Why Am I Drinking Pinot Grigio,
or is it Pinot Gris?
Relax & Go Deeper
Rosen, The Cork Jester
the feeling someone put America in a trance and planted
the post-hypnotic suggestion: “Switch to Pinot Grigio.” The
fastest-growing white in the country, bigger, even, than
white zin, PG is in everyone’s glass these days,
but no one seems to know why.
Typical comments: “I like Pinot
And remind me, why do I like it?”
Grigio…um, it’s something to do with fresh
breezes and things growing, I think.”
for this voodoo goes partly to Italy’s Santa Margherita
winery. Paterno Imports fell for the brand in the 1970’s
and has built it into the leading imported white by way
of, for all I know, subliminal marketing.
for you, do you—should you—like
it, and if so, why? Yes, you should like it and you will....
But only if you pick the right style for you, because
this grape wears a lot of different hats.
it kicks butt at the entry level, replacing Chardonnay
as the new generic name for white, that’s only
one facet. PG is also capable of being complex, rich,
"Rulander" in Germany as well as a hundred other names
around the world, PG is part of the somewhat dysfunctional Pinot family, so named
for its tight little grape clusters that resemble pine cones. While you may know
its red sibling, Pinot Noir, or its little sister, Pinot Blanc, what you probably
know is that this is the mutatingest variety ever to hit
a vineyard. Plant one and you might get the other, or half
and half, all on one vine.
the French version, gris, means gray. This refers
to the fact that the skins are neither black nor white.
Now, considering black (noir) grapes are actually red,
and white (blanc) grapes are yellow, you won’t be surprised
to learn that gray grapes are actually pinkish brown. A sort of rosé on
the vine. In fact, PG often hints toward reddish-gold in
of the world-famous Pinot Noir vineyards of Burgundy,
PG migrated further north to Alsace, right across the river
from the great Riesling vineyards of Germany.
Alsatians make kind of a cult of producing a viscous, almost
oily PG, oozing with buttered-toast and honey aromas plus
dizzying amounts of alcohol, exceeded only by their dizzying
prices: easily $50-$100.
this cool-climate grape in America. Labeled sometimes Grigio, sometimes Gris,
their version is medium-bodied, crisp and strong on fruit flavors and aromas.
meanwhile, cranks out oceans of thin, unripe, overcropped
Grigio for thirsty American zombies. But they also make another kind.
on the thigh of Italy's boot perch the Alpine regions of
Friuli and Alto Adige. Their climates produce wonderful freshness and acidity
in wine, but even more important are the producers. A unique breed, they're the
product of a cultural blender of changing borders, alliances and ideologies,
tramped through by Julius Caesar, the crusaders, Napoleon and two World Wars.
Like many survivors, they tend to be practical, flexible, independent thinkers.
of Italy clings stubbornly to winemaking traditions, and
the other half chucks them all for test-tubes in a sterile lab, these guys try
a little of everything. A single azienda might be experimenting all at once with
enormous stainless steel tanks, small Slovenian oak barrels and clay amphorae
buried in the earth.
wine is rich and complex, with tangy acidity, shot through
with stony minerality. To find it, scan the Italian shelves for out-of place
German and Slavic names: Jermann, Attems, Hofstatter, Tiefen brunner, Kupelwieser,
Primosic, Princic and Damijan to name a few.
the country, most PGs share a generous perfume of
flowers as well as melons, apples, pears and tropical fruits,
all wrapped up in the rich, silky texture of a satin sheet.
best drunk young, but older folks enjoy them too. Just
a little syntax trick to distract your conscious mind while I engage your unconscious.
As you chase that thought, you might notice how heavy your eyelids are getting
and how the sound of my voice helps you relax deeply and comfortably into that
wake up, you’ll have no memory of this. But you’ll
have a compelling desire for Pinot Grigio.
Read more by The Cork Jester on her website, www.corkjester.com,
or check out her newest book, The
Cork Jester's Guide to Wine.
by Jennifer Rosen
(Updated: 06/24/09 SV)