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The Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio Grape


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About Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio

(Synonyms: Auxerrois gris, Fauvet, Fromentau, Fromentot, Grauburgunder, Grauer Burgunder, Grauer Mönch, Grauklevner, Gris cordelier, Malvoisie, Monemvasia, Pinot grigio, Pinot beurot, Ruländer, Rulandské šedé, Sivi pinot, Szürkebarát, Tokay d'Alsace.)

Background

Map showing the Burgundy region of France

Pinot Gris, also widely known by its Italian name of Pinot Grigio (both Gris and Grigio meaning "grey") is a white-wine grape originating in the Burgundy region of France. Though it is basically the same grape under both names (there may be slightly differing clones), the stylings associated with each name are somewhat different, as we will soon see. The grape is another of the several mutations from Pinot Noir, which is famously unstable genetically; as a recognized variety, it goes back to the early middle ages (by 1300, it had already travelled to Switzerland).

Both Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are today widely grown across the wine-producing world, producing oceans of bland, indistinguishable plonk and the occasional bottling of more interest. To many casual wine drinkers, "pinot grigio" has become a loose synonym for any vague white wine. That is a shame, because the grape, treated with care, can do much better.

The "Pinot Gris" styling of the grape tends at its best toward a characteristically Alsatian round, fairly rich, almost creamy style, wherein the acidity is not dominant and the alcohol is low. The "Pinot Grigio" styling, conversely, emphasizes acidity and crispness, has a bit more alcohol, and is generally "leaner" and less fruit-forward than the Alsatian style. Neither is inherently better than the other: they simply fill different niches. It is best to consider them as almost two different wine types; and the name under which the wine is marketed is usually a reliable clue to its style.

In the U.S., it is the "Pinot Grigio" style that accounts for most of the dire plonk; wines labelled "Pinot Gris" are not thereby automatically better, but because that is not the more faddy name, you have better odds. As you will see below, the majority of introductory material about this grape tends to be aimed at folk who recognize it as "Pinot Grigio".

(The grape is also fairly widely known in Germany under the synonym "Ruländer"; that use usually—though not invariably—denotes a sweet wine.)

Factoid: The grape was reportedly a favorite of the Emperor Charles IV, who had cuttings imported to Hungary by Cistercian monks: the brothers planted the vines on the slopes of Badacsony bordering Lake Balaton in 1375. The vine soon after developed the name Szürkebarát meaning "grey monk".


Some Descriptions of Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio Wines


Some Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigios to Try

(About this list.)

The problem here is winnowing down the list. Numerous wine writers propose Gris/Grigio bottlings that, they assure us, are superior to the tidal wave of goop. But it is not common to find the same wines on any two lists (a good sign: there are probably more good ones than it might seem). We have tried to find what seem as close to consensus picks as feasible.

To (slightly) simplify matters, we have separated out our chosen samples into Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio types, for as much or as little as that may mean.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Some Pinot Gris to Try
Huia Pinot Gris
(Marlborough, New Zealand.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Fermented on wild yeasts with 12 months on its lees, this has fine limey/ lemony fruit with ripeness and spice, a refreshing acidity and bone-dry finish. The best Pinot Gris at a recent New Zealand tasting. [Decanter, 15 December 2015

Full, bright straw-yellow colour with slight green hues. The nose is very elegantly presented wuith fresh and clean aromas of white stonefruits with a complexing thread of flinty reduction providing interest. Subtle lifted florals and steeliness adds detail and enhances the freshness. Dry to taste and light-medium bodied, the palate is softly concentrated with deep flavours of pure white stonefruits along with hints of honeysuckle and flint. The fruit flows a very fine-textured, well-driven line supported by soft acidity, and carries to a clean, lingering finish with pear and mineral notes. This is an elegant and tightly framed dry Pinot Gris with a soft mouthfeel and subtle flinty interest. **** ( = 17.5/20). [Raymond Chan, January 2014]

