Top Pinot Grigios

8 best picks


No matter what you call it, Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio, chances are you’re looking for a lighter styled white wine to enjoy alone or with food. While the two names are simply the same grape in France (its homeland) and Italy (where it was turned into one of the world’s most popular grapes), they do refer vaguely to the two different styles of wine produced from this chameleon of a grape.

The truth is that there are many more than simply two styles, but the ends of the spectrum tend to be the thin, acidic, citrusy version that is synonymous with cheap Italian Pinot Grigio on one end and rich, spicy, thick, alcoholic and sweet versions from Alsace on the other. Where they come from, well that’s another story entirely, as bourne out by the best Pinot Grigios/Gris of our recent tasting.

Photo courtesy noatakem via Flickr/CC

Best Value

2010 Barone Fini Valdadige, 12.5%, $11

Appley and slightly sweet smelling with notes of mint and orange, adding some complexity. This is fairly round on entry with just enough RS to add that soft edge and reinforce the deeply fruity nature of this wine. There’s a lot to like here. Though the wine does lack some crispness, it delivers plenty of peachy fruit with a light hint of orange and enough acidity to keep this fresh. There’s not much of a finish beyond that acid zing, but this is fun. 86pts

Best Overall

2010 St. Michael Eppan Pinot Grigio Anger Alto Adige, 13.5%, $20

Nicely balanced on the nose with layers of pear fruit, minerals and light, fresh, herbal nuances. Round in the mouth, yet with admirable cut. The acid here is vibrant yet balanced and drives the powerful, mineral finish that offers a cleansing contrast to the mouthful of orchard fruits. A really nice Pinot Grigio. 91pts

Highest Score from California

2010 Martin Ray Pinot Gris Monterey County CA, 13.5%, $20

A touch leesy/floral on the nose, with dusty, talc minerals, a touch of white pepper and faint pear fruit. This is light and taut in the mouth with splendid acidity and somewhat lean fruit buffered with an edge of creaminess that creates real tension in the mouth. The fruit is earthy and lightly spicy, recalling slight unripe pear peelings with that fine, hard underlining acidity that drives the finish, which adds a hint of honeycomb complexity on the moderately long finish. This has a fine insinuation of classic Pinot Grigio bitterness, but adds just a touch of seasoning here and some length on the finish. 90pts

Highest Score from Oregon

2009 Ponzi Pinot Gris Willamette Valley, 13.6%, $16

Deep and brassy on the nose with stemmy tones and some gentle floral-topped apple notes. A touch sweet on the palate but still remarkably light textured with wonderful acidity. This combines fruit and earthy tones with that gentle supporting sweetness in a rather complete package that turns aromatic in the mouth. This really fills the mouth and while the slight sweetness is noticeable, it is finely balanced by the vibrant acids and a gentle edge of bitterness. All the components meld together on the rather long finish. Very nicely done. I would prefer a little less RS, but this is so deftly balanced it’s tough to argue with the result. 90pts

Highest Score from Down Under and a Great Value

2008 Coopers Creek Pinot Gris Marlborough New Zealand, 13%, $13

Stemmy and soil-driven on the nose, with a spicy floral, dried citrus peel character.  This is a broad, soft, wide-open wine in the mouth, though not very big. The fruit is not prominent but this does offer wonderful, if slightly subtle mineral, herb and bitter apple fruit. The long finish is tense and focused with a long heirloom apple tone. Very nicely done with a fine, polished texture. 90pts

Highest Score from Alsace

2007 Eugene Klipfel Pinot Gris Cuvee Louis Klipfel Alsace, 12.5%, $16

Richly aromatic (if evolved) with bold notes of dried passionfruit, quince paste, dried flowers, deep honey and toasted almond aromas. Noticeably sweet on entry with good supporting acidity, keeping this very well-balanced. The flavors are subtle, mimicking the aromas with their slight dried fruit qualities and honied notes.  This really is very attractive with a fine combination of mature flavors and fine freshness. The long finish adds a nice spicy edge. This is wonderfully put together in a very approachable style. 89pts

Classic Lean Style Pinot Grigio

2008 Cooper Mountain Vineyards Reserve Pinot Gris Willamette Valley, 13%, $15

This smells almost exactly like a handful of soil and river rocks mixed with a touch of lime zest, a few blades of grass and some crushed white flowers, adding some tallow notes with air. Rather light on entry, though this has some really glassy mineral attractive notes on the palate, very pure if low intensity citrus and bitter apple tones. This might be called a bit diluted but I like it for its elegance and freshness. This has Muscadet character on both the nose and the palate, with a wonderfully refreshing citrusy finish that ends with a touch of earthy spice. 89pts

