In the midst of the wine bottle aisles, we see signs for foreign and domestic regions etched with both familiar and unfamiliar grape names and regions. Rows of bottles on one aisle hold the title Pinot Grigio, while others are named Pinot Gris.
Which one is better? What’s the difference? Does price matter? All questions that pop into our heads as bottles slowly begin to blur into each other. Sometimes, we just hope for the best by picking out the most striking label, or check out what the latest wine app has to say.
In this issue of “Swirl • Sip • Study" we’re going to get down to the nitty gritty of these popular wines and assist with shopping. Our goal is not to tell you what the “best” wine is, because, let’s face it, wine is subjective and we all have different palates! Our goal is to give you information to help you select wine more confidently based on what you like.
Here is a selection of this grape variety that runs the gamut of flavor profiles. Take these four hand selected wines home and see for yourself how different they are from one another. Which one reminds you of ripe summer peaches? Which one is reminiscent of cool mountain air? Which do you like more for any occasion and how can each of these expressions be utilized differently with food?
Before we get to the wines, let’s go ahead and bust the Pinot Gris/Grigio myth ... technically speaking, they are the same grape variety! It is all about the language being used. The skin of this grape variety has a dusty grayish quality, thus it is named Pinot gray. Gray in French is translated to Gris, while in Italian it's Grigio. It’s that simple of an explanation!
Flavor profile: Generally speaking, you will taste fresh fruit flavors of lime, lemon, pear, apple, and peach.
Each wine is different and there are some outside influences that will sway the wine to taste a certain way. Factors, to name a few: climate, soil/terroir, vine age, and sun exposure.
Wines listed below are in order from lightest to heaviest in body, and is the recommended order for tasting.
Vigneti Del Sole Pinot Grigio
Delle Venezia 2016
Tasting notes: Flavors of lemons, green apples and almonds. This is the lightest of the wines in the lineup. This wine can best be described as a “cocktail” wine. Light and easy drinking, this is a wine that appeals to multiple palates. A true crowd pleaser!
Region: Delle Venezia. This region is on the valley floor below the Italian/Swiss Alps.
Climate: Moderate, Mediterranean
Food Pairings: Mild cheeses, crab salad, garden salad with lemon vinaigrette.
Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio
Alto Adige 2016
Tasting notes: Bright, fresh acidity hits your tongue on this wine, which immediately causes you to salivate. Ripe pear and green apple are followed by spicy ginger, lime zest, and wet slate. This is a wine to refresh. Whether it be to cool off on a hot day, or to cut through fattier cheeses, this wine will do the trick.
Region: Alto Adige
Located between Austria and Switzerland in the foothills of the Alps, it’s no wonder that this wine is reminiscent of fresh mountain air! The grapes that grow in this region are at a much higher elevation than the wine listed previously. (Note the concentration and brighter acidity on the palate.)
Climate: Cool, Continental
Food pairings: Light starters, pate, pork tenderloin, poultry.
These first two wines offer a very intriguing comparison. This is a classic example of showing that where a grape grows affects the outcome of its flavor profile. Both wines hail from Northeast Italy, but express themselves very differently. It’s all about location! Vigneti Del Sole, coming from the valley floor, expresses lighter intensity. The more extreme temperature range that the Peter Zemmer experiences from growing at a higher elevation allows it to show more concentration and complexity.
The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris
Dundee Hills 2015
Fun fact: If this particular grape variety is grown in Oregon, by law it is required to be labeled as “Pinot Gris”. Other regions in the U.S., like California, have the option to choose between "Gris" and "Grigio".
Tasting notes: Aromatic pear, lemon, lime, spring greens and fennel. Round texture with racing acidity and a lingering finish. This wine is aged almost 3 times longer than what is typical. Utilizing both wine making methods sur lies and malolactic fermentation, the outcome is a wine of more concentration.
Region: Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley
Climate: Cool Mediterranean
Food pairings: Summer salad with green apple and jicama, shrimp in lemon-garlic butter, crab cake with lemon aioli over arugula.
With our first two wines, the main comparison is how they express themselves differently based on climate/location. With this wine, we’re tasting how a winemaker’s choices during the wine making process affect the outcome.
Trimbach Reserve Pinot Gris
Fun fact: If a wine from Alsace carries the name of a grape variety, it must be made entirely from that particular grape! No small amounts of blending allowed here! Also, Alsace names their wines after the grape variety instead of the region – unlike its French wine region counterparts.
Tasting notes: Juicy ripe peaches, honeysuckle, and pineapple. Fuller and dry, but with an inherent fruitier profile and a finish that lingers.
Climate: Continental with protection from the Vosge mountains. Responsible for the driest and sunniest wine region in all of France, wines from this area tend to reach very ripe levels. The riper the grapes, the riper the flavor profile.
Food pairings: Pineapple pizza, stir fry, cajun shrimp/crawfish dishes, curried dishes, just to name a few!
This wine is such a different expression compared to other wines made from this same grape. In a blind tasting, it's likely to throw you for a loop! This wine is also the fullest of the lineup. This fuller body allows pairing with heavier foods. The ripe tropical fruit profile also allows this wine to be the perfect pairing for foods rich in spices, like curries and dim sum.