Here in this glorious summer of rosé, pinot grigio is the odd wine out. It’s not as decisive as sauvignon blanc. It’s not as controversial as chardonnay. It’s the sort of wine one is served on Ladies Drink Free Night at Italian restaurants, cold and inexpensive and a little bit tasteless.
Since there is no such thing as bad free wine here on Earth, you drink it. And then you have questions.
Is pinot grigio always tasteless?
No. There are subtleties in the grape that you won’t necessarily find in what gets served on Ladies Drink Free Night.
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Is pinot grigio the same grape as pinot gris?
Yes. And before you ask, yes, it’s from the same grape that also brings us pinot noir, and for that we are grateful.
Are all pinot grigios created equal taste-wise?
No, they can range from minerally to fruity to sweet. Wine Folly does an excellent job laying out the differences.
So what do you do if you want to ease into pinot grigio territory?
Enlist friends. Here are the candid observations of one pinot grigio expert, two fans of white wine in general and one reluctant Scotch drinker who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time:
2016 Ecco Domani delle Venezie IGT Pinot Grigio ($12): The bottle alone is fun and stylish (the label was created by fashion designer Christian Siriano). This wine starts off with a floral flourish but ends on a nice citrus note, the bite of mineral evident and welcome. Our Italian representative didn’t hesitate. “This is the best,” she proclaimed.
2016 Edna Valley Vineyard California Pinot Grigio ($14): There’s less of the mineral in this uncomplicated wine, which offers hints of pear, citrus and barely discernable green apple acidity. “Easy drinking,” said the PG expert. I concur. We pronounced this our favorite. The Italian rep felt the wine wasn’t quite distinct enough to warrant the price. The Scotch drinker asked if he could please have some Glenfiddich.
2016 Dark Horse Pinot Grigio ($9.99): “This tastes like it came out of an old inner tube,” grumbled the Scotch drinker. OK, don’t trust him. But this wine was bland and watery, with no distinctive tastes. It swiftly became the least favorite, though the thrifty PG expert conceded, “I’d buy it if it were Buy One Get One.” I wouldn’t.
The Naked Grape Pinot Grigio 3 Liter box ($18.99): The bargain of the bunch, Naked Grape gives box wine a good name. You can easily taste the pear (though promised notes of Meyer lemon are harder to distinguish). Did we mention what a bargain this is? In case your math skills are poor: three liters equal four bottles of wine, which makes Naked Grape a good choice for a beach or pool party made up of your non-wine snob friends.