What’s special about Pinot Gris wine? How is Pinot Gris different from Pinot Grigio?
The zesty flavors of a light and crisp Pinot Gris wine make it a perfect companion for a casual summer dinner!
In this detailed article, take a virtual trip to France and discover the world of Pinot Gris white wine - its colorful history, wine regions, unique wine styles, and how it’s different from Pinot Grigio wine.
Also, discover the best Pinot Gris wines to buy in 2020 and the easiest way to buy them.
This Article Contains
- Taste and Characteristics of Pinot Gris
- Food Pairings with Pinot Gris Wine
- Best Pinot Gris Wines in 2020 (Including Tasting Notes, Prices)
- 2001 Domaine Weinbach Pinot Gris Altenbourg Quintessence de Grains Nobles, Alsace, France
- 2002 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Selection de Grains Nobles Trie Speciale, Alsace, France
- 2005 Domaine Weinbach Pinot Gris Altenbourg Selection de Grains Nobles, Alsace, France
- 1993 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Heimbourg Turckheim Selection de Grains Nobles, Alsace, France
- 1994 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl Vendange Tardive, Alsace, France
- 1998 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos Saint Urbain Selection de Grains Nobles, Alsace, France
- 2008 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Selection des Grains Nobles, Alsace, France
- 2004 Domaine Weinbach Pinot Gris Altenbourg Vendanges Tardives, Alsace, France
- 2007 Domaine Marcel Deiss Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives, Alsace, France
- 2010 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos Saint Urbain, Alsace Grande Cru, France
Pinot Gris - A Grape With Many Names
A member of the Pinot family, the Pinot Gris grape variety hails from the white wine region of Alsace. Pinot Gris and its siblings (Pinot Blanc - a white grape, and Pinot Meunier) are some of the most popular grape varieties of France.
This beautiful grayish purple, white wine grape is believed to be a mutation of Pinot Noir.
Now, Pinot Gris grapes are known as “Pinot Grigio” in Italy. But, there’s a marked difference in the variety of wine styles made from these two grapes.
Let’s see how they differ.
Pinot Gris Vs Pinot Grigio
Both French Pinot Gris and Italian Pinot Grigio grapes have the same DNA profile. Being a Pinot Noir mutation, the only difference is that it is known as Pinot Gris in France and Pinot Grigio in Italy.
Not only Pinot Grigio, but the other Pinot family grapes also go by various names. Grigio is called Pinot Beurot in Burgundy and Pinot Blanc is known as Pinot Bianco in Italy.
It’s worth noting that the climate and terroir affect the characteristics of the grape variety immensely.
Pinot Grigio grape grown in the hillside region of Lombardy produces light and citrus wines. On the other hand, Pinot Gris grape grown in the compact sedimentary soils of Alsace produces sweeter wines. (More on this in a bit.)
Another significant difference between Alsace Pinot Gris wines and Italian Pinot Grigio wines lies in the different styles of winemaking.
- French Pinot Gris wines are often late harvest botrytis wines. That’s why they taste sweet with a rich and warm palate. The winemaker uses neutral French oak barrels for fermentation, so the wine gets notes of sweet spices while keeping fruit flavors dominant.
- On the other hand, Italian Pinot Grigio wines are light-bodied, with floral aromas and fresh stone fruit and lemon notes. Pinot Grigio wine is fermented in steel tanks, which gives them a bright acidity.
Now that the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio style wine are clear, here’s everything you need to know about Pinot Gris.
- A Brief History of Pinot Gris
- Climate and Terroir Influences on the Pinot Gris Grape
- Pinot Gris Wine Regions
- Pinot Gris Wine Styles
Also read: Discover an incredible ran
A Brief History of Pinot Gris
Pinot Gris originated in the ancient wine region of Burgundy, where it was called Fromenteau in the Middle Ages. It was also grown in the neighboring Champagne region until 300 years ago.
From there, it started its journey around the world.
- Pinot Gris traveled along with Pinot Noir and reached Switzerland by 1300 and then Italy.
- In 1375, Emperor Charles IV imported the grape variety to Hungary. The Cistercian monks planted the cuttings on the slopes of Badacsony. Here, Pinot Gris is known as Szürkebarát or “Grey Monk”.
