European Wine Grapes of the species vitis vinifera are all genetically related and include the Pinots: Pinot Blanc, the white grape; Pinot Noir, the black grape; and Pinot Grigio (or Pinot Gris), a version striped and mottled, neither white nor black, but in between-the wine grape equivalent of gray. Grigio means "gray" in Italian; gris means "gray" in French.
Pinot Blanc -Pinot Bianco in Italy and Spain- is the lightest expression of Pinot in both color and flavor. These grapes can have extremely thin skin, almost transparent, so you can actually see their white meat. As a wine, Pinot Blanc generally tastes juicy and simple, although several big, ripe, oaky California versions can easily pass for California Chardonnays.
Pinot Grigio, synonymous with Italian white whine, grows up and down the Italian boot. Its styles vary widely depending on location from the Alpine north to the hot sunny south, but at its core, Pinot Grigio is full-bodied fruit. Mainstream Pinot Grigios represent the most dependably tasty choice for crisp, dry, white wine.
Despite its name, Pinot Noir is not black in color, but burgundy, after the eponymous region in France where the most famous and sought-after Pinot Noir grows. This light-red grape typically produces light-red wines with subtle flavors that don't necessarily it you over the head with power. As a grape, its thin skin makes it physically fragile; as a wine, it's typically delicate and soft-spoken, the kind of wine that grows on you.
Looking for a wine bargain? Pinot Noir is popular, Pinot Grigio is everywhere, but Pinot Blanc is ignored. That's where you may find Pinot value. On the Rhine River's French side, called Alsace, old wine-making families like Hugel, Willm, and Trimbach make deliciously affordable Pinot Blanc. Ditto for Tiefenbrunner (northern Italy) and California's Castoro Cellars and Valley of the Moon.
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Wine Lover's Devotional Jonathon Alsop