This varietal offers clusters of grayish-blue colored grapes that have mutated from the Pinot Noir varietal. Pinot Gris means “gray” in which the skins yield a brassy colored white grape juice. There are two basic styles of Pinot Gris/Grigio. In Italy, the grape is known as Pinot Grigio, where its largely grown in the north central and northeast regions. Traditionally, these grapes were harvested early in order to preserve ample acidity even though flavor ripeness wasn’t always fully developed.
When picked in this manner, the wines tend to be lightly aromatic with subtle aromas and flavors. The structural components consist of light body and higher acidity. This approach has started to slowly shift with higher quality versions experiencing extended hang-time along with application of some brief maceration with its skin for additional viscosity, and perhaps some contact with lees for a couple of weeks to months.
France and Oregon—truly the rest of the world—identifies this grape as Pinot Gris. Typically, Pinot Gris expresses quite a different style of wine as compared to Pinot Grigio. Pinot Gris is often left on the vine for a slightly extended time period in order to obtain greater flavor development. This yields a greater “fruit-forward” quality to the wine. In this process, the grapes sacrifice a small amount of acid, but in return, the grapes gain greater aromatics and a bit more body. Structural components offer light to medium body and medium acidity with moderate alcohol content.
Pinot Grigio/Gris often has subtle, somewhat light to fairly aromatic nuances that include citrus fruit (lemon), tree fruits (pear and apricot), bakeshop (almond and honey), and mineral (wet stone).
Pinot Grigio (the Italian version) tends to be light-bodied as the grapes are often harvested early to ensure a successful crop prior to any inclement weather. These grapes may be medium to high in acidity and slightly under-ripe—hence their inability to develop as much ripeness, maintaining a lightly aromatic quality. These wines are commonly aged in either stainless steel or neutral oak barrels. Pinot Gris (the French, Oregon, and California versions) offers greater aromatic intensity. Due to the extended hang-time, the grapes have greater intensity and contain a medium body with medium acidity.
Pinot Gris/Grigio thrives in cooler regions that ideally allow for a lengthened fall time to ripen. Some of the most significant locations include France (Alsace), Italy (Trentino-Alto-Adige, Veneto, and Friuli), New Zealand (Marlborough and Martinborough), and Oregon (Willamette Valley).