Obscurity is a curious thing. It breeds obsession. How else do you explain a wine like Pinot Gris? Although you'll be lucky to find a bottle or two of this white on the shelves of a local wine shop, a passionate few continue to make it and buy it. In fact, its popularity may even be growing--albeit on a modest scale.
The appeal of Pinot Gris is obvious when you taste it. And if you prefer descriptions reduced to a sound bite, here goes: It can have the richness of a Chardonnay and the crisp acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc. Its aromas suggest honeyed peach and other stone fruits, and its flavors include notes of citrus and pear. Although Pinot Gris is at its best in the Alsace region of France, it's made around the world and sometimes under other names. The Italians, for example, call it Pinot Grigio. California makes it too, although it's more at home in Oregon, where the wines have a beauty and vibrancy that can't be ignored (and value prices that can't be ignored, either). Oregon Pinot Gris also avoids a pitfall common to the Alsace wine: a tendency to be overly sweet. Finally, if you're planning to serve a meal with Pinot Gris, keep it simple. You don't want to overwhelm the wine. In Alsace, for example, chefs love it with pork and apples, sausages or delicate white fish.
5 great Pinot Gris
1999 Cristom Vineyards ($13)
A pretty, delicate wine, marked by aromas of apricot and honeysuckle. Give it a chance and it will charm you.
1999 Elk Cove Vineyards ($15)
One of the finest of the Oregon Pinot Gris, this vibrant, exciting wine has a lovely aroma of spice, anise and citrus.
1999 King Estate ($15)
A seamless balance of vigorous acidity with creamy texture. Its aromas are of peach and lemon; its lush flavors recall honeydew and pear.
1998 Zind Humbrecht Clos Windsbuhl ($53)
With its lovely aroma of lilacs, fresh grass and allspice, this wine fools you into thinking it's lighter than it is. The finish is actually quite full-bodied. (Also worth noting is this producer's rich, luxurious 1998 Heimbourg Pinot Gris.)
1998 Trimbach Reserve ($16)
What a bargain! It has some of the same power and depth as the Zind Humbrecht wines but at one-third the price. The nose is incredible, with tons of Christmas-cake spice, honey and peach. Hints at sweetness; finishes dry.
Food & Wine: What Is Your Favorite Summer Wine?
Ed Bradley, Journalist: Some wines you associate with a season: I think rosés are great summer wines. My favorite rosé is the Domaine Tempier from Bandol.