Pinot Gris, called Pinot Grigio in Italy, is a noble variety that, unfortunately, doesn't always produce highly refined wine. At its best, in Alsace, where it's usually called Tokay Pinot Gris, the wines are extremely rich and honeyed, in either a dry, or just off-dry style. Characteristic flavors include peach, apricots, tropical fruits, and spices. In Oregon, Pinot Gris is usually dry, with few examples seeing much in the way of oak.
Alsace Pinot Gris
The third grape in Alsace's holy trinity, Pinot Gris is far more likely to produce a fat, oily, even viscous wine than a racy, high-pitched drink. Pinot Gris (also known as Pinot Grigio), is characterized by rather exotic aromas and flavors of peach and apricot, tropical fruits, orange peel, butter, nut oil, smoked meat, spices, earth, and honey. As with Geurztraminer, traditional versions of Pinot Grigio are reminiscent of ripe Chardonnay. In the hands of some producers, they are among the richest white wines of France. Pinot Gris is a versatile food wine well matches to the rich cuisine of the region -- it's frequently paired not only with pates and foie gras, rich fish preparations and white meats, but even with red meat dishes.
Oregon Pinot Gris
Outside of the cool, hilly Alto Adige region of northeast Italy, no other region produces as many fresh, elegant examples of Pinot Gris (called Pinot Grigio in Italy) as Oregon. Unlike the weightier, spicier, and more flamboyantly ripe examples from Alsace, Oregon Pinot Gris is usually fermented to complete dryness, and few examples see much in the way of oak. Instead, the top producers make brisk, highly aromatic, light-to medium-bodied wines that emphasize clean orchard fruits such as apple, pear, and peach, often with citrus elements as well. These wines are normally best consumed within a couple years of the vintage for their fresh fruit; they are excellent choices with a range of warm-weather fare and go especially well with light, fresh seafood preparations. Pinot Gris rather than Chardonnay is the flagship white wine for many Oregon producers -- a smart move in light of the popularity of these wines.