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Home | White Varieties | Pinot Gris - Whats in a Name?

Pinot Gris - What's in a Name?

It seems that the most challenging aspect of growing this varietal is not the actual viticulture but rather naming the wine. Known as Tokay d'Alsace in its original home of France, Pinot Grigio in neighboring Italy, Grauburgunder or Rulander in Germany, Sivi Pinot in Eastern Europe, and Pinot Beurot or Fromentau in other parts of France, the grape certainly does not have a lack of aliases. The descendant of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris showcases its variety in color as well, forming ripe grapes from bluish grey to pink to brown. That variety certainly has to do with the array of place it flourishes.


Where is Pinot Gris Grown?


Its rise in popularity resulted in a global proliferation of the grape and vintners from Marlborough to Mendoza have planted vines in foreign soils. Since many of those attempts have been in the last decade, it is still unclear if we can expect world class wines to come from those vineyards. So while it has found a home in soils across the world, only a handful of regions can claim excellence in terms of cultivation and production.


France - In the eastern part of France, Alsace owns a unique history, combing French and German traditions to form its own culture and heritage. Part of that history has been the cultivation of Pinot Gris, known locally as Tokay d'Alsace (a conflict that had to be resolved between Hungary and the European Union due to confusion with the Hungarian Tokaji grape). Grown in Alsace since the Middle Ages, Pinot Gris has since been outshined by two other white varietals: Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Nevertheless, the grape still makes a beautiful wine in the region, especially in the southern part of Alsace known as Haut-Rhin.


Alsatian Producers to look for: Domaine Weinbach, Hugel & Fils, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, and Maison Trimbach.


Italy - The Mediterranean nation to the south of Alsace may be responsible for the international explosion of Pinot Gris. Named Pinot Grigio, the wines coming from Italy are a stark contrast to those of its French neighbors. While the Alsatian examples are rich and have a fair amount of body, the Italian offering are usually light, crisp, and fruity, which gives rise to the worldwide popularity. The northern regions of Fruili, Lombardy, and Trentino-Alto Adige are the best bets to find quality Pinot Grigio.


Italian Producers to look for: Armani, Cesconi, Santa Margherita, Cantina Tramin Unterebner, Alois Lageder, Peter Zemmer, and Caposaldo Veneto.


Oregon - Of the “New World” regions that have tried their hand with Pinot Gris, the Willamette Valley in Oregon seems to have had the most success thus far. Along with its genetic predecessor Pinot Noir, the grape is thriving in the cool reaches of northwest Oregon. In fact, in 2000 it surpassed Chardonnay as most planted white varietal and now owns over half of the acreage in Oregon dedicated to white varietals.


Oregon Producers to look for: Elk Cove Vineyards, Panther Creek Cellars, Ponzi Vineyards, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Eyrie Vineyards, King Estate, A to Z Vineyards, Benton Lane Winery, Adelsheim, Cuckoo's Nest Cellars, Sokol Blosser, and Lumos Wine Co.


Pinot Gris Styles


As to be expected with a widespread varietal, Pinot Gris wines vary depending on origin. In Alsace winemakers tend to emphasize richness and fullness. The resulting wine has an almost creamy texture on the palate with distinct minerality known throughout the region. On the nose, the minerality is also present with an array of floral notes as well. In Italy, Pinot Grigio sits on the other side of the spectrum with light bodied and crisp offerings, which seem nearly clear to the eye. The evident acidity creates a lean wine, which is easy to drink, and matches well with a variety of food. Lastly, Oregon leans towards the Alsatian style without as much body and more fruity aromas and flavors. These wines also carry a yellow to copper-pink tinge, and produce aromas of pear, apple, melons, and other fruits. And if history is any indicator, we will have plenty of other styles with a variety of names.  



















Light to medium bodied.  For creamy mouth feel, try Pinot Gris from Alsace or Oregon.

Pinot Grigio from Italy is lighter in style.

Alcohol content generally less than 12-13%


Acidity levels: medium to high, generally described as crisp and clean.


Tannin: None


Pinot Gris is an affordable white wine selection.  Most Pinot Grigio from Italy is less than $15.


Pinot Gris from Oregon and Alsace, can command prices in the $15 - $25 range.


To help understand your wine profile read Your Wine Profile.

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