It's mid-July -- we're in the dog days of summer. And when it's scorching hot, there's not much better than a light, crisp white wine you can chill the living daylights out of and enjoy on the patio with some snacks and good company.
Enter Pinot Grigio. While it may not get a lot of love from the wine geeks of the world, this white continues to be one of the hottest-selling wines on the market. With most examples coming in at under $15, it's a not-too-serious crowd-pleaser that won't break the bank.
Before I forget: A note about Pinot Gris versus Pinot Grigio. Like Syrah and Shiraz, the two are in fact the same grape. A wine labelled Pinot Gris is usually made in a bigger, richer style, while the Pinot Grigio is typically a lighter, crisper wine.
Sometimes, unfortunately, things get a little too light, and as a result there's plenty of Pinot Grigio in our market. Without tasting them, it's impossible to say before cracking open a bottle whether you'll get delicate, balanced fruit or little more than peachy grape-water.
One of the best things about Pinot Grigio is that it's usually a remarkably food-friendly wine, especially when it comes to lighter summer fare. Salads, lighter cheeses to fresh fruit, veggies and dip and even grilled shrimp or lighter seafood dishes pair well with Pinot Grigio.
Here are some widely-available Pinot Grigios made from pretty big producers from across the globe. Don't expect depth and complexity, nor should you be angling to pair these light, fresh whites with that peppery steak you're grilling. Keep it simple.
Calona Artist Series Pinot Gris (British Columbia -- $10.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Labelled as Pinot Gris rather than Grigio, there's a bit of an expectation the Calona will be a bit weightier. The typical pear, peach and perfume notes are here, but there are some honey and baked apple notes on the nose as well. The latter notes add some fleshiness here, and as a result there's a bit more body here than the Pinot Grigios that follow. 85/100
Argento 2012 Pinot Grigio (Mendoza, Argentina -- around $12, private wine stores)
Pear, chalk, crisp peach, melon and light floral notes come through on the nose of this Argentine Pinot Grigio. It's a crisp, light-bodied Pinot Grigio, and while the peach component hints at some sweetness, it rolls in at a bone-dry 13 per cent alcohol. Some greener, herbal notes come through on the finish as well that add intensity and make it especially food-friendly. 87/100
Flat Roof Manor 2012 Pinot Grigio (Western Cape, South Africa -- $13.25, Liquor Marts and beyond)
While the nose here is fairly muted, some pear and red apple skin notes are evident, although they're not especially showy. Green apple, lemon candy and honeydew flavours are most evident on the light-bodied palate, and the hint of sweetness mixed with the tartness makes for a sweet-and-sour vibe that needs some food. 86/100
Two Oceans 2011 Pinot Grigio (Western Cape, South Africa -- $10.25, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Not unlike the Flat Roof Manor, the Two Oceans brings red apple and pear aromas, albeit with a splash of dried apricot and melon. There's bright acidity and juicy citrus notes here, and despite its modest 11.5 per cent alcohol -- typically meaning a wine is off-dry -- there's little sweetness here. Well done, especially for the price. 87/100
Mirassou 2011 Pinot Grigio (California -- $12.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
There's a lot more peach and honey on the nose here than your typical Pinot Grigio -- in fact, the brown sugar/cr®me brul©e aromas are a bit reminiscent of icewine. Fear not -- it's not nearly so sweet. The tropical fruit flavours here are pronounced, with mango and papaya working well with juicy peach and bruised apple flavours. Its honeyed and sweet tropical notes are somewhat atypical -- this isn't the crisp patio-pounder you might be looking for. 85/100
Rosemount 2011 Pinot Grigio (South Eastern Australia -- $14.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
This wine is somewhat muted on the nose, although some vigorous swirling and a slight rise in the wine's temperature brought out fresh apple and peach aromas as well as stony and perfume notes. It's dry, light-bodied and brings a splash of acidity that aids the green apple and citrus flavours. There's some intensity here that's, but it remains lean and focused, and the balance of fruit, acidity and ripeness shows the best of this bunch. 87/100
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