Until the time comes when you can ask for a crisp Fromentot to pair with your Kumamotos on the half shell, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the names to know. Food & Wine's Executive Wine Editor Ray Isle shares a baker's dozen of his favorite bottles.
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Though the spelling is different and the bottles are usually in different sections of the wine store, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape. Not only that, but they're also the same grape as Auvergne Gris, Baratszinszoeloe, Fromentot, Spinovy Hrozen and Zelenak, as well as at least 105 other aliases, including (my favorite) Ouche. And why someone in the United States hasn't started producing California Ouche, I certainly don't know.

But until the time comes when you can ask for a crisp Fromentot to pair with your Kumamotos on the half shell, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the names to know. Translate either one and the result is "gray Pinot," which makes perfect sense: The skins of this grape have a hue ranging from gray-blue to coppery orange, and the grape itself is a mutation of Pinot Noir.

Although the variety originated in France, Pinot Gris/Grigio is now planted pretty much anyplace that isn't too hot in summer and that has long, cool autumns. Pinot Gris from Alsace, France, tends to be full-bodied and unctuous, full of spice notes and peach and apricot flavors; Northern Italian Pinot Grigios are bright, light and zippy, with white peach or nectarine flavors and tingly acidity. New World versions are essentially divided into these two styles, and the wines tend to be labeled Gris or Grigio accordingly.

I tasted many Pinot Gris and Grigios to come up with the wines recommended here, and one thing that quickly became clear is that the Gris/Grigio choice really comes down to personal preference. My suggestion is to think in terms of what's on the table: For light-fleshed fish and shellfish, salads and so on, lean toward Pinot Grigio, whose bright acidity also makes it a nice match with goat cheese; for creamy soups, rich fish like salmon, roasted chicken and even pork dishes, Pinot Gris is the better pairing.

Star Selections

2020 Tieffenbrunner Pinot Grigio ($15)

A pretty nose of spiced pear and mint leads into this tart but surprisingly rich Pinot Grigio from one of Alto Adige's top producers.

2020 Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio ($15)

In 1928, winemaker Peter Zemmer's great-uncle (also named Peter Zemmer) established this excellent Alto Adige winery. The winery's Pinot Grigio is light and bright, with green apple and melon flavors.

2020 Elk Cove Estate Pinot Gris ($18)

A perennial steal, this wine from Oregon's Elk Cove estate packs in a lot of nectarine and citrus flavors before wrapping up with a firmly mineral finish.

2019 Terlan Tradition Pinot Grigio ($19)

This smoky, complex Pinot Grigio from Italy's Alto Adige region has wonderful density and texture, with mouth-filling tree fruit flavors that end on stony mineral notes. 

2020 Ponzi Pinot Gris ($20)

Distinctively floral, this white from one of the Willamette Valley's longtime top producers has a juicy nectarine and lime peel character.

2018 Hugel Pinot Gris Classic ($22)

Hugel, a benchmark producer in France's Alsace region, makes this full-bodied, faintly off-dry Pinot Gris. It's filled with rich melon and tangerine flavors.

2019 J. Hofstatter Pinot Grigio ($23)

This family-owned winery makes some of the Alto Adige region's greatest wines, and that quality extends down to its entry-level offerings as well. This straw-yellow Pinot Grigio offers precise melon and spice notes, framed by citrus zestiness.

2016 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve ($24)

It's a longtime sommelier favorite, and for good reason. This Alsace Pinot Gris bursts with honey, lemon and peach notes. It's full-bodied and spicy, but there's plenty of acidity to give it lift as well. 

2017 Bee Hunter Filigreen Farms Anderson Valley Pinot Gris ($28)

Bee Hunter's luscious, floral, honeyed Pinot Gris is impressive for its layered, complex flavors. Though it smells like it might be sweet, it isn't; instead it's rich and nutty, and just generally delicious.

2019 King Estate Domaine Pinot Gris ($30)

King Estate's 1003 acre estate is claimed to be the largest contiguous organically farmed vineyard in the world. And the winery's Domaine Pinot Gris (they make several) is lively—straw-colored, with smoky lees and peach-pear notes. It's crisp and tangy, yet has plenty of presence, too.

2019 Keller Estate La Cruz Vineyard Pinot Gris ($35)

Keller is located in Sonoma's Petaluma Gap region, where cool winds off San Pablo Bay keep grapes' acidity high even as they reach full ripeness. This is a savory Pinot Gris with ripe tree fruit notes and a lot of texture.

2018 Franz Keller Pinot Gris Vom Loss ($39)

Most German renditions of Pinot Gris don't make their way to the U.S., but the wines of top Baden producer Franz Keller do. Herbal notes are on the nose here, as well as the palate, gracing melon flavors and tingly acidity. 

NV Antiquum Farm Perpetua Album 1 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris ($65)

A fascinating project from Antiquum Farm in Oregon, which practices grazing-based viticulture, this is an ongoing multi-vintage blend—in this instance, the 2018 and 2019. Light gold in hue, it's a very textural wine, with earthy pear and chamomile notes. Quantities are limited, so contact the winery directly on this one.