Pinot Gris: The Ultimate Winter White

With chilly winter weather still in play for a few more weeks, it’s an ideal time to seek out fuller, richer white wines. And, while for many wine-lovers a rich, creamy Chardonnay may be the perfect answer, there is a great alternative, Pinot Gris. Indeed, with its appealing notes of pear, apple, stone-fruit and spice, round mouth-feel and often rich texture, Pinot Gris may be the ultimate winter white.

Pinot Gris is the richer, spicier alter ego of Pinot Grigio. The two are exactly the same grape, made in two contrasting styles; Pinot Grigio, typically crisp, fresh and lively and Pinot Gris, generally richer, riper with greater texture and weight. Most Pinot Gris does not show obvious oak character although many are vinified and matured in large old oak.  Lees contact and partial malolactic fermentation are also commonly used to impart greater textural complexity.

The word ‘gris’ is in fact French for gray and refers to the pale-grey sheen colour the grapes often take on after veraison. Perhaps most astonishing to many wine drinkers is that Pinot Gris is actually a pink-skinned mutation of Pinot Noir. Interestingly, the two varieties are virtually indistinguishable in the vineyard right up until veraison, at which point Pinot Gris takes on an array of hues; ranging from pinky-orange to pale to dusty-gray purple.

Pinot Gris’ most famous home is in Alsace, where it is made in a range of wine styles from dry, to off-dry through to lusciously sweet botrytised styles.  Alsatian Pinot Gris is a rich and textural experience often with beguiling notes of ripe pear, spice, truffle or smoke.

And whilst the richer more textural Pinot Gris style was once predominantly confined to Alsace, Pinot Gris can now be found around the world, from Oregon to New Zealand, Northern Italy to Australia.

Want to experience Pinot Gris for yourself? Check out Langton’s selection from around the world, perfect for winter drinking.

Andrea Pritzker

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