Pinot Grigio gets a bad rap in snobby circles: it’s the wine you get for free when you go to a small art gallery and there’s a new exhibition opening and they just want to lure people in with a complimentary glass of something agreeable and that doesn’t break the bank.
But truth is, Pinot Grigio is popular because it’s enjoyable and approachable. And when made by a good producer, it can be truly lovely without much complication.
However, if every single time you’re handed a wine list or face a shelf you choose the same, you might be missing out on something that might pleasantly surprise you.
Five key points about Pinot Grigio
- Pinot Grigio traditionally comes from Italy, specially from the Veneto, in the northeast.
- The variety is a genetic descendant of Pinot Noir, and practically a twin of Pinot Gris.
- It is the second most popular white wine grape variety in the United States (Chardonnay is the first).
- Tasting notes of Pinot Grigio wines often include fresh citrus, pears and nectarines.
- Generally, it is a wine meant to be drunk young, so don’t cellar it up for too long.
So, loving a chilled glass of PG? How about giving the following three Italian whites a chance…
Pinot Grigio’s neighbour in the Veneto, it’s made from a grape known as Garganega. When accompanied by the word “Classico”, you can expect higher standards of quality and wines from a land more suitable for a premium product (importantly, the Classico vines grow on hillsides, where they can make better use of the sunshine).
Soave wines are often medium bodied and fruity, with a moderate acidity and a very pale hue. Classic ones are more intense and aromatic, for when you want to take it up a notch.
Castellore Soave Superiore Classico
This wine is a total steal but don’t get it just because it’s good value.
It is smooth, dry and with a nice combination of zestiness and juicy nectarine notes (€6.49, Aldi).
Gavi wines come the Piedmont. You’ll sometimes see them labelled as Gavi de Gavi, when they come from the comune with the same name (and, if your name is Gaby, you will always use this as an excuse for an awful pun… hey, it’s my wine!).
They’re made from a grape called Cortese, and they tend to be a bit sharper and with a higher acidity than other Italian whites. If your heart says Sancerre and your bank statement says you wish, Gavi might be a fair compromise.
Fontanafredda Gavi di Gavi DOCG 2017
A “treat yourself” white.
Sharing its name with a wonderful hard cheese, Pecorino grapes are commonly used to produce light and fresh white wines in regions such as Marche, Tuscany, Lazio and Abruzzo. If you like a floral touch among your citrus, give Pecorino a chance.
For premium Pecorino, you can go Offida DOC. Expect high acidity, structure, and a pleasant leafiness. Ideal as an aperitivo.
Saladini Pilastri Pecorino Offida DOCG
Italy’s only DOCG region for this variety.
This is a balanced and intense white, with a mineral character and ripe citrus notes (€18.95, Baggot Street Wines).