Wines made from the grape variety Pinot Grigio have got themselves a bit of a poor reputation in recent years. I’ve even heard them described by someone in the wine trade as ‘the wines I’d recommend for someone who didn’t really like wine’! Ouch!
In a way I can see why. Pinot Grigio, like another member of the Pinot family, Pinot Noir, is fairly sensitive to how it is handled, particularly in the vineyard. If you train and prune the vines to give you a heavy crop and so make large volumes of wine, they will oblige. But, if you do this, the grapes you pick will have little flavour or character and the wine you produce from them will be simple, neutral and inoffensive. Hence the comment reported above.
Sadly, this is true of much – if not most – of the Pinot Grigio you find in UK supermarkets and my advice to wine lovers would be to avoid the cheaper bottles (say £7 or less – yes, that’s relatively cheap, these days).
But it would be a mistake to ignore Pinot Grigio altogether. Growers who limit their yields produce less wine but the quality can be far better, even though, as a result, the price will be rather higher. So, where should you look for good Pinot Grigio? If you enjoy Italian wine, then consider the north-east of the country – I’d say examples from the Alto Adige region are probably a more reliable choice than those from the Veneto.
Alternatively, the same grape is found in northern France, in Alsace, only here the variety is known as Pinot Gris, rather than Pinot Grigio. One to try from there is Paul Ginglinger’s Les Prelats (Wine Society, £13.50). But, a word of caution: this is not one of those simple, neutral Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigios. It’s rich, deliciously mouth-coating and full of lovely ripe pear and apple flavours. A perfect match to something cooked in a rich, creamy sauce or a risotto, perhaps.
Wherever you look, the rule for Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris is pay a little extra; you may be very pleasantly surprised.