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Pinot Gris – The “Other” White Wine

Pinot Gris (or Tokay Pinot Gris) is a white wine grape of species Vitis Vinifera related to Pinot Noir which goes by a lot of other names:

Pinot Grigio (Italy)
Pinot Beurot (Loire Valley, France)
Ruländer (Austria and Germany, Romania, sweet)
Grauburgunder or Grauer burgunder (Austria and Germany, dry)
Grauklevner (Germany)
Malvoisie (Loire Valley, France and Switzerland)
Tokay d’Alsace (Alsace) (currently being renamed due to EU regulations)
Auxerrois Gris (Alsace)
Fromentau (Langudoc, France)
Fromentot (France)
Fauvet (France)
Gris Cordelier (France)
Grauer Mönch (Germany)
Monemrasia
Crvena Klevanjka (Croatia)
Sivi Pinot (Slovenia)
Szürkebarát (Hungary)

“Pinot” means “pinecone” in French, and “gris” means gray. The grapes grow in small clusters (hence the pinecone shape), and upon ripening, often show a pinkish-gray hue, although the colors can vary from blue-gray to pinkish-brown.

Pinot Gris is called Pinot Grigio in Italy, and the grape is grown in many regions, although, arguably, most successfully in Alsace (France), Italy, Germany, and Oregon. In the United States, Pinot Gris has recently supplanted Sauvignon Blanc as the most well loved white wine grape next to Chardonnay. In fact, Pinot Gris is often referred to as “the other white wine”.

Pinot Gris produces wines that are generally fruity in aroma, with flavors of honey, apple, pear, vanilla, oak, and citrus. The flavors can vary from region to region, but a excellent Pinot Gris will show crisp acidity, balanced with silky sweetness, resulting in a complex array of flavors on the pallet. Pinot gris goes well with foods typically associated with white wines, including fish, seafood, chicken, pork, and Asian cuisine.

Pinot Gris is thought to have originated in the Burgundy region of France, and was planted in Northern Europe for many years before making its way to Oregon in the 1960′s. The grape is presently grown in many different areas, but prefers the relatively cool climate of places like France, Germany, Italy and Oregon, where the long (but not too hot) summer days mingled with cool autumn weather bring the grapes into perfect ripeness.

Pinot Gris grapes grown in Italy (Pinot Grigio) usually produce a somewhat wanting, light-colored wine with crisp acidity. German Pinot Gris tends to be medium-bodied, with excellent balance between sugar and acidity. Grapes grown in Oregon tend to produce a wine that is medium-bodied, exhibiting strong fruit flavors and aromas and superb crispness. Pinot Gris produced from grapes grown in the Alsace region of France has proven to show full-bodied, floral flavors, and a deep viscosity with a long-lasting end.

Pinot Gris made from grapes grown in other regions can also be tasty, but generally don’t deliver the same brilliant qualities that people have come to expect from wines made in the regions listed above. California is one area where Pinot Gris is grown, but the wines made there tend to be flabby, losing their complexity due to the warmer weather. In fact, Pinot Gris produced in California is often called Pinot Grigio because of the similarity in style to the wines from Italy.

Pinot Gris can be found in many places, from restaurants to tasting rooms to supermarkets. Listed below are some of the places you can buy Pinot Gris, and what it might cost you.

Restaurants – Easily the most expensive place to buy wine, the restaurant offers a cozy atmosphere, sometimes knowledgeable waiters, and comprehensive wine list. For a decent bottle of Pinot Gris, be prepared to pay 30 to 40 dollars or more, depending on how fancy the establishment is. One thought for frugal restaurant dining is to call beforehand and question if you can bring in your own tasty bottle of Pinot Gris. The restaurant will charge you a nominal “pouring fee”, but you won’t have to shell out the huge bucks.

Supermarkets – Probably the least expensive place to buy wine, your neighborhood Safeway or Albertsons offers a variety of Pinot Gris at prices ranging from $7 to $20. Just don’t expect too much help from the stockboy when deciding which Pinot Gris would go best with osso buco.

Tasting Rooms – Many wineries have their own tasting rooms with dramatic views and enchanting music geared to place the consumer into a wine buying-trance. If you buy Pinot Gris from the tasting room, but, you are usually buying directly from the winery, and won’t get the huge discounts that the stores receive. Expect to pay somewhere between 15 to 30 dollars for a excellent bottle of Pinot Gris.

The Internet – A fantastic place to shop for wine in general, the web offers you some super deals. The upside of web shopping is that you can browse the wine shoppe at 3 AM if you desire. The downside is that every state has their own particular wine laws, and you may have to shop for awhile before you can find someone to ship Pinot Gris to your state. Oh, and you have to pay the shipping costs, and the wine may be exposed to all kinds of elements and hazards on its way to your door.

Wine Festivals – If you live in a reasonably populated area, chances are that you have an annual wine festival within 20 miles or so. These are fantastic places to try a variety of wines by the glass, and mingle amongst large crowds. You will probably be paying close to Tasting Room prices, though, so a bottle of Pinot Gris will run you 12 to 25 dollars.

Wine Shops – Most wine shops have prices that are competitive with those found in the supermarkets. Wine shops also carry a nice variety of wines, but best of all, the owners or workers will often possess valuable knowledge that they will share with you most whole-heartedly if you promise to buy a bottle or two.

About the author: Scott has worked at an Oregon winery for the last four years, and has learned an dreadful lot about wine, especially Pinot Gris, during that time.

Visit the Pinot Gris Blog at pinotgris.biz pinotgris.biz

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