Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris)
Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris, is a white grape variety that has grown tremendously in popularity over the last 20 years, mainly due to the massive success of Pinot Grigio from Italy. Such success has seen new plantings around the world, and almost the evolution of two wine styles; from the Alsace, fuller, oily more intense texture, higher in alcohol wines, against the lighter, crisper Italian version that is more neutral in flavour and weight.
It’s origins certainly go back as far as the Middle Ages, when it was planted in Burgundy and Champagne, as well as Switzerland and Germany. It is thought to be a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape, with greyish skins, hence the name “gris”. As time went on it fell out of favour in most places in France, due to it’s unreliabilty and low yields, surviving mainly in Alsace, where the Trimbach family have been successfully making wine since 1626, and in Germany, as Rulander. Today it is planted around the world in slightly warmer climates and the huge success in Italy, as Pinot Grgio, has put the grape firmly on the map.
The distinct style of the Alsace Pinot Gris, set at about 14% in abv, shows a medium to full bodied weight, a floral bouquet and spicy, oily, tastes that show hints of mango and melons. These are made from grapes that have ripened to reflect the depth of flavour as well as a golden tinge to the colour.
In Italy new ideas and methods produce a different wine. Early picking maintains some acidity and crispness. The colour is light, the abv drops to about 12%, and we get wines that are lighter, fresher, and more neutral in flavour, with hints of pear, apple, lemon, and minerals – such a clean refreshing style has won Italian Pinot Grigio many friends, and its popularity has spread around the world.
In Italy, in the areas of Trentino, Lombardy, Fruili Venezia Giula and the Alto Adige a little height has helped deliver the freshness. In Australia, Pinot Gris was first introduced in 1832 in New South Wales where the more traditional styles are made. The more southerly areas of Adelaide Hills, the Yarra Valley and Tasmania make the fresher, lighter Pinot Grigio.
In New Zealand, in just a few years it has become the Country’s third white grape and is growing fast. The areas of Nelson, Waiheke Island, Marlborough, Central Otago and Hawkes Bay mainly look to the Grigio style and here there is a little more depth and tropical fruit flavours, and the Pinot Gris from both Urlar and Invivo are both delicious full wines.
There is no doubt Pinot Grigio is an excellent wine to relax with by the glass, slightly chilled. It’s refreshing style makes it easy to drink. It is equally at home with lighter foods such as shellfish, quiche, cold chicken, white meats and mild pate. It favours cold dishes best – just simply relax and enjoy.