Five Things You Didn't Know about Pinot Grigio

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A warm summer evening, a cold glass of Pinot Grigio and a light dinner al fresco. Sounds like heaven. This is the season for Pinot Grigio, one of America's favorite white wines. It pairs perfectly with the lighter dishes of spring and summer - flaky fish, angel hair pasta with lemon and basil, steamed clams - and its crisp, bright, refreshing flavor makes it easy to sip.

You've heard of Pinot Grigio before, but how much do you really know about it? Here are five things that might surprise you.

Pinot Grigio is not made from white wine grapes
You read that right. Depending on the region where the grapes come from, the color can range from blueish gray to dark red. Normally, white wines are made from green grapes, extracting the juice and discarding the skin. For red wines, the grapes are fermented with the skin on, which lends its color to the wine. Pinot Grigio is the exception to this rule.

You should drink it while it's young
It can go straight from the winery to your table and is best enjoyed in its youth.

Pinot Grigio vs. Pinot Gris
It's all about location. Pinot Gris is from France, while Pinot Grigio is from Italy. Same wine variety, different names based on where it is produced. In the U.S., you'll see both names used interchangeably.

The flavor varies widely depending on where the grapes are grown
All Pinot Grigios are not created equal. There are three main flavor profiles: mineral and dry, fruit forward and dry, and fruity and sweet.

* Mineral and dry: Pinot Grigios from cool climates like northern Italy, Austria, and Hungary are often produced in stainless steel tanks with no oak aging.

* Fruit forward and dry: Pinot Grigios coming from warmer climates like Sicily, Abruzzo, Tuscany, Australia, Chile or California offer a style more complex and rich.

* Fruity and sweet: The style of Pinot Gris produced in Alsace, France, is the result of an interesting, ancient tradition. For centuries, winemakers in that region were trying to reproduce a Hungarian sweet white wine called Tokaji, which kings in Transylvania and the Ottoman Empire drank. In fact, "Tokay d'Alsace" was still on the labels of wine produced in that region until 2007.

It's great for cooking
Because of its lightness, Pinot Grigio is the perfect choice for cooking. Whether you're splashing it into pasta carbonara, a sauce for grilled halibut or sautéed clams, Pinot Grigio adds a richness to your dishes without overpowering them the way an oaky Chardonnay could.