Pinot Gris is one of the most misunderstood grape varieties. It is not one of the big popular names – like Chardonnay and Shiraz – nor a grape variety that everyone knows what to expect when they grab a bottle. It can also be a little confusing with some wines labelled as Pinot Gris and others as Pinot Grigio but dive deep into either and there is plenty to like.
Pinot Gris is actually a mutation of the red Pinot Noir grape but is incredibly different in every way.
While Pinot Noir is subtly fragrant with earthy, wild cherry and strawberry fruits good Pinot Gris bursts with orchard fruits. Classic Pinot Gris has aromas of ripe pear but also there is often floral complexity, with apple and sometimes a touch of peach skin.
Pinot Gris is also not light-bodied like Pinot Noir. Rather it is a full-bodied, rich and textural white with vibrant and powerful fruit. Shy and retiring Pinot Gris is not. Usually made in a fruit forward style without much, if any, oak it is a variety generally enjoyed young without significant aging potential.
In Australia it is not unusual to see a Pinot Gris labelled as Pinot Grigio, as they often are in Italy. The Italian style is a simple crisp, dry white with delicate floral, pear fruits. It is like Italy’s version of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – an everyday drinking white with enough interest to invite a second or third glass but nothing to write home about. And the Australian style is almost identical – bright, pure and clean fruits made for sipping by the pool.
But if you really want to get a handle on what this grape is all about then it is a cool climate Pinot Gris that you are after. And Australia has plenty of great examples, most of which are found in Victoria’s Southern regions, such as the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Geelong and Macedon Ranges, or across the ditch in New Zealand. Here Pinot Gris gains what is arguably its greatest element – a rich, unctuous and creamy texture often matched by just a touch of sweetness.
Just like a full-bodied Barossa Shiraz Pinot Gris has loads of extract and richness on the palate, without the fleshy Shiraz tannins. On top of this great Australian Gris has an alluring perfume with both power and delicacy, which knocks most Sauvignon Blancs out of the park and makes this high quality grape variety well worth a look.
What do you pair with Pinot Gris?