Perfecting Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio is everywhere, flooding every supermarket wine aisle and all over the wine lists at restaurants that don’t give much thought to their wine lists. It’s the single biggest (by volume) import category into the US. The annual crop in California has increased by 1000 percent in the last decade, positioning it second only to Chardonnay among premium, varietally-identified whites, far outstripping Sauvignon Blanc. The major wine conglomerates are deep into Pinot Grigio, filling the demand by bringing in tankers full of juice from Italy and Argentina and bottling it here. Pinot Grigio has essentially become the new White Zinfandel. Which is sort of a problem. Pinot Gris/Grigio is not the most robust version of the Pinot grape, and it has built-in genetic tendencies that can make insipid wine more likely. Worse, the current surge has mostly been in easy-drinking, slightly off-dry, mass-market beverage wine — which is fine for wine drinkers with a sweet tooth or an indiscriminate thirst, but not so fine for those of us who are looking for more character. Pinot Gris and Grigio doesn’t