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Pinot Gris

by Staff Writer - B. Scottenberg | July 08, 2011

Pinot Gris is the white wine variation of Pinot Noir. Pinot Gris is a white wine grape grown in cool climate regions all over the world. In French, Pinot refers to pine (cone) and Gris means gray. The grapes grow in small clusters (like a pinecone shape), and upon ripening, often display a pinkish gray shade, although the colors can vary from blue-gray to pinkish-brown. Pinot Gris can produce wines that range from white to a light pink. The Pinot Gris variety can attain a very high level of sweetness, but will begin to lose acid rapidly when near to fully ripe. Sometimes it is used to add richness and to lighten, when blended with Pinot Noir.

Pinot Gris has been described as having a smoky, mildly floral, delicately honey flavor with a lightly lemon citrus flavor. Pinot Gris is a dry, crisp white wine which is often high in acidity and low in tannins. Depending upon the ripeness at harvest and the winemaking process, Pinot Gris can be tangy and light, or very rich, round and full bodied. Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are actually the same white grape, with two different names. In Italy and California this wine is best known as Pinot Grigio, while in Oregon and France the wine is best known as Pinot Gris. Other countries use the name interchangeably.

In the United States, Pinot Gris is grown primarily in Oregon, while California has recently seen large growth spurts. Most Pinot Gris (Grigio) wines are created in Italy. The Italian version of Pinot Gris (Grigio) is usually dry and not sweet with a light mineral taste to it. California variations of Pinot Gris (Grigio) tend to be richer in flavor, but still display a mineral taste. They often finish with a lemony or citrus flavor. French Pinot Gris wines tend to come from the Alsace region. These are more fruity and flowery than their Italian counterparts, though they still have that mineral aroma. Flavors can range from peach to grapefruit to melon. Since Oregon has become a hot spot for Pinot Gris, many producers are making fine, often barrel-fermented wines that are refreshingly dry, with little to no oak. You can expect light to medium-bodied wines with notes of orchard fruits like apple, pear and peach. It seems that the Oregon wines have more obvious fruit flavor than Italian Pinot Gris (Grigio), but are less rich than Alsatian Pinot Gris. Like Italian Pinot Gris (Grigio), these wines are best consumed within several years of the vintage. Consistently strong Oregon producers include Ponzi, Adelsheim, and King Estate.

Food Pairing

Pinot Gris goes well with foods typically associated with white wines, including fish, seafood, chicken, pork, and Asian cuisine. Pinot Grigio pairs well with dishes that are on the heavier side, like chicken in a rich white sauce, or eggplant with heavy spices. Pinot Gris should be consumed within two years of its vintage, and is best when served around 48F. There are many fresh styles of Pinot Gris just waiting for you to give them a chance.

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