Classic Rich Style Pinot Gris

2009 Methven Pinot Gris Willamette Valley, 13.9%, $18

This is somewhat spicy on the nose with notes of dried apricot, pressed flowers, butcher’s wax and a touch of mace. A touch of RS helps round this out in the mouth, but it remains fairly well-focused with a nice core of rather fresh peach and pear fruit, balanced by a touch of tannin. Actually the tannin here is distinctly noticeable, lending some textural interest to the back end and helping displace the sugar on the moderately long finish, which reveals a nice blend of sugar-supported fruit and spice. A touch thick, definitely for those looking for a richer style of Pinot Gris, though I would like to see some more depth of flavors here. Still, quite successful. 89pts

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  • Snooth User: vino5153
    331087 2

    Although I agree with your best overall, the Elena Walch Kastel Ringberg is a very close second at the same approximate retail.

    Jun 24, 2011 at 8:00 AM

  • Snooth User: DDennis
    852185 28

    My husband and I went to our local farmer's market here in Broken Arrow, OK this morning. I had the pleasure of tasting what I would classify as the best Pinot Grigio that I have ever had in my mouth! It was a 2010 Pinot Grigio from Summerside Vineyards in Vinita, Oklahoma! what a treat! I also tried the Blackberry Wine and it was divine. Both bottles are priced at $21 each, which I thought was a bit pricey, but well worth it. There are several events planned at Summerside Vineyards this year and hope I can attend one.

    Jun 25, 2011 at 8:40 PM

  • Snooth User: DDennis
    852185 28

    I'm gonna try each that is available in my area. Thanks for the listing.

    Jun 25, 2011 at 8:41 PM

  • Sudtiroler Pinots and Kiwi Pinot Gris (in general) are styles that are recommended from here in England. The latter tend to be breadier and more food wines, the former more aromatic.
    Klipfel is a name associated with excellent Riesling and Pear williams eau de vie on Parisian holidays in the past. They turn up in Alsacien Brasseries, which also tend to be reliable when in Paris.

    Jun 28, 2011 at 7:26 AM

  • The pinot grigio's from Alto Adige can be very good, however compared to the top cuvees from Friuli they are rather light and 'elegant' in style. To bad you have not tasted the pinot grigio 'Dessimis' from Vie di Romans or the pinot grigio from Villa Russiz. These two are full-blood champions and will beat the ones from Alto Adige in complexity and intensity, every time.

    Jul 09, 2011 at 1:26 PM

  • How come you know I have not tasted these wines? I have tasted Russiz and I agree with you about the Friuli wines having more complexity, length and intensity, based on the Russiz example.
    One of the best white wines I have ever tasted. There were a few others with Slovenian or slavic names from that area that were outstanding too.
    However the Alto Adige wine was in the collection of labels. They are reliably refreshing and aromatic, and consistent.
    If Fruili Venezia Giulia had been in the array of labels pictured, Id have extolled those. I love these wines, but they are quite hard to find here in London except in good restaurants, where the markups are steep.
    If you are importing Russiz into the USA you are performing a public service.

    Jul 11, 2011 at 11:11 AM

  • Hi William, it's true that they are hard to find and that these wines do not come cheap. I am glad to hear that you agree on the outstanding potential that some of these wines have. Unfortunately, the production of many of these wines is (extremely) limited. I am a wine importer, but based in the Netherlands. I know that e.g. Vie di Romans and Villa Russiz are sold out each year. If you happen to know any importer in the U.S. who is interested in these wines, I might be able to sell a part of my allocation. Let me know if you do!

    The markups in (good) restaurants are indeed steep. In the Netherlands and Belgium there is a growing debate going on about markups. The general opinion here is that a markup should not be a percentage, but a fixed amount of money. On the other hand, as an importer I also help reliable restaurant owners by letting them pay the more expensive wines after (!) they have sold them (we check monthly what was sold). Maybe more importers should do that!!!

    Jul 11, 2011 at 12:17 PM

  • Dear Saffredi - Forgive me I assumed Saffredi to be American. Here in London, where I am just a drinker of interesting wines rather than in the business, markups in restaurants mean you pay typically 3 times retail. Your idea of a fixed amount would get me moving down the list to the higher priced. At the moment the multiple of 3 means you buy the expensive wines for the home entertaining and the cheapest good wine in the Restaurant! Which is crazy - and a little bit annoying. Last year we were eating 1 or 2 star Michelin in a French Hotel but pairing it with the local rose because their wine list was just ludicrously priced. I also tend to move up the list (to the cheaper) if I see a cheap wine has had more euro added to its price than in other restarants locally. If they cant get that right, how can I be sure I would be sold a fair price for, say, a Gevrey Chambertin vieilles vignes.
    I will generally buy the wines of FriuliVenziaGiulia and Slovenija on the basis that they are rarely seen and have been excellent in my limited experience.

    Jul 12, 2011 at 9:11 AM

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