Light, crisp, refreshing and easy to drink — both the Pinot Gris wine varietal and the Pilsner style of beer are perfect beverages for warding off the sweltering heat of summer.
This linear pairing is unique in that both beverages are almost identical in color. Both are very light & clear, ranging from pale to golden yellow in color. In addition to similarities in color, both beverages are also light-bodied with relatively low alcohol content. They are both known for having herby, crisp, lightly acidic — and sometimes slightly sweet — flavor and aroma characteristics.
As a result of universal “drinkability” and world-wide popularity, both of these beverages tend to be mass-produced (think boxed/jug wine and corporate/adjunct beer). Despite the unfortunate “bastardization” of these styles by the bigger corporate beverage producers of the world — both the Pinot Gris varietal and the Pilsner style can be artisanally crafted into rather complex and dynamic beverages.
These two styles are easy to drink by themselves, but also pair very well with food. Since both are very light in texture, body and mouthfeel – they typically pair well with lighter fare such as fresh seafood, cheese, chicken, shellfish and citrus. In addition, both beverages are a “slam dunk” for MUSSELS and compliment spicy food extremely well.
And as per usual, I am going to go a little deeper into each …
THE VARIETAL: Pinot Gris
This whole time I’ve been referring to this grape varietal as Pinot Gris — however, it is more commonly known as “Pinot Grigio.” Poh-TATE-To … Poh-TAUGHT-To, my friends.
The Pinot Gris grape is a “white” clone of the Pinot Noir (researchers at the University of California-Davis have determined that Pinot Gris has a remarkably similar DNA profile to Pinot Noir). The most signifcant difference between the two is color — most likely the result of a genetic mutation that occurred centuries ago. Pinot Gris grapes are typically bluish-grey to light pinkish-brown in color and produce very light-colored wines that range from pale to golden yellow.
The name “Pinot Gris” is French and its roots are assumed to originate in Burgundy, France. “Pinot” translates to “pinecone” — this aspect of the name seems logical since the grapes grow in small pinecone-shaped clusters. “Gris” translates to “gray” — which also makes sense because the grapes are often bluish-gray in color.
This varietal grows best in cool climates and matures relatively early with high sugar levels. As with every other varietal, wines made from the Pinot Gris vary greatly and are extremely dependent on both region of production and wine making style. Most Pinot Gris is meant to be consumed early, however some can age quite nicely.
Wines made from the Pinot Gris varietal pair exceptionally well with cheese (especially goat, sheep’s milk & smoked), chicken (especially fried, grilled & roasted), clams, fish (especially white), ham, MUSSELS, pasta (seafood pasta!!!), pork, proscuitto, salad, salmon, scallops, seafood dishes, shellfish and vegetables.
THE STYLE: Pilsner
The Pilsner style was originally developed in the city of Pilsen (hence the name) in what was formerly known as Bohemia — a German-speaking province in the old Austrian Empire. Today, Bohemia comprises most of the Czech Republic.
Until the mid-1840s, most Bohemian beers were top-fermented (ales). They were typically dark, cloudy & less than satisfactory. In 1839, the citizens of Pilsen decided to found and build a brewery of their own, which they called Bürger Brauerei (Citizens’ Brewery). The citizens decided to brew beer according to the Bavarian style of brewing — which required bottom-fermentation.
In addition to adapting the Bavarian style of brewing, Bürger Brauerei decided to use newly available paler malts. The Bavarian method of lagering using the new paler malts in combination with Pilsen’s remarkably soft water and Saaz noble hops resulted in a clear, golden beer that has been ridiculously popular since its onset.
A modern Pilsner has a very light, clear color that ranges from pale to golden yellow. They posses a distinct “Saaz” hop aroma and flavor. Czech Pilsners tend to be lighter in flavor while the German style can be more bitter or even “earthy” in flavor. Pilsners pair remarkably well with cheese, chicken, fish (especially fried), hamburgers, MUSSELS, pizza, pork, sausage, shellfish & spicy dishes.
So there you have it. Another pairing in the adventure through No Man’s Land – Pinot Gris & Pilsner. Both are very light in color, body and texture — possessing unique and characteristic flavors and aromas. These beverages are best when served ice cold, both are super refreshing and both compliment the same foods.