Week 7 – Pinot Gris

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “This was the first week I left Andy to buy the wine, and he absolutely smashes it with his choice. He turns up to my flat with Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris 2015 from Alsace. Completely without knowing this is one of my favourite Alsace producers and would have been top of my list. Maybe he was channelling early Valentine’s day vibes. Looks like he’ll be the buyer from here onwards…

Onto the wine. I remember the first time I had an Alsace Pinot Gris and this experience brought me right back to that moment. I was really blown away by a white that had that creamy soft body and richness of flavour that you might see in a grape like Chardonnay or Viognier when oaked, but with far more subtlety. On this wine I got the enticing aromas of pear compote, with hints of acacia honey, tangerine peel and mild floral notes. Similarly the palate was soft orchard fruits, kumquat, white pepper. It is textured and round in mouthfeel, but with a nice mineral bite that lifts the honeyed fruit. Gentle but pure and long on the finish.

The secret of Alsace whites is that they don’t oak the wine in small barrels, instead (if they use oak at all) they use large old oak vats. The process doesn’t add flavour like vanilla or coconut (Errrm? I tasted coconut. – Andy) that smaller barrels would give. Instead it just gives the wine a bit of gentle oxygen influence that brings out those more orange peel, soft fruit flavours and honeyed influence. Plus they tend to leave a bit of residual sugar which adds to that perception of fruitiness. These are whites that can age amazingly at the high quality end.

Zind Humbrecht is one of the most famous producers. Particularly because it is biodynamic. That means they manage the vineyards and winemaking in harmony with the lunar cycles. Sounds like hocus pocus? I would say so too but some of the finest wines in the world are made in this way. I can bore you for longer than that on that subject but you’d have to #askEmma. In short biodynamic wines don’t necessarily mean higher quality, but they certainly mean the producer has taken care to respect nature in the way they make their wines.”

Andy says: “It was my job to purchase the wine this week. Armed with my buying guide, I popped into a ‘Little Waitrose’. All they had was a fridge full of Pinot Grigio. Undefeated, I walked a few metres up the road to the local independent wine emporium. “Nailed on”, I thought.

It’s one of those places that you can’t quite fathom – I’ve rarely seen anyone in there but somehow they continue to trade.

“Hello”, I said cheerily. “I’m looking for a Pinot Gris.”

“Pinot…” – a slight pause – “Grrrreeees?”. A torrent of rolling Rs and a modicum of incredulity. You could almost hear him thinking “He means Grigio, the idiot”.

“Yes, Pinot Gris.”

“Oh. Well we don’t have any of that”. He moves from behind the counter, “B..”

Before I could be up-sold (down-sold?) a Pinot Grigio, I bid a cheery “kthxbye” and was off.

Next stop and another walk to the local Oddbins.

“Hello”, I said cheerily. “I’m looking for a Pinot Gris.”

“Ah we only have one, and it’s the last bottle. Bottom shelf, on the left.”

“Perfect, thanks!”.

And that’s how I ended up with a bottle of Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris 2015, from Alsace. I’d like to pretend I knew what I was doing, but no, it was the only bottle within a one mile radius of the flat.

And so to the wine. I got a hint of coconut, it was very dry (I think), and reminded me of Riesling. I like Riesling, and therefore I liked this.”

Buying Guide

Here we go again. Another grape with two divergent versions, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris. The former tends to be harvested early and made in a crisp, dry style with lighter flavours; its homeland is the Veneto in Northern Italy. The latter is the same grape but tends to be picked at full ripeness, has richer body and fruit flavour; original homeland Alsace in France.

It’s quite an easy decision. I imagine you’ve all guzzled a fair few bottles of light and thirst quenching Italian Pinot Grigio in your time.  My sister’s friend once dubbed it “lady petrol”.  Yep, that guy was an obnoxious home counties pint of ale and green wellies type but we all know what he means. Pinot Grigio can be that drink that is quaffable for being empty of flavour and inoffensive. I’m not writing it off, there are some fantastic versions I’ve had from the top producers in Northern Italy, that are lean, mineral with a peppery richness and delicate orchard fruit flavours. But I think we can get more interesting than that.

We’re going to opt for Pinot Gris this week. If your default after work white is Pinot Grigio, then this is the week we might just help you break that habit. Those of you that have had your fill of Grigio, we hope we can bring you back.

I have two regions I most like that produce Pinot Gris; Alsace (France) or Oregon (USA). My first choice for this week is going to be Alsace, so look for the French section of the white wine aisle and keep an eye out for Pinot Gris. But I know that we are mostly buying from major supermarkets and this is a lesser found style. If you can’t get that, Oregon Pinot Gris is a good second best. Lastly, head to the New Zealand section.

4 thoughts to “Week 7 – Pinot Gris”

  1. ‘GOLD’, a word that sums up this week’s adventure into a new grape for me.

    ‘Golden’ yellow in colour and like ‘gold dust’ – i had a similar experience to Andy. Its taken me a week to find somewhere to purchase a bottle of Pinot Gris. Finally last night, Majestic Wine came to the rescue, but only just, i asked the guy in there for a Pinot Gris from Alsace and he took me to the very last bottle he had in the shop.

    Pinot Gris Grand Cru Spiegel 2013, Domaines Schlumberger. So is Pinot Gris so popular everywhere sells out, 52 grapes has increased demand or is it that no one really buys this stuff so nowhere wants to stock it?!

    I’m informed that Spiegel is known as one of the best sites in Alsace for Pinot Gris – I’ll take Majestic’ s word for it

    I was very pleased to get my hand on this bottle, immediately i discover its fruity, some sweetness and ripeness of apricot and honey coming through. I found after a couple of glasses it had a minor waxy feel on the tongue (is this where the honey and the beeswax come together or am i just getting carried away!).

    The back of the bottle suggests pairing this with fresh or fried foie gras, fish in sauce or poultry. I ignored this and had it with a spicy chicken Balti (Emma’s probably shaking her head right now). Its actually went quite well together and the bottle lasted beyond the curry so i equally enjoyed it on its own.

    Karen came in just before i finished the bottle – too sweet for her (its on the cusp of medium dry / medium sweet).

    1. How funny. Sounds like Alsace Pinot Gris may see a spike of sales this month. Although from the reviews so far maybe it deserves a little come back.

      Curry of any type as a food match gets my approval, that bit of sweetness in a wine helps counteract spicyness so that makes this the white of choice for Asian cuisine.

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. A while ago I joined a wine club, Naked Wines. They take £20 from your account each month, and when you’ve saved up enough you can buy a case of wine, for free (almost)!
    This coincided nicely with me wanting to catch up with 52 grapes. I searched for each grape and carefully selected a wine from each recommended region.
    In anticipation of it being Pinot Gris week, I selected a New Zealand bottle. Little did I realise that the buying guide would rank NZ Pinot Gris as the number three option!
    The wine was Dom Maxwell 2016. I get the honey and more mellow Chardonnay taste to it. It’s less acidic than a NZ Sauvignon Blanc which is why I prefer drinking Pinot Gris these days when in NZ.
    I do want to try the Alsace now though!

    1. Ah Naked wines, my mate Ray runs that wine club (name drop!) so that choice gets my approval. And NZ Pinot Gris is actually a good choice because they are making styles pretty close to an Alsace, normally they are a little zippier in style than Alsace. And I get what you mean about it making a welcome change from NZ Sauvignon!

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