Some wines taste better outdoors, and pinot grigio is one. Made well, it’s crisp, light, lively and tart, just right for hot-weather sipping. It’s a picnic wine. A pop-in-the-cooler wine, although you should take it off the ice for 20 minutes or so before drinking.
Pinot grigio is an around-the-pool wine. A barbecue wine with grilled chicken breast, eggplant and zucchini. It’s a sushi-in-the-park wine. A crab cake wine.
It’s a boating wine. It would be a great baseball wine, but they probably don’t sell it in many stadiums, and would frown on you bringing your own. You might be able to take it to a polo match.
Pinot grigio should be drunk within a couple of years of its making. And it’s almost never over $15.
It’s made from a grape that is a mutation of the red pinot noir grape brought from France to northern Italy by Napoleon’s thirsty invaders, and later to California by equally thirsty (and invasive) American settlers. It’s made quickly, fermented cold in stainless steel tanks, to preserve its crisp acids and intense fruit flavors.
I used to say a major virtue of pinot grigio was that, even if made poorly, it was never less than neutral. Recently, a few over-cropped, made-on-the-cheap, planted-in-the-wrong-places versions have proved me wrong. So make note if you find a mediocre one, and avoid it next time.
Here are some I like very much:
2012 Robert Mondavi "Private Selection" Pinot Grigio, Central Coast: white flower aromas, crisp and dry, with intense lemon-lime flavors and a tart finish; $11.
2012 Da Vinci Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie IGT: aromas of camellias, crisp and lively, with intense flavors of mangos, golden apples and minerals; $15.
2010 Echelon Pinot Grigio, California: crisp and dry, with aromas and flavors of green apples and minerals, tart finish; $13.
2011 Esperto Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie IGT: floral aromas, tart and crisp, with flavors of lemons, limes and minerals; $10.
2012 Geyser Peak Pinot Grigio, California; floral aromas, crisp and lively, with ripe peach and pear flavors; $12.
2010 Luna Nuda Pinot Grigio, Vigneti Delle Dolomiti IGT: aromas and flavors of green pears and green apples, tart, lime-flavored finish; $15.
2011 OGIO Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie IGT: white flower aromas, rich, intense flavors of lemons, limes, kiwi, tart finish; $13.