Most of us instinctively turn toward Italy to get our Grigio fix, a reaction that has been beaten into us through incessant advertising and media placements. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there’s no great Grigio in Italy (after all my top scoring wines and best value both come from Italy), but what I will say is that the supply of good Italian Pinot Grigio far outstrips the demand.
So other than saying that there’s a ton of crappy Italian Pinot Grigio floating around out there, what does that mean?
Photo courtesy KimMcKelvey via Flickr/CC
Well for starters, it means that we all should be looking around to see where else you can get a good Gris. Of course Alsace, the grape’s homeland, is one of the first places to turn to, though the wines are made in a distinctly different style.
Nothing wrong with that, but it can throw a person for a loop if they’re expecting light and crisp. In this roundup of Grigios, I’ve tasted wines from Italy, Oregon, France, Washington, Chile, New Zealand and Australia. Once you get away from some of the simplest platitudes, I think you’ll begin to discover that Pinot Grigio/ Pinot Gris is starting to get the respect it deserves from winemakers around the globe. This was a surprisingly complex and interesting set of wines.
I found many that I enjoyed and was particularly impressed with the wines from Oregon, which managed to span almost the entire stylistic spectrum from light and elegant to powerful and rich. As admirable an achievement as that might be, therein lies onee of the problems for Pinot Gris, particularly in Oregon.
I call this problem the Riesling effect. Riesling has never exploded on the retail scene, primarily because you never know what you’re going to taste when you pop the cork. Riesling runs the gamut from bone dry to cloyingly sweet. If there are so many styles of Pinot Gris in the market that admittedly range only from dry to light sweet, but are made in different styles that are indiscernible from the label, you’re just asking for trouble.
The fact that Italian Pinot Grigio became a certain, almost singular, style contributed greatly to the rise of this relatively ordinary wine. People knew what they were buying. People had confidence in the product. No matter how good the wines of Oregon become, they will always fight an uphill battle if they don’t do a better job of identifying the styles of the Pinot Gris.
Okay, off the soapbox, end of rant and back to the wines because let me tell you, this was the most impressive lineup of Pinot Grigios I’ve had in a long time!