There’s more to Pinot than Pinot Grigio
- Credit: Archant
I’m often asked if I’d like a glass of Pinot and this has become almost synonymous with Pinot Grigio, but to allow this to happen would be a great shame as it would mean that the delicious wines made from Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir are often forgotten except by those looking for out for them.
Taking Pinot Gris first, it is thought to be a mutant clone of Pinot Noir and the fruit often has a bluish skin tone.
The Pinot Gris grape variety is grown around the world with the spicy full-bodied Alsatian wines and the lighter more acidic Italian styles at either end of the spectrum being the most widely recognised.
In Alsace the cool climate and volcanic soils are suited to Pinot Gris and in the warm autumn temperatures the fruit is often picked late, resulting in some wines with complex powerful flavours.
Prior to 2007 these wines were often labelled Tokay d’Alsace as the variety was introduced to Burgundy by the Hungarians and spread.
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Then EU wine laws stipulated that Alsace producers had to phase out the word Tokay from their labels after Hungary joined the EU.
Wines worth looking out for include wines labelled Vendange Tardive or Selection des Grains Nobles.
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New World wine producers successfully grow Pinot Gris in New Zealand, California, Australia etc to make wines that are more akin to the Alsace style though with more ripe fruit notes and lighter more minerally flavours.
A very successful Pinot grower in New Zealand is Larry McKenna aka ‘Larry McPinot’ of Martinborough who has gained a great reputation for the wines he makes from both Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.
Grown on the alluvial gravel soils of the Martinborough Terrace a warm dry summer allows fruit to ripen wonderfully, producing opulent fruit flavours which combine beautifully with barrel fermentation to create Burgundian-inspired Pinot Gris.
It has flavours reminiscent of ripe pears and white stone fruit with delightful soft texture and a lingering finish.
The red wines he also makes so successfully from the Pinot Noir grape includes an exceptional Pinot Noir inspired by classic Burgundy wines. It shows ripe fruit and an appealing texture that is elegant and balanced by soft tannins.
A normal warm dry summer creates the distinctive Escarpment style showing complexity, attractive texture and the perfect mix of black, red and green fruit flavours for which Pinot Noir is celebrated.
Pinot Noir is synonymous with Burgundy though good Burgundies even at the more generic level are more expensive than their New Zealand counterparts.
They are very elegant with silky light vegetal berry fruit notes and soft tannins. Until recently Chilean producers seemed to miss the spot in terms of producing quality wines from Pinot Noir with green fruit notes and an overwhelming burnt rubber syndrome affecting many of them.
Now wineries such as Ventisquero and Montes amongst others are producing wines with varietal character supported with a peppery spice.
Like Central Otago on South Island New Zealand, Tasmania is building a reputation on quality wines made from Riesling and Pinot Noir and though never cheap they offer value – try Sam Neill’s Two Paddocks wines form Central Otago and Dalrymple Pinots from Tasmania.
Easter Day is often a time of family meals and lamb is often served, both the Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir will be great accompaniments to lamb dishes so why not use it as an excuse to try one, should you need an excuse...