Not much to dislike about ‘boring’ pinot gris
Let me first declare my position. I’m with British wine writer and Master of wine Tim Atkin who told delegates to the Fine Wine 1010 conference in Spain that pinot grigio/gris epitomises wines that are becoming increasingly industrialised, homogenised and boring.
But I am prepared, as a concession to its continued and growing popularity to accept that there is not much to actually dislike about this wine made from a grape that is the result of a genetic mutation that occurred aeons ago.
Perhaps one perplexed British wine waiter summed it up best when he said of pinot grigio, the crisply neutral quaffing white known in this, its Italian form: “It tastes of nothing – and the more it tastes of nothing , the more people like it.”
The fact of the matter is that all pinot grigio or gris, whatever you want to call this white variant of pinot noir, does not all taste the same. It depends, as it does with other wines, where it is grown and the style in which it is made.
The rich and round, subtly spiced and fruity pinot gris of Alsace, not the leaner, meaner pinot grigios of Italy, are generally regarded as the benchmark in this country and at their best can be quite stunning wines.
The problem is that there are too many, which, for one reason or another – over-cropping is one of them – undergo a personality bypass. They are lean and lack the characters normally associated with the variety, although these can also vary.
It is the result, I would suggest, of the rush by many producers to cash in on the desire of drinkers over recent years to look beyond sauvignon blanc and chardonnay and the rise and rise of pinot gris’ popularity around the world. It is now New Zealand’s third most-planted white variety.
Get a pinot gris that actually tastes like one, usually with a hint of its trade mark pear, and it is a very satisfying mouthful, particularly good in it’s full-bodied, dry or dryish form, with a wide variety of foods.
A six-pack of pinot gris with personality intact:
Misha’s Vineyard 2009 Dress Circle Pinot Gris (about $26): Another excellent example of the variety from this Central Otago vineyard. Lush with spicy pear and stonefruit flavours but also has an appealing freshness. A good food wine. Dryish.