Attention Pinot Grigio drinkers!
If this is your “go to” wine when dining out I completely understand. It is reasonably priced, consistently good and the flavors are subtle and refreshing, making it the perfect wine to sip before during and after your meal. Sometimes the wine selections by the glass options are limited. You find the Chardonnay too heavy, the Sauvignon Blanc too aromatically intense and the Riesling, too sweet. If you happen to be at a restaurant with a larger wine selection, here are three alternatives typically sold by the glass that are worth exploring.
First, one important note: Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the same wine. It is a matter of origin and sometime only preference as to which name is used. It is more commonly know as Pinot Grigio in Italy and Pinot Gris in France. The U.S. and other countries use both names.
The Pinot Blanc grape is a very close relative of Pinot Grigio. Surprisingly the Pinot Grigio grape is not really a white grape. The skin has a brownish color hence the name Gris, which means gray in French. Pinot Blanc is the real white grape in the Pinot family. Like Pinot Grigio, it has neutral aromas and is crisp and refreshing. Pinot Blanc tends to be fuller bodied and have more mineral flavors, while Pinot Grigio tends to be fruitier. One note of caution, however, is that some winemakers like to oak age Pinot Blanc, which will make it taste closer to a Chardonnay. If you are not a fan of Chardonnay you most likely will not like the oaked version of Pinot Blanc.
South African Chenin Blanc
Traditional Chenin Blanc originates in the Loire Valley of France, especially Vouvray. These wines tend to be sweeter, full-bodied and very aromatic – all wonderful qualities, but not what you are looking for if you are a Pinot Grigio drinker. Lately, South Africa has been turning out some great, reasonably priced versions that are a delightful alternative to Pinot Grigio.
The grapes are harvested earlier which result in dry, lighter wines with less aromatics, citrus aromas and touches of honey. If the grapes are left on the vine a bit longer, they develop tropical fruit aromas that are reminiscent of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. While they can be fairly aromatic, they lack the biting, grassy nose that some dislike in Sauvignon, making them more appealing for Pinot drinkers.
If you enjoy high quality Italian Pinot Grigio but find it to be out of your price range, then Spanish Albarino is the answer. This surprisingly underrated wine is excellent and should really be on more wine lists. Soft texture, hints of apple and peach and nice acidity are its trademarks. If you are looking for a fresher, sharper version of Pinot Grigio, make sure that the wine is only a year or two old. Older versions while still delicious will have lost a bit of their zest.
By Georgene Mortimer, Island Winery
The perfect bottle of wine awaits at Island Winery on Cardinal Road. Store and tasting hours are Monday-Saturday from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wine Flights and Cheese are available from Monday-Friday, 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., and Saturday from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 843-842-3141 or go to www.islandwinery.com.