Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pinot Gris/Grigio

Pinot Gris is one of the many mutations of Pinot Noir. Its skin ranges from white to pink to black, and occasionally the wine will have a “gris” or gray, even pink hue. The grape adapts amazingly well to its site. As a result, it is hard to believe that a rich, honeyed, tangy, minerally Alsatian Grand Cru Pinot Gris is related to neutral, rather quaffable Italian Pinot Grigio. The variety ripens early and drops acidity fast. This makes it an anomaly within the category of Italian whites, one of whose most prized features is brisk acidity. Lower acidity gives a creaminess and richness similar to, say, a white Burgundy (Chardonnay). For those craving the silkiness and “gras” of Burgundy, Alsatian Pinot Gris is often a less expensive proposition. Late harvest versions, the intense, bone dry Vendange Tardive, and botrytis-imbued Selection de Grains Nobles, are completely unique expressions of the grape. The regional pairing with foie gras is a perfect fit. Up until recently the Alsatian versions were labeled as “Tokay d’Alsace.” 

The best Pinot Grigios of Italy, brisk, spicy, lemony, nutty, yeasty, broad, and dry, come from Collio and Colli Orientali in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, and from the Alto-Adige, where they take on a smoky quality. Sadly, many Pinot Grigios sent to the world market are neutral, broad, and flat.

Some Pinot Gris is grown in Burgundy – up until recently the famous Grand Cru vineyard of Corton was planted with 5%--where it is known as Pinot Beurot. In Germany, it is known as Ruländer.

In Oregon, the wines often mirror the nuttiness found in better Italian versions, and, in addition, exhibit a sourdough/pretzel character unique to the varietal. The early examples of Oregon Pinot Gris exhibited the Oeil de Perdrix, or slight pinkish tinge taken from the skin. This style rapidly went out of favor, replaced instead with the barrel-fermented, barrel-aged American Chardonnay style.
Most producers at the upper end today are somewhere in the middle, looking to emphasize terroir rather than technique.

California producers have a big following for Italian varietals and thus label their wines as Pinot Grigio for the most part. Many commercial producers still tend, though, to either lavishly oak their wines in an effort to appease the Chardonnay crowd or to leave the wines slightly sweet. New Zealand producers look towards Canterbury and Central Otago in the South as their best potential sites for growing Pinot Gris.

Pinot gris/grigio: lemony, nutty, yeasty, brisk, tangy, honeyed, minerally, smoky, spicy, crisp and dry to rich and sweet.

Pinot gris/grigio: Alsace, Friuli, Alto-Adige, Willamette Valley, Carneros, San Francisco Bay, Monterey, Tasmania, Canterbury, Central Otago

Léon Beyer Tokay Pinot Gris Sélection des Grains Nobles, Alsace (France)
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Tokay Pinot Gris Grand Cru Rangen de Thann Clos St-Urbain, Alsace (France)
Josmeyer Pinot Gris, Alsace (France)            
Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris, Oregon (USA)
St. Innocent Pinot Gris, Oregon (USA)

Best Value
La Vis Pinot Grigio, Vigneti delle Dolimiti IGT, Friuli (Italy)
Villa Russiz Pinot Grigio, Collio, Friuli (Italy)
Pipers Brook Pinot Gris, Tasmania (Australia)
Amisfield Pinot Gris 2003, Central Otago (New Zealand)                           
Tamas Pinot Grigio, Monterey, California (USA)
Elliston Pinot Gris, San Francisco Bay, California (USA)

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment