Pinot Grigio has a reputation of an Italian grape variety, although it’s been created in France where it’s known as “Pinot Gris” (grey Pinot) from a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape in the Burgundy region. There are countless names for this grape, depending on the region: known by at least 7 names in France, it has German, Austrian and Greek variations, like Malvoisie, Grauklevner, Grauburgonder or Monemvasia.
Most people think of Pinot Grigio as a zesty and refreshing summer wine, with touches of citrus fruits and green apple, but as always grape type is not enough to define a wine, we can find a great variety of flavours in wines made from Pinot Grigio.
Italian production has made this variety very popular and as such has been adopted by many wine regions including Australia, this is likely how it got its reputation of a punchy and acidic wine you can drink as a lemonade under the sun. However, grown in the cold and rainy Alsace region (Northern France), it does not give the same wines at all: Sweet, fruity and full bodied, Pinot Gris from Alsace is a very special production, close to Eastern Europe Tokaj. Using advanced wine making techniques and very late harvest to maximise the concentration of sugar in the grapes, the French Pinot Gris is unique. Some Rose versions of Pinot Grigio can also be found in Central Italy.
Why so many names?
First, because grapes don’t look the same from one place to another even though it’s the same variety. It’s colour ranges from light shades of grey, almost white, to greyish dark blue. Secondly, because there are so many ways to make wine from it.
Pinot Grigio wine pairing
You will enjoy the classic Italian light Pinot Grigio most at aperitive time, early evening when the sun is still warm. But it can easily be accompanied with white fish, grilled shrimp and veggies. An Alsatian version of Pinot Gris will be appreciated with tastier dishes like rabbit or chicken stew, hard cheeses or blue cheeses.
Pinot Grigio in Australia
As has often been the case, knowledge for winemaking has come from Europe, and Australian winemakers have taken their inspiration from France. South Australia, Tasmania or Marlborough are growing Pinot Grigio to get this full-bodied and fruity Alsatian taste with typical oily texture. Both names “Pinot Gris” and Pinot Grigio are in use in Australia, depending on the level of sweetness/acidity of the wine.