Sometimes it seems as though a trend finds its way into many different aspects of everyday life. A case in point is grey. We seem to be surrounded by grey: new grey houses, sleek grey cars, blank grey walls, silver grey technologies. Now pinot gris (literally “grey pine”) is the fastest growing category of wine in the shops, growing at 13% a year.
The French call it pinot gris, but Italians call it pinot grigio.
It doesn’t matter because we are talking about exactly the same grape but fashioned into different styles. French winemakers pick pinot gris later and riper, for a more textured and luscious drop while Italians like to pick their pinot grigio earlier, for a light, crisp and minerally style.
Italy planted the most acres of pinot grigio (25,000), France 6,000 and Australia slightly more (7,000 acres) in 2013.
The grey pine is a white mutation of the red pinot noir from Burgundy, but if pinot gris had a spiritual home, it would be Alsace in France. In Australia, this tender little grape grows best in its cooler regions, like Canberra, Tasmania and Mornington Peninsula.
While it was James Busby who brought the grape to Australia in 1832, it was Kathleen Quealy (so-called Queen of Pinot Grigio) and Kevin McCarthy who started to sell their “Pinot G” in the early 80s. Before T’Gallant Wines, the sad little pinot suffered some very contentious press indeed:
- An English wine writer (a truly contentious character) said, if pinot gris were blind tasted beside Evian water, Evian would win
- One prominent Victorian winemaker claimed pinot gris is “dishwater”
- Industry too often abbreviated the grape to PiG.
This just goes to show how things can change! That decrepit warehouse at the edge of the CBD is now a thriving warehouse full of hipsters. So pinot gris/grigio is the white wine of choice in Australia, even if it is grey.
Characteristics of pinot gris
- FRUITS – berries, fruit, citrus, pear, white peach and nectarine
- OTHER AROMAS – herb, spice, flower, mineral, earth
- ACIDITY – medium high/high
- OAK – sometimes made with oak
- SERVE – ice cold
- OTHER NAMES- Grauburgunder (Germany), Tokay d’Alsace (ancient)
The tangy and zesty acidity of pinot gris loves to be paired with freshly cut vegetables, raw fish, shellfish and lighter meals, such as soft cheeses.
You can pay $US269 for a Domaine Zind-Humbrecht (winery) 2001 Grand Cru Clos Saint-Urbain Rangen de ThannSéléction des Grains Nobles (designation) Pinot Gris (Alsace). Or you can pay $35 for a Contentious Character Pinot Gris, wooded or unwooded, from Canberra’s cool climate vines. We also have a very special award winning 2009 Pinot Gris for a mere $40.
If you have never tasted a pinot gris, by any name, it is time to try a bottle. After all, grey is the new white.
About the Author – Tony Mansfield, Director Brand, Marketing, Sales for Contentious Character
No stranger to managing change and opposing views, the diplomatic skills Tony honed as manager of leading global communications agencies are put to great use at Contentious Character. With a head for business, a nose for wine and a passion for yoga, all find their balance in the tranquil cool climate hills of our vineyard, where he’s embracing the chance to step into the Lambert’s shoes and join a community of likeminded producers.
Contentious Character is a contemporary vineyard estate with winery, cellar door, kitchen, and event facilities, in the hills of Wamboin, 15 minutes from Canberra Airport. Experience a taste of the entire Canberra region in one location, with wines from the Founders Museum Collection of old world style vintages. These aged wines have matured exceptionally well with cellaring and now present a mellow complexity, way beyond their value.
They are complemented by recent vintages, under the Contentious Character brand, that brings a fresh new world twist to the old world styles. Look across the vineyard and surrounding countryside while the kitchen serves up a fresh, local sharing menu, paired to the wines, for special times, with family and friends. That’s hardly contentious!