Wine Studies – Pinot Gris

If people were asked to name the most consumed white wine, I’m sure they would answer: Chardonnay. This grape is so versatile, can grow in just about any wine region, and I’m sure has been sampled by anyone reading my blog. Therefore, I’m going to skip over Chardonnay and talk about Chardonnay’s competitor….Pinot Gris/Grigio.

Pinot Gris is a mutation of Pinot Noir and has a long history in eastern France. But in the Old World (considered Europe’s wine regions) it is Italy who stands out as a top producer of Pinot Gris (for them, Grigio). In the New World (any wine region outside of Europe) it is Oregon that has replaced many of its Chardonnay vines with Pinot Gris, and of course California is a top producer as well.

The wine can be quite diverse based on its terrior (refers to the natural effects of land, soil, climate, growing season, and conditions in a particular area) and the winemaker. In the glass, the color ranges from almost clear to a light gold. On the nose, its aromas can be subtle to pronounced. Aromas can range from delicate apple or pear fruit smells to more complex aromas of mineral, honeysuckle and musk. On the palate those aromas can come alive and also include apricot, peach, and tropical fruits. The wine can vary from medium to high acidity, usually with medium body, and most are produced dry.

I compared 4 wines. In my experience, tasting 4-5 wines from various regions offers the ability to experience the diversity (or similarity) in the grape and the winemakers’ styles. Unfortunately Colorado is not a big producer of Pinot Gris, so I sampled wines from northeastern Italy, Wiliamette, OR (I was never sure how to pronounce this until I saw a t-shirt that said “It’s Willamette, dammit”!), and Monterey County and Sonoma Coast, CA. It was quite interesting the variety of the wines.

Here are my results…the wine from Italy received the #1 spot. It balanced both earthy and fruit tastes with minerality, was dry with medium body, high acidity, and offered complexity (more flavors representing themselves after swallowing). Next were the 2 wines from CA, although the Somona wine offered more crisp acidity and well-balanced fruit and mineral tastes, and I felt was complex for a CA Pinot Gris, which can sometimes be soft on the palate without a lot of tastes and aromas. With OR being a top USA producer, I was surprised that its wine came in last. The reasoning behind its last place finish, was that it tasted more like a Chardonnay than a Pinot Gris. What is interesting to note, is that legally a wine only has to contain 75% of the grape on the label, so maybe the other 25% was Chardonnay, and that is what stood out in the flavors?? In defense of Oregon’s Pinot Gris, while in OR a few years ago I sampled some phenomenal wines and believed them to be quite delicious.

So try a sampling of Pinot Gris for yourself and let me know your thoughts!

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