When buying wine, it’s easy to stick to what you know. Oftentimes for white wine drinkers that means grabbing a bottle of pinot grigio. But Dustin Wilson, a master sommelier and the wine director for Eleven Madison Park, believes you can stick to what you love while still getting a bit out of your comfort zone.
For the pinot grigio lover he suggests looking for wines that have similar qualities and characteristics. “I think what most people really enjoy about pinot grigio,” he says, “is it’s actually a very neutral grape variety, which just means its easy to drink. It’s got some bright acidity, it’s clean and fresh, but it’s not giving off a really exotic or intense flavor profile.”
Some varieties that he suggests include grüner veltliner most famously from Austria. It has “a spicy savory tone to it, but it still fits into that profile” and is clean and refreshing. He also suggests albariño, most notably from northwest Spain. “It’s a little bit more floral, a little bit peachy and slightly aromatic,” he says, but it has similarities to pinot grigio in the weight of the wine. His last suggestion is assyrtiko from Santorini, Greece. He notes that Santorini is “a volcanic island, so a lot of these vines grow in volcanic soil and what you get is almost this smoky, flinty sort of volcanic feel in the aromatics in the wine.”
But pinot grigio alternatives don’t have to log thousands of miles to get to your table. Great New York producers a mere stone’s throw (or, well, a quick trip on the L.I.E.) are growing and producing some stand-out selections of Dustin’s favorites, too. Try Palmer Vineyards’ crisp and floral, small-production albariño and One Woman Wines and Vineyard’s honeydew-scented grüner. Watch the video above to get all of Wilson’s suggestions for going beyond pinot grigio. Cheers!