Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio? In Europe the distinction is clear. Gris is French for Grey and Grigio Italian. Gris, one of the Noble grapes of Alsace and picked quite late can be rich and heavy. The Italian version hailing from Veneto, light and crisp retaining the acidity of the earlier harvest. But in Australia and New Zealand? Meh, the lines get a little blurry. For years the average consumer had no idea of the difference and maybe didn’t even care. Most winemakers will even simply mark “PiG” on the barrel or tank that the wine is fermenting in. To be fair, there is greater clarity now as wine makers intentionally craft their wines on the style they’re trying to achieve and labelling as such. Then there’s other clues to help the consumer: such as the PinotG Style Spectrum developed with the Australian Wine Research Industry rating that appears on the more informative packages. However, there’s still a flood out there of flavourless, insipid white wines labelled as such that don’t represent the grape fairly. But one shouldn’t forget why it is called Pinot “Grey.” There’s a definite blush to the skin: not quite red but certainly not white. So if your Pinot Gris (more likely than Grigio) has a light blush or copper tinge, don’t worry at all: just means the wine maker cared a bit to let the wine have a little contact with the skins. This is a good thing.
If you’re not getting your apple from the tree or your wines from their traditional homes: here’s a couple of the better Antipodean choices.
Singlefile Wines ‘Run Free’ Pinot Grigio, Pemberton, 2013
Nashi pear and spice. Jasmine blossom tinged sweet with white box honey. Almost medium bodied, the palate gives up pears, greengage and sweet/bitter tropical grapefruit. A little bit of ‘grip’ or ‘extract’ from the natural tannins. Packaged beautifully and provides lovely drinking.
Wine sample courtesy of Singlefile Wines
Villa Maria, “Private Bin” Pinot Gris, East Coast New Zealand, 2014
Off-Dry (retaining some fruit sugars after ferment) in style, there’s a touch of gold colour from some contact with the skins.
Brown pears, hessian sacks, white blossoms and some tropical fruit. The flavours run the same race and the sweetness does enough to round out the palate without completely losing natural acidity. Serve it up with some white mould cheese and a smoked pig product….
Wine sample courtesy of Villa Maria Vineyards