Light-bodied, offering pear, peach and lemon meringue flavors that come across as smooth and supple, with an elegant, soft acidity. Spicy finish. [Wine Spectator]

Huia seems to achieve flavour intensity through low cropping level and an ethereal texture from minimal skin contact. The result is a beguiling and subtly powerful wine that's just about as god as Marlborough pinot gris gets. Made in the style of the pinot grigio with an emphasis on fruit flavour and without the tannic structure that's a feature of many wines. Delicious now and very fresh. While the wine will probably offer good drinking for a few years, it's hard to imagine getting much better. 93 points. [Bob Campbell, MW]

A mixture of honeysuckle, pear, apple and quince aromas abound on the nose, followed by white peach and some spice on the well-balanced and smooth, dry palate.

With its subtle, delicately fruity aromas and dry, gentle fruit character on the palate, this shows a persistent elegance.

Accolades keep coming for this outstanding biodynamic Marlborough producer. This is a lovely, fresh, dry-style gris; yellow flower notes and a herbal twist wrapped in a round, gently textured package.



Jules Taylor Pinot Gris
(Marlborough, New Zealand.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

*Smart Buys* Fragrant and ebullient, with caramel and vanilla bean accents to the core of ripe black cherry and plum flavors, balanced by velvety tannins and dark chocolate nuances. Expressive and generous on the long finish. 93 points. [Wine Spectator, September 2016]

ules produces very smart wines as you’d expect from someone who previously worked at Cloudy Bay and Kim Crawford Wines, both kiwi Icon brands. But her Jules Taylor wines are much more artisanal and characterful with real complexity and attention to detail. I’m especially a big fan of her Gruner Veltliner but it was her 2016 Pinot Gris that unexpectedly just blew me away…A beautiful textural Pinot Gris with lucious pear, white peach, tangerine peel and aromatic stone fruit flavours. The partial wild ferment imparts extra richness, and exotic complexity while the lees stiring contributes a complimentary nutty, biscuity minerality. There is no flabby fat on this taught, beautiful Pinot Gris with the wine remaining almost bone dry at 1.8 g/l RS. The palate is layered and textured but underpinned throughout by a vibrant crystalline acidity and great fruit intensity. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a kiwis Pinot Gris this much in years! 93 points.

I was pleased to find a wine that had more of a golden color and somewhat heavier than a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio. This lovely wine has honeysuckle, peach and pear aromas with a hint of ginger. On the palate there was more pear and peach with some citrus and a slight but lingering baking spice. This Pinot Gris has crisp acidity with considerable complexity from partial malolactic fermentation. The Jules Taylor Pinot Gris is still light enough to be a porch sipping wine when properly chilled, but it works very well with seafood and vegetable dishes. It really shines with spicy curry dishes.

This Pinot Gris consistently rates highly (with me) for its intensely fresh flavours of subtle white fleshed fruit, such as white pears, white peach and lychees. It’s dry with refreshing crispness and a medium body, all giving it a strong lead on many of its competitors. This is a very good wine with 3 to 4 years time up its sleeve, but why wait? It tastes great now.

Ever so silky and soft, the winemaking here has focused on freshness and texture with a portion of the grapes undergoing some barrel work to soften and polish the wine. While you will find the typical Pinot Gris pear fruit and fleshy nut character, there is also a creaminess from skillful winemaking adding some weight to the palate and more than a hint of ripeness coming from fragrant melon notes. Elegantly balanced, firm & long, this style doesn’t need food to enjoy it…

Refreshingly dry with a soft, well-roundedness and drinkability. Gushing with peaches, pears and a creamy mouthfeel. I would call this luscious, in every sense of the word. But not over the top juicy or fruity — it’s elegant and has balancing acidity and a tart green apple finish. **** (of 5 max)



Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris
(Willamette Valley, U.S.A. Do not confuse this with their upmarket "Original Vines Reserve" bottling.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Stylish and detailed, this exemplary effort showcases a subtle and elegant approach to the grape. Rather than fleshy fruit flavors, it offers focused notes of pear skin, citrus rind and an overriding minerality. It's drinking quite nicely already, and seems built to continue to evolve through 2020 [2014 vintage]. 92 points, Editors' Choice

A spicy white with lemon and clove character. Medium body, bright acidity and a long and intense finish. 91 points. [James Suckling, November 2016]

Eyrie’s Estate Pinot gris consistently offers ridiculous value. Part of its secret rests in vine age, with a huge portion of the fruit coming from vines planted in the 1970s, giving flavor concentration and complexity. Lett’s vision placed Pinot gris as the perfect pairing for salmon, rather than Chardonnay, illustrating Eyrie’s ability to combine flavor with fresh acidity, and mineral length through the variety…The Eyrie 2012 Estate Pinot gris offers the expressive fruit liveliness of the vintage, with lots of freshness, and mineral crispness…Expect fresh melon, accents of lily with greenery, and a hint of rhubarb on tons of crunchy mineral length. This wine is all about palate stimulation, and making your mouth water without gouging your pocket book.

The 2009 Pinot Gris was fermented and raised in stainless steel and went through malolactic fermentation. It is a creamy-textured, flavorful effort that remains a benchmark for Oregon producers of this varietal. Both the Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc are outstanding values. [Wine Advocate]

In 2003, The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris is much closer to the Alsace style than the Italian, in its richness of aroma and flavor, its full body, and its soft texture. In particular, the aroma and flavor of peach stone--along with a strong mineral note--is similar to many Alsace expressions of this grape; notes of tangerine also accent the wine. Where Lett's wine diverges from many Alsace Pinot Gris wines today is in its dryness: although it is ripe, the wine is completely dry. Apart from the dryness of the 2003 Eyrie Pinot Gris, its captivating but not exaggerated flavors, and its artful balance of acid and alcohol, I love the amount of extract that this wine has. Within the big volume that the wine's high alcohol describes in my mouth, the extract grounds the wine, gripping my tongue and lending gravitas to what otherwise might be just plain pleasure…Serve it refrigerator temperature to start, and watch the wine become increasingly generous as it warms up on the table. It's a worldclass wine, and it's also a great drink. Outstanding: 92 points.



Some Pinot Grigios to Try
Abbazia di Novacella Pinot Grigio
(Alto Adige/Sudtirol, Italy.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Structured and elegant, this lovely Pinot Grigio opens with delicate scents of white Alpine flower, citrus and a whiff of herb. The bright palate offers creamy white peach, crisp green apple and juicy nectarine while a mineral note backs up the finish. Bright acidity provides lift and balance. 90 points.

Lots of lemon and slice lime and papaya. Medium body, bright acidity. The fruit builds on the palate. Really lively. This is an exciting white. 92 points. [James Suckling]

The 2015 Pinot Grigio is another attractive wine in Abbazia di Novacella's entry-level range. Sweet floral notes meld into orchard fruit and spices in this expressive, refreshing white. The 2015 is not especially varietal, but it is pretty and very nicely done. 88 points. [Antonio Galloni, Vinous]

This straw colored Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige is very nice. It opens with a faint lemon-lime bouquet with hints of wet stone. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, balanced, smooth and approachable. The flavor profile is a tasty mild mineral infused Anjou pear with notes of citrus and a hint of lemon verbena. The finish is dry and its flavors fade away nicely.

If only all Pinot Grigios were as good as Abbazia di Novacella's! Its 2006 is lively and crisp, with the acidity which is lacking in most commercially produced Pinot Grigios. It is dry, medium-bodied, with fresh, tart pear flavors. 90 points.

The Abbazia di Novacella…was full of peach, citrus and, because a third of the wine was fermented in oak barrels, a buttery roundness.



