The world of wine, like any other, is subject to the foibles and fads of fashion. In the 1970s, UK consumers guzzled litres of Black Tower and Blue Nun until its popularity declined. Gloom-mongers have long predicted that the same thing will happen to the New World oaked Chardonnay, whose success has in part replaced that of the easy-drinking German duo.
There is no doubt that wine drinkers today are looking for alernatives, for something lighter and fresher. There is a reaction against the “vanilla ice-cream” aromas, and “sweet oaky, toffee, butterscotch” flavours of a fullflavoured, heavily oaked Chardonnay. So, step into the frame, the lighter, aromatic Pinot gris, aka Pinot Grigio.
Nowhere is this more true than America, where plantings and sales of Pinot Gris have steadily grown in recent years. Sales of domestic and imported brands of Pinot Gris have steadily grown in recent years. Sales of domestic and imported brands of Pinot gris in the US grew by more than 40% in 2000 to 741,000. According to the California Agricultural Statistics Service, the number of hectares (ha) of Pinot Gris has grown nearly tenfold in four years, from 57 in 1997 to 502 in 2001. The story is the same in New Zeland, where plantings have increased by over 1,000% to 232 ha in the last decade. In cool-climate Oregon, Pinot Gris is now worth more than Chardonnay, with a ton of grapes fetching $ 1,300 compared with $ 1,000 a ton of Chardonnay.
It is not just Pinot Gris from California and Oregon that is proving popular Stateside, Italian Pinot grigio is also doing well. Elsewhere there’s also same interesting examples coming out of New Zeland. And of course, there is Alsace, the long recognised king of this grapes. In this tasting, we have compiled a selection of Pinot Gris from around the world to consider the different styles thet are on offer, and to see how they fare against each other.
It was immediately apparent that Pinot Gris can be translated into a number of different styles and flavours. A few wines from New Zeland were almost Sauvignon-like in character, a touch green and herbaceous but with an oily weight to the palate, whereas other wines were ripe with pear, mango, ginger, melon, peach and passion fruit. By contrast, Italian Pinot Grigios were typically fresch and at times neutral, with delicate nutty nuances. More honeyed and aromatic styles scored well, but more restrained wines were generally judger a touch bland. The Alsace wines proved to be by far the most popular, running the whole sweetness gamut from off dry to vendange tardive.
To truly translate into a good or great wine, Pinot Gris needs to be aromatic with good balancing acidity to enable the wine to age, otherwise it becomes toffeed and flappy. Many of these wines had all the necessary components in place and scored extremely well. with one Gold metal wine and eight Silvers.
Who were the testers?
Mark Bingley MW is a sales director at Maison Marques et Domaines Ltd
Samantha Jones is tasting co-ordinator for Wine Magazine
Robert Joseph is publisching editor of Wine Magazine
Charles Metcalfe is associate editor of Eine Magazine
Sthephanie Toole is the owner and winemaker of Mount Horrocks in the Clare Valley
Antony Rose is wine writer for the Indipendent
Derek Smedley MW is a wine consulent
Robert Wolheim MW is a wine importer
Point 85: Pierpaolo Pecorari Pinot Grigio 2001 Isonzo del Friuli, Italy
“ Crisp, fresch, appley, well-made and modern with high acidity”. CM
“Smoky, juicipeach fruit with residual sugar. Concentrated and pure with lovely spicy fruit and highish alcohol.” RC
“Same fruit and depth with a nice sweet weight. Age 1 year.” DS