Pinot Grigio is the country's No. 1 imported varietal—in fact, if you're hosting a houseful, this is a good white to pour, simply because so many people like it.
Flavors and aromas: Pinot Grigio's mild profile, gently reminiscent of peach or citrus, accompanied by moderate acidity, means that this wine works well as an easy-sipping aperitif, and as a table wine that won't step on many food's toes.
Color: While some Pinot Grigios can be deep gold, the most familiar incarnation in our market is basic Italian Pinot Grigio, whose very pale tint foreshadows its light body and mild taste.
Prominent plantings: In Italian vineyards, Pinot Grigio grows well and in lots of places. When farmed for volume, the fruit character tends to be dilutedbut that's just fine with its fans, who like a lighter style of wine. This wine's popularity has led to more plantings in California, but the most promising area in the U.S. is Oregon, where the Pinot Gris moniker is usually applied, and the richer style (see Insider tip, below) prevails.
Pairing with food: Simple Pinot Grigio fits hors d'oeuvres, light fish and chicken dishes, Mediterranean fare, and picnics. Alsace Pinot Gris will stand up to heftier, more complex foods, such as seafood, white meats, and poultry.
Insider tip: Though technically the same grape variety, Pinot Gris in Alsace generates a drastically different style of wine. Dry, sunny climate inhibits yields, amplifying the richness and fruitiness. Along with their noticeable heft, the Alsace examples have more obvious acidity.