- In 1711, a German merchant, Johann Seger Ruland, discovered this grape variety in the fields of Palatinate and called it Rulander. Later, it was found to be Pinot Gris.
- David Lett, from Eyrie Vineyard, brought Pinot Gris to Oregon in 1979. He grafted Riesling and Pinot Gris Wines and produced the first Oregon Pinot Gris wine - though it was not successful.
It was in 1991 that the King Estate winery produced high-quality Pinot Gris wines and opened up a country-wide market for this wine.
Pinot Gris remained in the shadows until the 19th century. That’s because the Burgundy and Champagne regions produced poor yields, and the grape varietal often lost its flavor.
The grape had the same fate in Germany, but here, the local winemakers were able to produce its clones that produced more consistent crops.
Pinot Gris Wine Regions
Pinot Gris is grown in almost all major wine regions, including the USA, Germany, France, New Zealand, Australia, Austria, and Switzerland.
Today, there are three prominent Pinot Gris wine regions:
- France: 14% of Alsace’s vineyards are dedicated to Pinot Gris vines. Along with Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat, Pinot Gris is considered a noble grape of the region.
Pinot Gris grapes are used to produce the Alsace Grande Cru AOC varietal wine, late harvest botrytis wine (Vendange Tardive), and sweet Selection de Grains Nobles wine.
- Italy: In Italy, major Pinot Grigio wine regions are Lombardy, Alto Adige, and Friuli Venezia Giulia.
- United States: The United States produces fruity Pinot Gris wines with slightly acidic character. The major Pinot Gris regions in the United States are Oregon, California, and Ohio.
Climate and Terroir Influences on the Pinot Gris Grape
The cool climate of the Alsace region of France produces some of the best Pinot Gris wine grapes.
Dry autumns in Alsace make it easier for the grapes to stay on the vine, which helps them dehydrate and develop natural sugars. It helps the winemaker to ensure there’s a good amount of residual sugar after the fermentation.
Grapes grown in warmer climates lack acidity and structure and have higher alcohol content.
Also, the warm volcanic soils of Alsace gives Gris style wine rich smoky flavors.
Pinot Gris Wine Styles
This wine grape produces different styles of wine around the world, which can be broadly divided into two major groups.
- Old World Wines include those from Alsace and Germany. German and Alsatian Pinot Gris wines are medium to full-bodied with intense floral aromas, balanced acidity, and tropical fruit flavors.
- New World Pinot Gris Wines refer to easy drinking Gris wines from the United States and New Zealand. Oregon Pinot Gris wines have tropical notes of pear, apple, and melon with a medium body and a bright acidity - a great example would be Ponzi Vineyard Oregon wine. Wines from California, on the other hand, are lighter with a stone fruit flavor.
New Zealand winemaking style (New World wine) is more similar to Alsace Pinot Gris wines.
Taste and Characteristics of Pinot Gris
Pinot Gris wines are characterized by fresh acidity with citrus flavors (lime, Meyer lemon, and orange.) It has seductive floral aromas, and sweet fruit flavors of ripe pear, white nectarine, and apple.
Also read: Want to know the amount of calories in your favorite glass of Pinot Noir? Here’s a detailed guide to estimating calories in a glass of wine
Food Pairings with Pinot Gris Wine
The best part of Pinot Gris is that it can be paired with anything - from seafood like salmon and shellfish and lighter dishes like sauteed vegetables, to a hefty flavorful dish like turkey.
Cheese like Gruyere, Muenster, and Grana Padano, also pair well with Pinot Gris wine.
Don’t know the best Pinot Gris to pair with your Sunday brunch?
Best Pinot Gris Wines in 2020 (Including Tasting Notes, Prices)
Here are our favorite Pinot Gris wine bottles:
1. 2001 Domaine Weinbach Pinot Gris Altenbourg Quintessence de Grains Nobles, Alsace, France
A rich vin d’Alsace, Wine Spectator describes this wine as ‘purity of flavor’. The sweet fruit aromas of apricot, white peach jam, and cherry bursts through the nose.
The palate is warm with a roasted ripeness that ends with a spicy flavor of white pepper and stone fruit. It has subtle hints of lemon curd to balance the sweetness.
