The light Italian white wine Pinot Grigio is one of the wines of the moment. Fashionable and popular, many white wine drinkers enjoy its clean, fresh taste finding it an enjoyable aperitif or a perfect white wine to accompany the light dishes in an al fresco picnic.
At their best, Pinot Grigio white wines from Italy are crisp and lemony, leaving a fresh taste in the mouth. They have to be drunk young to get the best out of them as white wine made from the Pinot Grigio grape does not age well.
If you enjoy a glass or two of Pinot Grigio wine then it may be worth trying some other light white wines from both Italy and elsewhere in the world; there are a multitude of fresh white wines available, although be aware that they can be of varying quality.
If you want to try other light Italian white wines look out for Soave, Frascati and Orvieto. These wines have had a bad reputation in the past for being bland and uninteresting but if you aim for slightly more expensive bottles from recommended wine producers then you should find some enjoyable examples.
Soave is produced in the Veneto region primarily from the Trebbiano grape. Trebbiano produces rather characterless wines so the better Soave producers add a greater proportion of the Gargenega grape to the blend to give the wine more body. Look out for Soave produced by Anselmi, Bolla, Pieropan and Fratelli Tedeschi.
Frascati comes from Lazio and is made from Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes. This white wine can have a tendency towards being bland with a pear drop characteristic but there are producers who are making fresh and interesting Frascati. Keep an eye out for Colli di Catone, Fontana Candida and Villa Simone.
Orvieto white wines are produced in Umbria and are again made primarily from the Trebbiano grape. Once again, the majority of wines can be disappointing but there are producers making good quality wines such as Bigi, Antinori, Barberani, Palazzone and Decugnano dei Barbi.
Moving away from Italian white wines, the Pinot Grigio grape is known as Pinot Gris in France, where it is mainly concentrated in Alsace. Here, the white wines produced by the grape are very different. They are rich and luscious and can be either dry or sweet. They are very different from the crisp and light Italian wines from the same grape but are worth trying as an experiment.
There are plenty of other excellent light white wines available which are likely to appeal to the Pinot Grigio drinker. The risk with all light, dry white wines is that they may be bland and disappointing so a good tip is to look for young, cool climate white wines as these are most likely to have a bit of zing about them.
Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are the main international white wine grapes which produce clean and fresh light white wines. Riesling is a light and crisp yet flavourful white wine full of citrus fruit and apple characteristics. The best Riesling in the world comes from Germany where top producers are making elegant and subtle white wines. If you like your white wine dry look out for “trocken” on the label. The best German Rieslings have “Qualitatswein mit Pradikat” or “QmP” on the label. With these premium Rieslings “Kabinett” indicates a dry wine whilst “Spatlese” is off-dry. Look out for Rieslings produced by Muller-Catoir, Dr Loosen, Burklin-Wolf, Lingenfelder and JJ Prum.
Austria makes some enjoyable dry and lemony Rieslings particularly those from the region close to Vienna, or from Styria or Wachau. Alsace Rieslings are also excellent but tend to be more full-bodied.
Australian Rieslings are completely different to those from Europe. They are still crisp and fresh but tend to be fruitier with lime as the primary characteristic. The best Rieslings come from the Clare Valley and Eden Valley in South Australia and from Tasmania.
Cool climate Sauvignon Blanc from France’s Loire Valley is another excellent example of a light, dry white wine. Whilst fruitier and spicier than a Pinot Grigio it still has that refreshing crispness. Look out for Sauvignon Blancs from Sancerre, where producers make very dry and lemony white wines, or from Pouilly-Fume where the Sauvignon Blancs have a mineral edge to them with a hint of flint or gun smoke.
Other light white wines which may tickle the taste buds of Pinot Grigio drinkers include Muscadet, another Loire Valley white wine. Made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape the very best Muscadet white wines can be creamy and fresh. However, many Muscadet wines are disappointing so ensure you buy a Muscadet that says “sur lie” on the label for the best chance of getting a good wine.
Alternatively, look out for white wines made from dry Muscat grapes, particularly from Alsace, or wines made from Colombard and Ugni Blanc (an alternative name for the Trebbiano grape). These grapes are blended to produce the crisp and quaffable Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne white wines.
Image of Pinot Grigio grapes by Andrew Fogg, from Wikipedia.