Pinot gris, pronounced pee-no gree, means "gray pinecone" in French. The name refers to the look and color of the grape clusters used to produce the white wine of the same name. Pinot gris grapes grow in pinecone-like cluster formations, ranging from pinkish gray to bluish gray to pinkish brown. Many different colors of pinot gris grapes are possible even on the same vine. The outer skin of these grapes may go through many color changes while growing, much like a chameleon's skin.
Pinot gris grapes grow best in cooler climates with long, but mild summers. Cooler climates help these grapes ripen fully and develop their rich flavors. Pinot gris wines are usually consumed fairly early in the aging process. When forced to ripen in hot summer conditions, pinot gris grapes are much less aromatic and lack their full character.
The pinot gris grape is of the species vitis vinifera and is considered to be a mutation of the pinot noir grape. Pinot noir is a famous red grape of Burgundy, France and this grape is known for its natural ability to mutate. Pinot blanc is another clone of pinot noir. Pinot gris is known as pinot grigio in Italy and the two versions usually share hay and honey aromas, although the gris is slightly buttery, while the grigio is slightly smoky.
The clean, silky qualities of pinot gris make it a versatile wine that is well matched to practically any kind of food from pork to vegetarian dishes. This wine is equally delicious with spicy Indian cuisine such as Tandoori or samosas or milder fare such as cheese souffle and whitefish. Many consider pinot gris to be the perfect wine for both summer and winter as it is both fresh and rich.