Over the past two weeks, I’ve posted plenty of tasting notes of wines that are easily found and some of wines that are barely distributed. I realize a little more guidance might be in order if we want to learn about the many faces of Pinot Grigio. So, that’s where this list comes in.
By building a top 10 producers list that focuses on price, place and quality, I’m hoping to give you a framework from which to launch your further studies. Get to know Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris through the work of these amazing producers. You’ll find a world of different styles and a wide range of prices.
For better or for worse, this wide array of options pretty much sums up the situation with most wines of the world, and Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris just takes the confusion to a higher level. Once you’ve mastered the basics, the rest comes naturally!
Photo courtesy of shutterstock images
Let’s start at the beginning: Pinot Grigio from the Val d’Adige, which runs right through Trentino and the Alto Adige. This had been ground zero for value Pinot Grigio and all of that innocuous wine getting slurped down by desperate housewives and the like.
Much of that plonk is now made further to the south and east on comfy, flat plains where mechanical harvesting is much easier. Mezzacorona is a holdout of sorts, still producing a super value Pinot Grigio from the local fruit. It is the best at its price point. Light, fresh, easy to drink and a fitting start to anybody’s Pinot Grigio adventure.
Duck Pond Pinot Gris $13
Very few producers can compete with the value version of Pinot Grigio from Italy, though most that do can only manage a modicum of flavor and interest from their grapes. Surprisingly, Oregon is doing a fine job of challenging the big boys at these price points.
Duck Pond produces a very nice Pinot Grigio-style Pinot Gris in Oregon for only $13 or so. It’s a light wine that is given some added textural and aromatic complexity through skin contact before fermentation. It’s a lovely little wine that is interesting while being fresh. This is worth trying and will show what artisanal production can do to an otherwise simple wine.
Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio $16
Tiefenbrunner, located in southern Alto Adige, produces some really lovely Pinot Grigio. These wines capture the airiness of the appellation but always deliver elegance and purity of fruit. It is this combination which makes them such compelling values.
Palmina Pinot Grigio $16
Palmina, located on California’s Central Coast near Santa Barbara, is a pioneer in working with Italian varieties in the U.S. The wines capture the essence of the grapes while respecting what the California climate is capable of. In the case of Pinot Grigio, that means a lighter-bodied wine for such a cool climate. The wines are redolent of both citrus fruits and orchard fruits, all underpinned with zesty acidity. The wine straddles two styles, illustrating how intensely fruity Pinot Grigio can be.
Torii Mor $18
Located in the Dundee Hills, Oregon’s premier Pinot Noir appellation, Torii Mor turns out some delicious Pinot Gris. There is lovely ripeness to these wines, but there is something transparent and clear about them as well. The fruit is countered by slight herb and nut tones that lend a classic sweet and bitter fruit profile to the wines, delivered in a style that is unusually elegant for Oregon.