Pinot Grigio doesn’t have a great reputation among many serious wine drinkers. I never see it on lists at my favorite local wine bars, for example. Much, too much Pinot Grigio is bland and fairly dull. But, that inoffensiveness along with is ubiquity and affordability have helped make it popular. And it is popular. Pinot Grigio is the most exported varietal wine from Italy, with a huge amount of it coming to this country. Just those from the Delle Venezie DOC – which covers a huge amount of territory in northeastern Italy and are sure to be in your supermarket – sold over 220 million bottles just of Pinot Grigio last year.
There are Pinot Grigios I do like, and those are usually from Friuli – the Italian region abutting Slovenia and Croatia in the northeast of the country. When shopping or Pinot Grigio in the past decade or so, I have almost always looked for “Friuli” on the label, the front of the label. If not Friuli, "Collio" is another one, a small area in Friuili. In the current issue of the Wine Spectator, longtime Italian-focused editor Alison Napjus mentioned she also enjoyed the Pinot Grigios from Friuli, which she’s found to work well with shellfish and grilled seafood, in addition to its expected easy sippability. Pinot Grigio from Friuli is typically richer and more flavorful often with pleasant notes of nectarine and melon, and having more apparent acidity while still usually light and quite approachable. These can be enjoyable with lighter seafood preparations and even more so for me, can work very well as an aperitivo.
A few labels from Friuli for Pinot Grigio you might want to look for here include Attems, Gradis’ciutta, Jermann, Pighin, Radikon and Vistorta. I am not at all self-conscious purchasing wines like these.