Pinot Grigio is often dismissed as the elevator music of wines: mass-produced with minimal character, ensuring broad, catch-all appeal, but without the capacity to really charm. Its popularity may baffle many wine lovers, but Pinot Grigio sells by the shedload. Its lack of defining character might be part of its appeal.
Crisp, dry and lightly fruity, it is neither as tangy as Sauvignon Blanc nor as fleshy as Chardonnay. It is, for producers and drinkers alike, a safe bet. If safety is a deciding factor in your wine-buying choices, there’s plenty to choose from. And because the high yields that allow for low prices also result in minimal flavour, your safe bet often comes cheap. If, however, you prefer a little flavour with your alcohol, there are some more interesting Pinot Grigio styles out there.
‘Pinot Grigio’ usually refers to the Italian take on the grape that also goes under the label of ‘Pinot Gris’. The latter signals the approach of the French region of Alsace, where lower yields and riper grapes give a richer, more full-bodied, aromatic and flavoursome wine with less emphasis on crisp acidity.
In between these two approaches sit other styles such as those found in California and Argentina, which lean towards the fuller ‘Gris’ take but often choose to opt for the sure-sell ‘Grigio’ label. But that is not to dismiss all Italian Pinot Grigio outright. There are notable exceptions from regions such as Friuli and Alto Adige, in which better quality offers greater character and intensity.