Pino Grigio or Pinot Gris?

Flagship wines 04.06.15

Flagship wines 04.06.15 - Credit: Archant

If you look down the wine shelves in a wine shop or a supermarket you’ll be likely to find bottles with Pinot Grigio on the label and some with Pinot Gris. Have you ever wondered what the difference is or indeed whether there is one?

Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris are two names for the same grape variety. It is instantly recognisable by many wine consumers as the name of a very popular Italian white wine that has global recognition and fame. However, it originated in France, in Burgundy from the Pinot Noir family and also in Alsace and produces fruit that has grey brown skin.

Despite being from the same grape variety the names have become tied to different styles of wine. Pinot Grigio is mostly applied to Italian wines from this grape that is very light, crisp and fresh often without much fruit character hence it’s appeal to so many people and is the most often found white wine in pubs. When the name is used for wines from this grape in other countries to cash in on the popularity of the Italian wine it often doesn’t match up in the sales level though is likely to be a better wine. Examples of this are from Australia such as the Yalumba Y Pinot Grigio and the Californian Cycles Gladiator Pinot Grigio.

As with everything though there are Pinot Grigios and Pinot Grigios - and if you pay a little more than the low supermarket offer price there are some floral fruity wines with character – look out for them at around £7 per bottle.

However the Pinot Gris from Alsace often has a fuller richer style with pear fruit notes and a more mouthfilling texture with a hint of spice. Here the Appellation laws that are applied to wine production ensure that the wine is of a higher quality as they determine the quantity of grapes produced per hectare as well as wine production. In the past it was also known as Tokay d’Alsace but this is no longer acceptable within the wine laws. Look out for wines from the Co-op at Turckheim that produces wines that show the full character of the grape variety and also producers such as Metz and Hugel to name just a few.

New Zealand wine producers who have focused on Sauvignon Blanc on which they have built a fantastic quality reputation for so long are now turning to Pinot Gris to extend their repertoire and reflect the depth and breadth of New Zealand’s wine making. The classic Pinot Gris from New Zealand has a tangy fruitiness with notes o stone fruits and pears with a hint of spice and white pepper on the finish which lingers on the palate. These wines are also showing potential to age as the wine can be aged carefully in oak barrels. Delicious examples can be found from Larry McKenna ‘the king of Pinot’ in his Escarpment range from Martinborough, Esk Valley in Hawkes Bay, and Kevin Judd, who made his name as the first Cloudy Bay winemaker, now makes stunning Pinot Gris based wines under his own label, Greywacke, in Marlborough.

So whatever your budget or wine taste try a Pinot Grigio or a Pinot Gris noting it is worthwhile spending a little more to buy a wine with style rather than always the cheapest.