Pinot Grigio / Pinot Gris
Pinot Gris (aka Pinot Grigio) is a pinkish grape mutation of Pinot Noir. It’s famously known for zesty white wines but can also be used for rosé.
Is there a difference between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris?
The names “Pinot Gris” and “Pinot Grigio” are technically interchangeable. Pinot Gris means “gray Pinot” in French and Pinot Grigio is the Italian name.
The 3 Main Types of Pinot Grigio: Minerally & Dry - Fruity & Dry - Fruity & Sweet
1. Pinot Grigio Minerally & Dry
The leanest styles look to the Alps - where you’ll find Pinot Grigio growing in steep alpine valleys from Italy through Austria, Slovenia, and Hungary. The mountains with cooler climate are a powerful force on the agriculture here, and it ensures grapes maintain high acidity.
- Italy: Look for wines labeled as “Pinot Grigio” from cooler climates including Alto Adige, Trentino, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
- Germany: It’s common to find wines labeled as “Grauburgunder” and look into the regions of Pfalz, Rheinhessen, and Rheingau.
- Austria: Tiny plantings in Austria can be found from parts of Burgenland and the Steiermark. Labeled as Pinot Gris or “Grauburgunder.”
- Canada: This country shows great potential with wines from the Okanagan and Ontario.
- Others: If you’re in a specialty wine shop look into Chile, Hungary, Slovenia, and Romania.
>> The resulting wines are zippy, dry and lean.
Wine and food pairing:
Pinot Gris with its zesty and refeshing acidity pairs really well with fresh vegetables, raw fish and lighter meals. Fish and shellfish are classic pairing partners with Pinot Gris. Try ceviche, sushi, moule-frites, or even light flaky tilapia with cream sauce; try mussels, french fries, and hot summer days.
2. Fruity & Dry Pinot Gris
Winemakers often choose the word “Pinot Gris” to describe a more fruit-driven style of this variety. Pinot Gris with riper fruit aromas can be found in wine regions with a warmer climate.
- United States: Great options include California, Oregon, and Washington State. By the way, Pinot Gris is Oregon’s second-most important wine grape.
- Oceania: Both Australia and New Zealand have sizable plantings of Pinot Gris offered in a more fruity style.
- Others: While harder to find, both South Africa and Argentina offer Pinot Gris in a richer, fruitier style.
Expect flavors of lemon, yellow apple, and white peach with a slightly richer, more oily texture.
Besides just the fruity aromas, the wines have less intense acidity and more of an “oily” textured mouthfeel. This is because winemakers often add a special bacteria after the alcohol fermentation converts sharp-tasting acids to smooth-tasting ones in a process called Malolactic Fermentation.
Wine and food pairing: Pinot Gris from the US and Australia can stand up to richer dishes (like cream) because of their body and often heightened alcohol level.
2.3 Fruity & Sweet Pinot Gris
The most famous sweet Pinot Gris come from Alsace, France. For centuries Alsace attempted to recreate the intensely sweet white wine called Tokaji (“toe-kye”) drunk by kings in Transylvania and the Ottoman empire (now Hungary). In fact, up until 2007, Alsace could use the words “Tokay d’Alsace” on their bottles of Pinot Gris!
Today, Alsace is one of the only regions in the world making a sweet style of Pinot Gris. With flavors of sweet lemon candy, honeycomb and honey crisp apples, winemakers apply very advanced winemaking techniques to increase the mouthfeel texture and use late harvest and noble rot grapes to maximize the flavor potential.
In Alsace, here’s what to look for Pinot Gris on the label:
- Grand Cru: There are 51 Grand Cru vineyards in Alsace that offer bolder styles of Pinot Gris.
- Vendage Tardives: This means “late harvest” and means grapes were harvested late which increases sweetness levels.
- Sélection de Grains Nobles: This basically means “our best ever” and is a very rare style of Alsatian Pinot Gris which uses grapes selected with noble rot.
Wine and food pairing: Try not to go too spicy with your seasonings unless you have a bottle of Alsace Pinot Gris close by. Pinot Gris works excellently with white meats and seafood, particularly in meals that include a fruit element such as lemons, oranges, peaches or apricots.
>> Want to explore the major white wines of the world? Check out the article on Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc too.
Synonyms: Grauburgunder (Germany), Grauer Burgunder (Austria), Tokay d’Alsace (old name used in Alsace, France)
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