Bastianich "Vigne Orsone" Pinot Grigio
(Colli Orientali del Friuli, Italy.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

♣ Sorry: for whatever reason, there are few online reviews of this wine (excluding, as always, those by folk who would sell you the wine). It's curious, because Joe Bastianich is famed in the gastronomical world. (And that scarcity of reviews seems to extend to most or all of the wines Bastianich makes.)

[Google-tranalated from Russian:] The amazing white dry "Vigne Orsone" Pinot Grigio is a very delicate and refined wine with a delicate fruity-floral aroma and balanced fresh taste. This wine is made from the wine of the same name Pinot Grigio, which has a good mineral and acid structure…Color - transparent, medium saturation, yellowish green, with a beautiful shine. Aroma is pleasant, harmonious, not strong, but deep: sweet-sour apples, pears, and then many flowers and a bit of meadow, which is almond; Alcohol is not felt. The taste is very fresh, oily, saturated, pleasantly poured in the mouth, slightly pinch. Repeats the fragrance, adds lime sour, chalky mineral content. The aftertaste is a long, pleasant memory of the summer, apple-pear, sprinkled with lime and chalk-pricked… I recommend unequivocally.

[Google-translated from Italian:] There are those who love him in madness and who hates him intensely but, in front of his wines, no one feels he has a negative judgment. The wines of Joe Bastianich, those of Vigne Orsone, in Friuli Venezia Giulia, are mostly monovarietal, who know how to distinguish themselves by body, structure and balance. My favorites [include] Pinot Grigio (100% Pinot Grigio), a rich and round white with decently smells of apple and white plum…

[Google-translated from Korean:] A blueprint, a light citrus, a little trimming, a sting. The acidity is very well supported by the pinnacle, and it is light but has a slight oil texture. It melts everywhere so that the minerals are felt well throughout the pallet, misleadingly at first glance. In aftertaste, the nuts and roasted yellow fruit and vegetables are not overly bored by the soft and salty flavor, and the finish is short .. The impact is less, but the tolerance is broad, and it seems to fit very well with light seafood as well as various seafood…It's easy to say, this is also pretty good for Pinot Grigio.



Venica & Venica "Jesera" Pinot Grigio
(Collio Goriziano, Italy.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Gold with copper highlights, this elegantly structured wine offers heady scents of white spring flower and orchard fruit. On the juicy, savory palate, nutmeg and mineral notes back up ripe apple, mature pear and apricot that lead to a fresh finish. 90 points.

The 2013 Collio Pinot Grigio Jesera is a deeply fragrant and attractive white wine with bright aromas of honey, passion fruit, tropical notes and yellow rose that emerge from the bouquet. The wine's intensity is impressive and the aromas are both pure and long-lasting. There is a playful note of sweetness on the close and the wine's texture is super smooth and supple. [Wine Advocate, May 2016]

A white with full body and lots of dried pineapple, toffee and peach aromas and flavors. Very fruit and oily yet stylish and delicious. A star. 92 points. [James Suckling, 29 October 2015]

[T]his Pinot Grigio from the Collio DOC on the Italian border with Slovenia is worth seeking out. This is no simple, easy-drinking Pinot Grigio, but a wonderfully complex, rich white the color of pale onionskin. "Jesera" from the venerable Venica estate is a serious, even fleshy wine with notes of pear, apricot and quince, and a long, lovely finish.

Opulent, appley nose. Firm and dry, a touch austere now and lightly phenolic, concentrated and textured. Quite long with a spicy finish. 91 points. [Decanter, 24 August 2015]

Pears, floral notes and ripe apricot notes with a citrusy kick. Balanced and fresh with a long fruity finish.



For a Splurge

For the Pinot Gris styling of the grape, a good choice would be the Albert Mann Pinot Gris Hengst Alsace Grand Cru.

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.

For the Pinot Grigio styling of the grape, a good choice would be the Vie di Romans Dessimis Pinot Grigio Friuli Isonzo.

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.

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