Pinot Gris [Grigio] a varietal perfectly suited to our region.
In the last couple of years, the national consumer magazines, ‘Wine Enthusiast’ and ‘Wine Spectator’ have touted Pinot Gris as a ‘rising star’ among California wines. The articles say it is because of the variety’s intrinsic qualities: not as rich and oaky as Chardonnay, but fruitier and rounder than Sauvignon Blanc with ‘zesty acidity that makes the wine so clean and crisp to drink.’ And given the Grand River Region's location within the international Pinot Belt [a narrow band of latitude that stretches from France to Oregon where many great Pinots [including the red version] it makes sense for us to pay attention too.
And we should take note because it goes well with food. Because it tastes great: light and refreshing. Maybe because it is usually moderately priced.
In the realm of Pinot Gris production, Ohio has been planting this variety for over 25 years. Long before some the west coast prognosticators began touting it, we were on its case. We began planting this grape in the late 80’s at the urging of our wine research team from Ohio State University. And in the last half dozen years, our wines have garnered dozens of gold and silver medals in wine competitions across the country, well ahead of when some of our cohorts on the west coast were submitting the varietal for peer review!
Pinot Gris is a cool climate grape – which works perfectly with our growing conditions. It ripens early enough in the season for good ‘hang time’ so grapes can reach their fullest maturity. It has a pink, tight cluster. In Europe, it is important in northern Italy and in Germany [where it is locally known Rulander] and parts of France near the German border in a district called Alsace.
Winemakers love to work with it in their cellars as the wine can be made into a wide range of styles: dry with a hint of oak in the French style [Gris] or with no oak and a touch of sweetness in the Italian style [Grigio]. Depending on how the wine is finished, it shows wonderful floral aromas and citrus flavors of lemons and limes or that of crisp green apples. In its richer styles, vanilla, peaches, honeydew and roasted almonds are predominant.
It is also a wine versatile enough to serve with either elegant cuisine or simple family fare. Restaurateurs pair Pinot Gris with many different styles of seafood. It works well with vegetarian dishes and Lenten meals that feature pasta and cheesy sauces. Some match it with ‘the other white meat’ pork roasts and chops.
The world wine community traditionally measures its progress in generational terms. The very brief time from those early research plantings to gold medal wines can truly be described as the proverbial ‘overnight success story’ along in the Grand River Valley.
And for wine lovers, a weekend excursion to explore the several pinot gris/grigio wines made in the Lake Erie region will provide an in interesting experience indeed.
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About the author:
Donniella Winchell, Executive Director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association...