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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I recently purchased a bottle of wine that was labeled “Pinot Gris,” and the glass was very dark. I though Pinot was red wine, but when I opened it, I was surprised (and upset!) to see that it was white wine! How can I tell if a bottle of wine in dark glass is red or white?
—Jenna J., Spring, Texas
Whoops. Well, now you know that Pinot Gris is a white wine grape, and Pinot Noir is a red wine grape. Typically the nickname “Pinot,” used by itself, just refers to Pinot Noir. But while we’re at it, I should go over the most popular “Pinots” in wine. Pinot Gris is also known as Pinot Grigio. Pinot Blanc is another white wine, as you might guess. In addition to Pinot Noir, reds include Pinot Meunier and Pinotage.
Many white wines are packaged in clear bottles, which helps avoid confusion. Darker bottles help protect their contents from exposure to light, which could cause the wine to age prematurely, but since many whites are best consumed while still young, that’s less of an issue.
It’s all part of the learning curve. I used to work in a restaurant, and I was present dozens of times to see the look on the faces of budding wine drinkers who ordered a bottle of Zinfandel and were surprised to learn it was a red wine! When all else fails, it never hurts to ask.
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