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Looking for an easy white wine to stock up on in anticipation of spring?

Pinot Gris is a great bet. This typically crisp and clean white wine is a versatile sipper, the perfect bottle to have on hand as you transition from a cellar full of winter reds to lighter white wines perfectly suited longer days and lighter meals. 

First, let’s clear up any confusion about the name. Both Pinot Gris, as it is known in France, and Pinot Grigio, as it’s known in Italy, come from the same grape. It’s a white grape that is a widely planted mutation of the Pinot Noir grape. Gris translates as gray in French, though the grapes of this fruit are often in the more dusky blue to ruddy pink color. If you order a glass of Pinot Gris in a restaurant you’ll get a wine that is beautifully yellow in color, ranging from a pale, nearly clear yellow to deep straw hue.

Italian Pinot Grigio is typically grown in the Veneto, Friuli and Trentino areas of northern Italy. Pinot Gris hails from France but has become the signature white wine grape of Oregon. But labeling can be deceiving—you could pick up a bottle of Pinot Grigio that actually hails from California or Australia. If you’re looking for a bottle that is authentically Italian or perfectly French, be sure to read the label’s fine print. 

Both Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are known for crisp and fruity flavors. These wines are not typically aged in oak barrels; instead they spend their time in stainless steel tanks. This means that instead of being rich and oaky, Pinot Gris can show a spectacular range of flavors from bracing and clean to sweet and aromatic. They are a perfect palate cleanser or pre-dinner aperitif. I often sip on a cold glass of Pinot Gris while I’m making dinner and decompressing after a long day. 

Pinot Gris is ideal for drinking with spicy foods (think Mexican, Thai, or sushi), or as a compliment to crab, chicken, or salads. The flavor profile can range from delicate, light flavors of apple, pear and citrus, to richer and more succulent flavors of honey, pineapple and mango. Whatever the dominant flavor, be prepared to taste the fruit. Pinot Gris is all about fruit forward flavors, layered with fragrant perfume and juice.  

Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are both widely available in wine shops, grocery stores and on the internet. Pinot Gris is also very affordable and it is a perfect “house wine.” Because the Pinot Gris grape is so widely planted and available you can find bottles for insanely low prices. I saw Pinot Grigio for as low as $3.99 a bottle at Trader Joe’s! These are great bargain wines, but to truly taste a great expression of the Pinot Gris grape, aim a little higher. Even a bottle in the $12 to $15 rage will have better fruit and more full bodied flavors. You’ll enjoy each glass and be more likely to fall in love with the insane, zippy fruitiness of this fun grape.

Wines to Try:

  • Kris Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, 2007: A light bodied pinot grigio with flavors of crisp, zesty citrus. At about $15 a bottle, this wine is a great value.
  • Elk Cove Pinot Gris, 2007: A fantastic wine with flavors of pineapple, melon, and tropical fruit from a family run Oregon winery. About $15 a bottle.
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Pinot Gris, 2007: A medium bodied pinot gris with flavors of honey, peach and pear. About $12 a bottle.
  • Domaine Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Pinot Gris 2006: A great pinot gris for a fantastic $12 price tag. This wine is rich with flavors of apple and quince.