Don't look now, but that pinot grigio you like to drink is about to overtake sauvignon blanc in popularity. It may not be selling as fast as chardonnay and it may not be for you, but pinot grigio — the wine critics love to hate — is growing in sales as consumers sop up those juicy flavors.

The grape variety that probably got its start in Burgundy but today is most associated with northern Italy, pinot grigio is often dissed because, well, it's boring. However, you can't dispute its soft, delicious appeal. As an aperitif, it begs for a second glass.


Pinot grigio and pinot gris are really the same grape — both are descendants of pinot noir. You see more pinot gris in France and Oregon. But the pinot grigio that has captured American consumers comes from the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy. The love of everything Italian has fueled this trend.

Pinot grigio's ascent can be traced to the sudden success of Santa Margherita, introduced to this country by American Tony Terlato in 1979. An importer of wine, he searched all over Italy for the "next great white wine" and put his marketing efforts behind this crisp pinot grigio from Alto Adige. Since then the wine has skyrocketed in price and is no longer the bargain it once was — but we don't dispute its popularity or appeal.

The Alto Adige is just one Italian appellation famous for its pinot grigio. The others are Emilia-Romagna and Friuli.

In general, pinot grigio is light-bodied with high acidity and fruit flavors of lemon, lime, pear and apple. It is dry, although many consumers confuse fruitiness with sweet. It is an excellent wine to serve in the summer with foods ranging from seafood to chicken. It's bright acidity makes it an easy quaffer when consumed without food.

As we tasted through several pinot grigios, we were surprised at the complexity we found. The grape's negative image is perpetuated by the cheap dreck that dominates the grocery shelves today. Spend a little more money if you want a serious version of pinot grigio.

Tenute Lageder Porer Pinot Grigio DOC 2012 ($25).

Lageder is trying to improve the quality of wines coming from the Alto Adige region. This single-vineyard wine made from organically grown grapes has good concentration with assertive aromatics and softly textured fruit flavors with a crisp, minerally finish.

Alois Lageder Domiti Pinot Grigio 2012 ($15).

Floral aromas with apple, melon and stone fruit flavors and a dash of spice. One of the best we've tasted this year for the price.

Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio 2013 ($18). Bone dry, this pinot grigio is like biting into an apple — crisp, juicy and delicious. Citrus notes round out an elegant wine.

Maso Canali Pinot Grigio 2012 ($23).

Winemaker Fabrizio Gatto blends into this wine a little pinot grigio made in the passito style — from ripened, late-harvest grapes dried on racks. These raisin-like grapes give the wine a riper, very appealing style that is atypical of crisp pinot grigio. Lots of tropical fruit and peach flavors with a rich mouthfeel that comes from sur lees aging.

Marco Felluga Mongris Pinot Grigio 2012 ($18).

Made from grapes grown in the Gradisca d'Isonzo province of Gorizia, this intriguing pinot grigio has aromas of acacia flowers and a luscious but firm palate of peaches and apples.