Price of 2001 Domaine Weinbach Pinot Gris Altenbourg Quintessence de Grains Nobles, Alsace, France: $703
2. 2002 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Selection de Grains Nobles Trie Speciale, Alsace, France
Coming from a prominent Alsace vineyard, Clos Jesbal, the 2002 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht wine showcases the grape variety in its purest form. The high acidity of this lush and balanced dessert wine is balanced by a smooth and lasting taste of apricots and honeysuckle.
Price of 2002 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Selection de Grains Nobles Trie Speciale, Alsace, France: $353
3. 2005 Domaine Weinbach Pinot Gris Altenbourg Selection de Grains Nobles, Alsace, France
This is a rare vintage white wine from one of Alsace’s most prominent wine estates. It has bright acidity with yellow fruit flavors dominating the palate with a slight minerality.
Price of 2005 Domaine Weinbach Pinot Gris Altenbourg Selection de Grains Nobles, Alsace, France: $365
4. 1993 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Heimbourg Turckheim Selection de Grains Nobles, Alsace, France
A sweet white wine with balanced acidity, the 1993 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris style wine is full of coconut and banana aromas. The oak barrel aging has given this Alsace Pinot Gris wine spicy notes that add a slight kick in the mouth.
Price of 1993 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Heimbourg Turckheim Selection de Grains Nobles, Alsace, France: $446
5. 1994 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl Vendange Tardive, Alsace, France
A beautiful golden wine, the 1994 vintage showcases the rich, sweet flavors of the ‘noble rot’ fungus. The nose is heavily scented with a smokey aroma balancing the
honey, spice, and fruit notes. The palate is full-bodied with dominant notes of sweet spices, mangoes, ripe apricot, and peach.
Price of 1994 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl Vendange Tardive, Alsace, France: $141
6. 1998 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos Saint Urbain Selection de Grains Nobles, Alsace, France
A full-bodied sweet Alsatian Pinot Gris from Zind-Humbrecht, the 1998 vintage has a rich and warm palate. This white wine has a long and lasting finish with dominant spice notes (mostly cinnamon), nutmeg, honey, white pear, and raisin.
Price of 1998 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos Saint Urbain Selection de Grains Nobles, Alsace, France: $238
7. 2008 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Selection des Grains Nobles, Alsace, France
With sweet honey flavors balanced by bright acidity, the 2008 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris is full of sweet fruit flavors. The perfumed nose of this Alsatian white wine is dominated by the scents of baked apple, fig, honey, acacia, apricot, and peach. The palate is rounded and has a lasting finish.
Price of 2008 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Selection des Grains Nobles, Alsace, France: $268
8. 2004 Domaine Weinbach Pinot Gris Altenbourg Vendanges Tardives, Alsace, France
The 2004 Domaine Weinbach Pinot Gris Altenbourg Vendanges Tardives is a late harvest dessert wine. With hints of pine, lime, and grapefruit, you also get notes of guava. Subtle minerality on the palate, the wine has a refreshing acidity that balances the floral notes of rose.
Price of 2004 Domaine Weinbach Pinot Gris Altenbourg Vendanges Tardives, Alsace, France: $119
9. 2007 Domaine Marcel Deiss Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives, Alsace, France
Another late harvest Pinot Gris wine from the Alsace region, a glass of the 2007 Domaine Marcel Deiss Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives reveals citrus notes and a slight minerality. The residual sugar and the fruitiness of candied fruit is balanced by the tangy acidity.
Price of 2007 Domaine Marcel Deiss Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives, Alsace, France: $157
10. 2010 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos Saint Urbain, Alsace Grande Cru, France
The 2010 vintage by Domaine Zind-Humbrecht comes from Rangen de Thann estate vineyard. Rich ripe fruit - apricot and peach - dominates the palate.
The fruit flavor of this varietal wine is balanced by the citrus flavors of lemon and orange. You’ll also notice an earthy minerality in this no-tannin wine.
Price of 2010 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos Saint Urbain, Alsace Grande Cru, France: $108
Does Pinot Gris Wine Age Well?
Pinot Gris wines are admired for their approachable tropical fruit flavors and are meant to be enjoyed young. They can age well from 1 to 4 years.
However, some of Alsace’s sweet Vendanges Tardives and Selection de Grains Nobles have great aging potential (10-15 years).
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