Take a look over your shoulder, Chardonnay. There's a new phenom moving up behind you - Pinot Gris. This white varietal is actually a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir. On the vine, the berries range from rusty pink to blue-gray in color, giving the grape its moniker, and the leaves are identical to Pinot Noir.
Pinot Gris is still found occasionally in vineyards in Burgundy and one particular strain of the grape even winds up in some red wines from that region. But it's as a white wine that the "gray Pinot" earned its varsity letter.
This member of the Pinot family is typically more beefy and full-bodied than Chardonnay, almost chewy, in fact. But in its best expressions it has a fabulous, racy acidity that points more toward the tart, Sauvignon Blanc end of the spectrum. Best of both worlds? Today's wine drinkers seem to think so.
Alsace and Italy (where it's known as Pinot Grigio) work wonders with this grape, but New World producers, including those in Australia, are making exemplary versions, too. Check out these three bottles. We think they'll make great additions to your summer wine list.
REDBANK 2001 PINOT GRIS "SUNDAY MORNING" KING VALLEY ($16)
I don't normally judge a wine by its label, but I have to admit that I was first impressed with this bottle because of the inventive packaging. The whole Redbank lineup sports clever graphics and catchy proprietary names. This release from the winery's Goldmine series features drawings depicting Australian gold rush history. "Sunday Morning" refers to the day the miners and their families dressed