Pinot Gris has multiple personalities. One bottle will be strongly fruity – another uncomplicated and largely neutral. The same grape has several identities too. It’s Tokay d’Alsace in France, Pinot Grigio in Italy, and Rulander or even Grauburgunder in Germany. So, if you think you know Pinot Gris, guess again. You now have an excuse to try it several times more until you find a style you love.
Pinot Gris, the Grape:
- It’s a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape;
- The two grapes are so similar that the vines and leaves grow in exactly the same way;
- Pinot Gris’ greyer colour is the only visible difference between those grapes.
Classic Pinot Gris from Alsace, France:
Here, Pinot Gris could cost the same as a small car. It’s that good. If you get your lips on a glass of the stuff, you’ll be drinking a wine that’s rich, oily and high in alcohol. It’s not quite as aromatic as Gewurztraminer. Yet to drink, it will be luscious and full of flavour, with fresh and dried fruits as well as a smoky, honeyed character. Specifically, the fruit flavours to expect are melon, ripe banana, and mango.
Get Lower Cost, Similar Versions From:
- New Zealand;
- America’s Pacific North West.
- With all of these areas, you’ll notice that they have cool climates, which suit the grape better. Expect to see other cool areas giving it a go in the future.
Italian Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio)
Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are different versions of the same grape. That’s as confusing as it sounds, so I’ll explain a little more. Some time ago, a cutting was made of a Pinot Gris vine, and planted in Italy. That makes those Italian grapes a clone of the Pinot Gris, but as sometimes happens, the genes in the new planting grew slightly wonky as errors in copying genetic information can happen even in cloning. Think of the two versions as twins who look slightly different. The Italians call the result Pinot Grigio, and if the grapes aren’t all that dissimilar, the wine that comes from it is made very differently to its Alsatian brother.
Having said all that, you can still get proper Pinot Gris from North Eastern Italy, in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, which has good fruit flavours. It’s still expensive, but not as much as the French kind.
However in Trentino, Pinot Grigio is harvested early to keep more acidity and avoid developing too much fruitiness. The wines are light, and generally lacking flavour. It is a very, very popular style as people enjoy knocking back glass after glass of chilled Pinot Grigio on hot summer days.
Another version from the New World:
- Argentina, particularly from San Juan.
Pinot Gris When it’s Putting on a German Accent:
Alsace is geographically, historically, meteorologically and politically almost German. So it’s no surprise that pinot gris has wandered across the border into Germany, where it currently works on vineyards as a table wine. Here, it’s produced to satisfy the demand for dry wine to go with savoury food. It is also a much cheaper European kind of pinot gris, and unlike some other wines from Germany, the locals don’t mind exporting it.
If you like the sound of an easy drinking white, read our article on alternatives to Pinot Grigio. It shows other grapes which produce very similar wines, and you may find one from an area you already love.