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Pinot Gris

This variety is a mutation of the Blauburgunder (Pinot noir) grape and therefore originally came from Burgundy. Despite its reddish-blue colour, Pinot gris is a white wine grape as the pigments reside in the skins, not in the flesh.

Pinot gris: the red white wine

Although the colour of the grape skins can be anywhere on the spectrum from greyish-blue to reddish-brown, Pinot gris is actually a white grape variety. It is vinified both as a red and as a white wine. In red form the grape can be found in blends together with Pinot noir, while as a white wine it can be found in Bourgogne blanc with Aligoté, Pinot blanc and sometimes also with Chardonnay. The colour part of the name “gris” (grey) indicates a pigment variation, and there are lighter and darker berries. Pinot gris produces golden-yellow wines.

Popular in Alsace: wine from Pinot gris

The Pinot gris grape variety has a long list of antecedents and is thought to have sprung from a mutation of Pinot noir during the Middle Ages. It is believed to have originated in Burgundy.
Pinot gris can also be found in Hungary under the name “Szürkebarát” – grey monk – after the monks who introduced the variety. In Germany wine made from Pinot gris is produced primarily in Baden. Germany produces a soft, higher-alcohol style of Pinot gris as a Prädikatswein (superior quality wine) under the name of Ruländer. However, recently these have also been vinified as dry and crisply acidic Grauburgunders. The variety is also to be found in Austria, Romania and northern Italy.
Pinot gris enjoys an excellent reputation in Alsace, where it is considered a noble grape. Around 90% of the Pinot gris plantings in France are in Alsace. It was formerly known there as “Tokay d’Alsace”. This designation was banned by the EU Commission, however, because of potential confusion with Hungarian “Tokaji” wines.

Pinot gris: a sweet grape

Pinot gris usually has low acidity. This means that a relatively cool climate is needed to avoid flabby wines with too little acidity. Otherwise Pinot gris yields extract-rich wines with aromas of almonds, honey and figs. The grapes have a high sugar content so they are often vinified sweet, especially in Alsace.