Pinot gris is a white wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera. It is produced globally but is mainly cultivated in Alsace. It is thought to be a clone of the pinot noir variety.
The word ‘Pinot’ is supposedly given to it because the grapes grow in small pine cone shaped clusters. Pinot gris is classed as an ‘early to market’ wine, which means it can be bottled and put out to market within 4–12 weeks after fermentation.
Wines produced from this grape vary in color from a deep golden yellow to copper and even a light shade of pink and it is one of the more popular grapes for skin-contact wine.
What is skin-contact wine?
Skin-contact wine, also referred to as amber wine or orange wine, is a type of wine made from white wine grapes where the grape skins are not removed. They stay in contact with the juice for days or even months. This contrasts with conventional white wine production which usually involves crushing the grapes and quickly moving the juice from the skins into the fermentation vessel.
Is Pinot Gris a pinot grigio?
Not exactly, but Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are made from the same grape variety, which is a is a white grape with a grayish/brown pink skin hence the name gris (which means gray in French). The grape originated in France from the Burgundian Pinot family and is known as Pinot Gris in France.
Which is sweetest; Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio?
Pinot Gris from the Alsace region of France is typically rich and fairly sweet with rich, spicy tropical fruit aromas whereas Pinot Grigio from north east Italy is a much lighter wine showing crisp, clean and vibrant expressions of the grape with citrus flavours.
Pinot gris is grown around the globe with the spicy, full-bodied types coming from Alsatian regions and the lighter-bodied, more acidic styles coming from Italy.
The Alsatian style, often duplicated in ‘New World’ wine regions such as Marlborough, Tasmania/South Australia and Washington and Oregon tend to have moderate to low acidity and higher alcohol levels with an almost ‘oily’ texture that contributes to the full-bodied nature of the wine.
Depending on the growing region, Pinot Gris flavors can range from ripe tropical fruits such as melon and mango to more botrytis influenced flavors (extra sweet flavours).
What is Botrytis?
Botrytis is often referred to as ‘noble rot’ which is the beneficial form of the grey fungus Botrytis cinerea. A Botrytis infestation requires moist conditions – but if the weather stays continually wet (as it has done in some years) the damaging form of botrytis ‘grey rot’ can occur which can easily destroy a full crop of grapes.
Grapes usually become infected with Botrytis when they are nearing the ripe stage. If they are then exposed to drier conditions this form of infection is then refrerred to as noble rot.
When Grapes are picked at a certain point during a botrytis infestation they can produce a particularly fine and concentrated sweet wine. Wines produced using this method are known as botrytized wines.
Pinot gris wines from Alsatia are usually medium to full bodied and usually have a rich floral bouquet. They tend to be slightly spicy in comparison with other Pinot gris producing areas.
While most Pinot gris are meant to be consumed early, Alsatian Pinot gris wines can age very well.
Pinot gris wines from Germany are often fuller bodied with a good balance of acidity and slight sweetness.
In America, wines from the Oregon regions are medium bodied with a yellow to copper-pink color and aromas of mainly pear, apple, and melon whearas wines from the regions in California are often much more light bodied with a crisp, refreshing taste and with some peppery flavours and a hint of arugula.
Is Pinot Gris worth drinking?
Absolutely! It is one of my favourite wines and it gives me those lovely ‘happy head’ feelings!
In the supermarkets, prices usually range from about £5 up to about £12 depending where you live and I’ve noticed that wines at the lower price end have very little difference from wines at the top end but at the end of the day, when you’re about to settle down with your fave wine, it’s all a matter of taste!
p.s. I just rescued some Pinot Gris… it was trapped in a bottle!!