Pinot Gris is New Zealand’s fastest growing export wine. At a time when wine sales are fairly flat throughout the world Pinot Gris exports are growing at the comparatively heady rate of 15%. Pinot Gris is a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hide grape variety with dual personalities. It has two style benchmarks: the Italian model (labelled Pinot Grigio) which tends to be light, crisp, dry and racy; and the French/Alsatian model (labelled as Pinot Gris) which is typically richer and more luscious with stronger, riper flavours.
Both styles are made in this country. Unfortunately they are all labelled as Pinot Gris. A bottle of New Zealand Pinot Gris could be dry or sweet, light or rich, delicate or flavoursome. It’s enough to make a frustrated Pinot Gris drinker reach for a bottle of Chardonnay.
Aussies to the rescue
The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) launched a study to help sort the lean from the luscious. The study group, led by Peter Godden, came up with the “PinotG Style Spectrum” a nine-point scale that uses spectral analysis to identify where each wine fits between the extremes of crisp and luscious. It is, according to Godden, believed to be the first time the style of a wine has been able to be fingerprinted in this way.
Here are the style descriptions from pure Pinot Grigio (1) to classic Pinot Gris (9):
- Crisp, lean and racy
- Dry, tangy and vibrant
- Lively, fresh and zesty
- Fruity, elegant and refreshing
- Stylish, soft and supple
- Full, round and silky
- Velvet, generous and richly textured
- Powerful, warm and sumptuous
- Luscious, opulent and rich
Godden and his team are encouraging Pinot Gris producers to let them analyse their wine so that winemakers can print a scale on the back label of each bottle to indicate wine style.
I totally support this initiative. If adopted by local producers it will increase buyer satisfaction and should boost sales of Pinot Gris.
I asked Godden whether he preferred Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris. “I’m about a 3.5” was his reply.
Brancott Estate Pinot Gris, Marlborough 2013 – $28.99
7 – Velvet, generous and richly textured. Flavoursome wine with lush pear and savoury nut characters. Initial sweetness is balanced by fine tannins to give a nearly dry finish. A very good example of the Alsace-style.
Sugar Loaf Pinot Gris, Marlborough 2013 – $17
2 – Dry, tangy and vibrant. Closer to the Italian Pinot Grigio style this fine-textured, dry wine has subtle fruit and delicately savoury flavours. Fine tannins give it a peppery texture. Good food wine. – view on bobcampbell.nz
First published in KiaOra Magazine – Nov 2014.