Last week, I talked about the thirst-quenching allure and versatility of Sauvignon Blanc wines when it comes to helping put a chill in Washington’s summer heat. But it turns out that it is still hot, so I thought it would be helpful to talk about another wine that is top in its class when it comes to cooling down the palate when the internal thermometer overheats: Pinot Grigio. Or is it Pinot Gris?
It turns out, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are actually the same white wine grape, just with two different names. Pinot Gris (the actual “technical” name) is thought to be a mutation of the pinot noir grape. Gris, which means “gray” in French, has a grayish hue when it is fully ripened yet produces a golden yellow-colored wine. Thought to hail from the Burgundy region of France, it has gained far more popularity in Alsace, France, and all throughout Italy, where it is sought after for its bright, clean flavors and crisp, refreshing finish.
The confusion over the name is a result of where the grapes are grown. For example, wine produced in Italy and California are called Pinot Grigio. However, in France, Canada and Oregon, it’s referred to as Pinot Gris. And just like Sauvignon Blanc, the main difference in the style is a result of the climates and soils the grapes are grown in and how the wines are produced. In Italy, Pinot Grigio tends to be dry, with a citrus-centric core and a minerally finish. In France, the wines lean more toward stone fruits and white flowers, but are still crisp and light. Both styles are found throughout the grape-growing world, so it’s just a matter of finding the style that best suits your palate.
In 1870, Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino had a dream of starting a winery dedicated to making the best wines possible from Tuscan grapes. Today, the Folonari family runs the winery and their 2018 Ruffino Lumina Pinot Grigio from Tuscany, Italy steals the show with a bouquet that is fresh and complex, displaying a nose of sage and nectarine and a touch of minerality typical of Pinot Grigio. Flavors of meadow flowers, pears, and golden apple are lively and elegant as they dance on the medium bodied frame. A hint of lemon zest and minerality lingers on the crisp finish. $10
Oregon was the first state in America to grow Pinot Gris and WillaKenzie has wisely made it part of their portfolio. Their 2018 WillaKenzie Pinot Gris from Willamette Valley has a nose that is full of ripe green apple, melon and honeysuckle aromas. The slightly creamy mouthfeel supports luscious flavors of green apple, pear and tropical fruit. The textured finish is long and crisp with hints of tangerine acidity on the back of the palate. $23
For six centuries, the Albrecht family has been making wine in Alsace, so they know a thing or two about Pinot Gris. Their 2018 Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris Cuvée Romanus from Alsace is one of the most well known white wines from that region. The intense bouquet explodes with scents of white flowers, juicy stone fruits and wet stone. This extraordinarily easy-drinking wine emphasizes flavors of nectarine, white peach and melon highlighted by abundant acidity. Citrus notes provide a tangy and refreshing finish. $17
If you’re looking for a beautifully crafted wine, look no further than the 2018 Elena Walch Pinot Grigio Castel Ringberg from Alto Adige, Italy. The fruit for this wine is grown exclusively in the Castel Ringberg estate on a south-facing hillside and offer up a bouquet full of orange blossom, grapefruit and pineapple. Crisp notes of nectarine, peach and lemon/lime fill the mouth while bracing acidity keeps the finish fresh and lively. $26
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