, grilled chicken or fish, and pasta dishes with lighter sauces. Looking to pair a Pinot Grigio with a white fish? Try the organic La Cappuccina Pinot Grigio, from our Sourced & Certified Collection, with a simple sautéed rainbow trout. The wine’s fragrant and crisp flavors highlight the freshness of this light dish. Pinot Grigio also makes a wonderful appetizer drink as it complements the characteristics of hors d’oeuvers, such as soft cheese like mozzarella or brie. Wineries like Collalto produce varietals that are excellent additions to a plate of sweet heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.
ABC Wine Expert, Paul Quaglini, recommends some of his favorite pairings, explaining, “Wineries like Muri-Gries produce more concentrated and weighty examples of Pinot Grigio and make a wonderful pairing for richer seafood dishes,” like our Bourbon Shrimp recipe. Coupling a Pinot Grigio with lemon or fresh tomato-based dishes will help bring out both the citrus flavors in the wine as well as the food. Wines are always a nice addition to a meal due to their ability to enhance and complement the flavors of a dish. You don’t have to overcomplicate the pairing. Focus on wine attributes, like mouthfeel and flavoring, that you prefer for an enjoyable dining experience.
Already in love with Pinot Grigio? Here are some other varietals you should try based on your taste.
Have you already tried your fair share of Pinot Grigios? ABC Fine Wine & Spirits display some magnificent choices of fragrant and flavorful Pinot Grigios in our Sourced & Certified Collection, that offer a great value and quality for the price. These wines are hand-picked by our team of experts. Paul Quaglini personally recommends Santa Silvana, Zellina, Kris and Riff, all under $20. Looking to expand your palate from Pinot Grigio? We propose venturing into our collections of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or a dry Riesling.