In centuries past, Pinot Gris was sometimes used to add richness and to lighten Pinot Noir, a common practice in ancient Burgundy. Modern fashion favors deep, dark wines, and Pinot Gris is no longer allowed to be planted in the Burgundy region of France. Pinot Gris has been grown in Alsace since the 1600s and is the third most-planted varietal after Riesling and Gewurtztraminer. The Alsatians value Pinot Gris as a full-bodied wine that can stand up to food without introducing competing flavors of its own.
Italy produces the largest quantity of Pinot Grigio but only has a very few estates that emphasize premium quality. Unfortunately, many Italian makers of Pinot Grigio over crop and harvest early, producing clean, lean, even sometimes conspicuously tart, but otherwise bland, vapid wines.
Although Pinot Gris arrived in America in the 1980s, some winemakers are putting serious efforts into growing and producing Pinot Gris, especially in the Russian River Valley appellation.
Pinot Gris/Grigio flavors and aromas include fruit rinds, orange peel and pear skins. However, because there is quite a bit of variation in appearance and taste geographically, generally speaking Pinot Gris from Italy tends to be sweet, acidic and straw-yellow in color; Pinot Gris from Oregon and California tends to be medium-bodied, fruit and copper-pink in appearance; and Pinot Gris from Alsace tends to be full-bodied, floral and lemony yellow.
Pinot Gris/Grigio pairs well with salmon, tuna and citrus sauces, especially suited for Japanese and Indian cuisine.
Cheeses that pair well with Pinot Gris include Asiago, Beaufort, Brick, Brie, Camelia, Cheddar (mild and smoked), Cheshire, Chevre, Comte, Crottin, Edam, Epoisses, Feta, Fontina, Fromage Blanc, Garroxta, goat cheeses, Gouda, Gruyere, Monterey Jack, Morbier, Mozzarella, Muenster, Munster-Gerome, Ricotta and Taleggio.