Pennsylvania Wine School: Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris

Chambour-huh? Vidal who? Need some help demystifying some of Pennsylvania’s most essential grape varieties? The PA Wine Land Post is at your service, schooling you on the grapes you need to know.

Varietal: Pinot Grigio (pronounced PEE-noh GREE-jo) or Pinot Gris (pronounced PEE-noh GREE)

Grown: Across Pennsylvania

Similar to: Albariño, unoaked Chardonnay

Pinot Gris is the little grape that could. A mutation of Pinot Noir with a strange, beautiful gray-blue color, it has risen from its origins in France to become one of the most popular wine varietals in the world — and the second most popular white in the United States behind Chardonnay.

One of the most important facts to establish is that Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape. That said, the monikers are often associated with different styles of wine.

Wines labeled Pinot Gris are typically inspired by the spicy, full-bodied Alsatian-style wines. Expect moderate acidity, higher alcohol levels, and an “oily” texture. Tasting notes include melon, mango, yellow apple, and peach. These wines are sometimes made using malolactic fermentation, giving them a softer, rounder mouthfeel. This style has become very popular in New World wine regions including Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Northwest. Pinot Gris has also become a popular option for skin-contact wines.

Then there is Pinot Grigio. Wines carrying this name usually reference the Italian winemaking style. They are lighter, brighter, and dryer, exuding flavors of lemon, lime, green apple, and honeysuckle. Harvested early to preserve high acidity, the grapes — which grow in small, tight pinecone-line clusters like Pinot Noir — are transformed into zesty, drinkable wines. That early ripening and harvest makes this an appealing style for Pennsylvania winemakers. Typically aged in steel, these wines can be sold and consumed within only four to 12 weeks of fermentation.

Look to the style to inspire your pairing picks. Pinot Gris can stand up to richer dishes such as pasta primavera, saag paneer, or spiced duck. The higher residual sweetness also makes it a marvelous companion to funky cheeses such as Gruyere and salty cheeses like Parmesan.

Meanwhile, Pinot Grigio is delightful alongside light, fresh meals such as Greek salad, grilled white fish (with a squeeze of lemon), mussels (in white wine!), raw oysters, or sushi. When it comes to cheese, look for something tangy to match the acidity — goat cheese and cheddar are great choices.