This white-wine-producing mutation of Pinot Noir is enjoying a wave of popularity perhaps greater than it has ever known, and certainly on a wider geographical scale – even if it is relatively rarely known by its true French name Pinot Gris. The word pinot, comes from the word meaning “pine cone” in French, and could have been named because the grapes grow in small pine cone-shaped clusters. The clone of Pinot Gris grown in Italy is known as Pinot Grigio. Until recently Pinot Gris was probably known mainly in Alsace (as Tokay d’Alsace), northern Italy (as Pinot Grigio) and in Germany (as Grauburgunder or Ruländer). Today however it is known and increasingly planted in less classic wine regions, from Mendoza and Monterey to Marlborough. There has been a dramatic increase in plantings in Napa in the late 1990s.
Pinot Gris is one of the darkest-skinned grapes producing white wine, with a range of grape color from deep golden yellow-orange to gray-blue to pink-brown hues. This color difference is derived from a genetic mutation in the Pinot Noir clone that occured centuries ago. In the vineyard, Pinot Gris has a remarkably similar DNA profile to Pinot Noir, and its vines, leaves, and berries look identical to Pinot Noir, but the coloration is the major aspect that differentiates the two. The grape grows best in cool climates, and mature relatively early with high sugar levels. This can lead to either a dry wine higher in alcohol or a sweeter wine. Pinot Gris has the advantage of showing equally well in a wide range of different sweetness levels.
Pinot Gris can produce perfumed, substantial wines and is admired for its weight and relatively low acidity. It is considered an “early to market” wine that can be bottled and out on the market within 4-12 weeks after fermentation. Pinot Gris fulfils a unique function as a provider of super-rich wines that can be consumed early.
Flavor Profile: Pear, red apple, tangerine, honeysuckle, citrus, melon