Pinot Gris is often thought of as the grape next door - commonplace, approachable, and pleasant. Originating from France, Pinot Gris is mostly used to make a dry white wine that is zesty with notes of stone fruit. The grape is also known as Pinot Grigio in Italy, where the style of wine made tends to be lighter and livelier with higher acidity. Either expression of the white wine makes for easy sipping in the summer but not something that wows the palate.
|Grayish-pink Pinot Gris by Reinhold Möller|
It’s Not Really White
What you may not know is that Pinot Gris is not even a white grape. In fact, it is a mutation of Pinot Noir, where one of the two cell layers responsible for berry color is missing anthocyanins. It is crazy to think that both grapes are genetically identical except that the skin of Pinot Gris is grayish-pink (“gris” is gray in French) while the skin of Pinot Noir is deep dark red (“noir” is black in French).
|Anthocyanins by Bruna Branco on Unsplash|
Anthocyanins are color pigments found in many blue, red, and purple fruits and vegetables. Although anthocyanins by themselves are odorless and nearly flavorless, they do interact with aroma substances during the vinification process to enhance the flavor of the completed wine. Because of its lower level of anthocyanins, Pinot Gris is seldom made into a red wine.
You Say Rosato
In recent years, I have seen more Pinot Gris being made into rosé (or rosato in Italy). That was actually how I found out that Pinot Gris is not a white grape. SMAK, a woman-owned winery in Walla Walla that makes rosés exclusively, has a summer blush that is 100% Pinot Gris. Depending on the vintage, the color ranges from light copper to pink hue. But it is always crisp, with notes of peaches and melons as well as delicious minerality. I have since tasted other pink Pinot Gris and generally prefer it to the dry white expression.
|SMAK Summer Rosé|