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to Gris or to Grigio, that is the question

Fetch yourself a glass of wine, make sure you are comfortable; there is a lot to read.

Let us start with the difference between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris?

Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris wines are crafted from the exact same grape. There is no genetic or DNA disparity whatsoever.

It is a grape, with a greyish/brownish pink skin, hence the name 'gris', masculine from grey in French. Despite the appearance of the grape, it is officially a white grape variety. It originated in France and is a close relation of the Burgundian Pinot Noir grape.

Pinot Gris

The grape is the same, but the wines are different.

Despite the French name, we really have to thank the Italians for bringing such huge global recognition and fame to this variety.

Pinot Grigio is the Italian style of Pinot Gris...confused? Surely not. The two names indicate two different styles of wine.

Pinot Grigio comes historically from the region of Lombardy in Italy but is now widely grown in Northern Italy. In the warmer climate, the fully ripened berries accumulate high sugar levels quickly, and wine made from those grapes would be very high in alcohol, low in acidity and rather flabby.

To achieve the typical light-bodied, crisp, fresh, vibrant style with zesty notes of citrus, apple and pear, the grapes are picked slightly under-ripe and modern winemaking techniques have really enhanced the youthfulness of the wine.

Pinot Grigio, being lighter, is best suited to be enjoyed as an apéritif or appetiser and with dishes such as seafood and grilled meats. 

Pinot Gris vs Pinot Grigio

In contrast, Alsace Pinot Gris wines are more full-bodied, richer, more viscous in texture, a hint sweeter, and have spicy tropical or ripe stone-fruit fruit aromas. Depending on the winemaker's desired style, the fermentation can occur in stainless steel tanks, barrels, or finishing the wine in a mix of both.

The more fruit-driven and textural nuances of Pinot Gris work well with a more decadent fare, such as veal and chicken dishes hard cheeses but excel when paired with Asian style food.

Pinot Gris tends to have greater cellaring and ageing potential.

In Alsace, Pinot Gris late harvest botrytis styles such as Vendages Tardives are sought after, and so is the intensely rich, exquisitely sweet and rare Sélection de Grains Noble.

Today Pinot Gris grapes are planted worldwide in almost every wine-growing region. For the most part, these countries are making the more fashionable Pinot Grigio style which is typically 

easy-drinking and destined for early consumption in large commercial volumes.

Let me confuse you a little bit more about Pinot Gris, just for fun.

Grauburgunder, the German-style Pinot Gris, is preferred by HAWKSHEAD. It denotes a sleeker, drier style without loosing texture and fruit flavours. Those attributes makes it a great companion to many dishes. It is reminiscent of the Alsace Pinot Gris that grows just a few kilometres away on the French side of the Rhein.

A richer, fuller-bodied and more fragrant German version is called Ruländer, discovered by Johann Ruland in the early 18th century. This variant enjoys regional popularity and always matures in barriques. 

Wines that are made in a traditional way from Pinot Gris grapes tend to be golden yellow, but there can be a plethora of hues from light pink to copper.

Another style variation is found in North Italy. Ramato, named after the Italian term for copper, 'Rame'. But the colour alone does not determine the style of wine. A Pinot Gris Ramato is made by and refers to a historic winemaking practice from Friuli, Venezia and Giulia region of North Italy. The farmhouse style, copper coloured wine is apparently very much loved by Italians and described to have an interesting tactile texture. I can't wait to try it in situ.  

But there is alway one more, Pét-Nat or Pétillant Naturel made from Pinot Gris. 

Pét-Nat is a cloudy, bubbling natural wine. The grapes are pressed, and the juice is fermented with indigenous yeast or inoculated. At bottling the wine still contains unfermented sugars and fermentation continues to bubble away in the bottle.

There is another way of making Pét-Nat, which I call 'double-dipping,' e.g. rehydrating pressed grape skins and starting a fermentation …not so sure about that.

Almost done, one more fact. I like to stress; 

Pét-Nat and Rosé wine can be made from most grape varieties, white or black and Orange wine from practically all white grapes. I'll just leave it like that, and if you made it to here, you definitely deserve another glass of wine. 

May I recommend a Hawkshead Pinot Gris, maybe… 

U x

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