Called Pinot Gris because of its greyish-blue colour, this wine is also well known as Pinot Grigio because of its Italian connection.
Pinot Grigio is currently enjoying a phase of popularity in the UK as it's a light and unassuming dry wine that goes well with many foods.
It does well in cool climates, matures early and retains high sugar levels. Thought to be a mutant of Pinot Noir, it's often blended to enrich and lighten the flavour of Pinot Noir.
Countries of Production
Pinot Gris originates in Burgundy. However, due to poor yields during the 18th and 19th centuries, it fell out of favour and spread further afield along with its relative, Pinot Noir. Clonal varieties did better in Germany. Its principal territory in France nowadays is Alsace where the cool climate and clay-limestone soil make for good Pinot Gris.
Some of the most commercially successful Pinot Gris now comes from the North East of Italy, specifically the mountainous areas of the North East where it's grown on steep terraced slopes. As a result, the wine is given the name of its Italian alter ego - Pinot Grigio.
As for New World counties, New Zealand is probably the most important, mainly in the regions of Canterbury and Marlborough.
The King Estate Winery is responsible for bringing the wine to a greater audience in the US, where it's mostly grown in Oregon. However, California makes its own too, known as Pinot Grigio because of the similarity with the Italian wine.
Alsatian Pinot Gris tends to be medium to full-bodied. Rich and somewhat oily on the palate, it can be quite high in alcohol and almost always possesses an intense floral bouquet. Specific fruit notes can be difficult to distinguish. While most Pinot Gris should be drunk early, Alsatian varietals can age quite well.
German Pinot Gris tends to be more balanced in terms of acidity and boasts a slight sweetness.
American Pinot Gris is more distinctive. Notes of pear, apple and even melon can be distinguished in wines from Oregon, whereas Californian Pinot Gris is much more Italian in character - crisp and refreshing with notes of pepper and rocket.
New Zealand Pinot Gris is worth trying as it comes with a good balance of minerality and fruit flavours.
Matching with Food
Pinot Gris goes well with seafood and light pasta. The high acidic content means that citric or tomato-based dishes should be avoided.
Starter – Fruits De La Mer
Main – Swordfish with Roast Mediterranean Vegetables
In the UK, the most popular Pinot Gris is Italian Pinot Grigio, so go to Lombardy or Friuli for this Mediterranean-style menu. Pinot Gris does not pair well with desserts or cheese.
Did you know?
Until recently, Alsace Pinot Gris was often called Tokay d’Alsace, a reference to Hungary’s famous sweet wine.
Pinot Gris is the primary grape in the manufacture of Orange wine whereby the juice from the grapes is not separated from the skins immediately. This sometimes lends an orange tint to the wine.
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