Behind the Grape: Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio (also known as Pinot Gris), is one of America’s most popular white grape varieties. Thought to be a mutant clone of Pinot Noir, the grapes are typically blue-grey in color; hence the name “gris” which means grey in French or “grigio” in Italian. The color of the berries can also range from brownish-pink to black or deep gold to copper or even a light shade of pink.
Although the skins of the berries is not white, the fruit underneath most definitely is (this is the case with all grapes). In order to make a white wine, the winemaker separates the skins from the berries during fermentation, preventing the skins from adding color to the wine. In Pinot Grigio, this technique produces a white wine ranging from straw yellow to gold in color, sometimes with coppery or pink glints.
Pinot Grigio is sometimes used to produce trendy orange wines. In this instance, the winemaker allows the skins to have longer contact with the juice, resulting in unusual color. The grape originated in Burgundy, France in the Middle Ages and is now grown in virtually all of the world’s wine growing regions.
Pinot Grigio is one of the shape-shifters of the wine world, varying greatly from region to region and depending on the winemaking style. For example, Alsatian Pinot Gris wines are medium to full-bodied, rich and floral while German Pinot Gris tends to be full-bodied, with high acidity balanced by a touch of sweetness. In California, Pinot Grigio wines are more light-bodied, crisp and refreshing, with grassy notes while in Italy the wines are lively, light and lean with crisp, sometimes spritzy flavors.
We like to think of Pinot Grigio as the Little White Dress of the wine world—always in style for any warm-weather occasion, before or with a meal. Because of its crispness, lack of oak and moderate alcohol, it’s a natural with sometimes hard-to-pair foods; for example, an artichoke frittata or asparagus tart. It also goes great with raw bar fare, seafood, salads, spicy Asian and Latin cuisine and vegetarian dishes. Naturally light and lively, Pinot Grigio is perfect for picnics and poolside.
We’re partial to our Middle Sister Drama Queen Pinot Grigio and the newest addition to the Wine Sisterhood line, Wine Sisterhood Pinot Grigio . For a change of pace, check out the elegant Pinot Gris from Oregon.