Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio? The trendiest white wines!

Until winemakers worldwide manage to convince us that Riesling has returned or Chardonnay should be rediscovered, the trendiest white wines will continue to be made from the grape known as Pinot Gris in France – also known as Pinot Grigio in Italy, Grauburgunder in Austria and Szürkebarát in Hungary.

French Pinot Gris is grown primarily in Alsace where it is allowed and encouraged to become fully ripe.

Leaner and lighter in style, Italian Pinot Grigio is grown in Friuli-Venezia Giulia region in the north-east and arguably at its best in the Alto Adige along the border with Switzerland.

Winemakers often name their wines Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio depending on whether they believe their wines reflect the Alsatian or the Italian style.

They use the same wine grapes, despite the different names.

Inexpensive International Canadian Blended (ICB) wines are made primarily from imported wines brought into the country in container tanker-loads from almost anywhere in the wine world and may – or may not – contain some Canadian grown grapes or wine.

Jackson Triggs Pinot Grigio (789982) $9.49 is just such an ICB wine. It is light and floral and full of apple and ripe pear and peach flavours that make it much fruitier than any Italian Grigio. Chill this white down and serve it alone or paired with almost any light dish.

In that same ICB category XO XO Pinot Gris + Chardonnay (754176) $10.49 enhances similar tree fruit flavours by adding a dash of honeyed and lightly oaked Chardonnay for a denser texture and hints of melon.

High-volume ICB domestic wines from BC’s Big Three – Arterra, Andrew Peller and Mark Anthony – sometimes confuse the Grigio vs. Gris, style/name rationale. Italian wines seldom make the same mistake.

Citra Pinot Grigio Terre Di Chieti (539312) $12.99 comes from the Abruzzo region of eastern Italy. The lemon and lime notes that it features finish wine a subtly salty twist. In turn that same salty sweetness enhances the citric fruitiness of the wine.

Cool-climate growing regions like British Columbia are proving to be perfect for growing richer Pinot Gris. Sharing similar conditions, New Zealand’s grape growers and winemakers have also embraced Pinot Gris wholeheartedly.

From the Nelson region on New Zealand’s South Island Kono Nelson Pinot Gris (472225) $15.99 features extravagant aromas and flavours of fresh-cut apple, ripe pear and honeyed cantaloupe melon. Despite the ripe fruit notes, this white finished with enough natural acidity to cleanse the palate between sips.

Here in British Columbia our wines offer a wide range of styles depending on where the grapes are grown as well as the winemakers’ preferences. And Gris/Grigios are some of the most popular wines in our local wineries’ portfolios.

Amazingly affordable for a rich and fruity style, Mount Boucherie Pinot Gris (602094) $17.99 is a full-bodied white with spicy pear and honey notes, off-set by bright lemony acidity. This is 100 per cent Pinot Gris grown in their own vineyards in the Similkameen Valley.

On Vancouver Island, serious grape winemaking began after a provincial government-funded trial – the Duncan Project – assessed around 100 different varieties between 1983 and 1990, identifying Pinot Gris, Auxerrois and Ortega as promising varieties for the Island’s cool, moist climate.

Vancouver Island’s Blue Grouse winery dates back to 1988 when Dr. Hans Kiltz and his wife Evangeline bought the test acres from Westwood Vineyards. And Blue Grouse’s wines have only improved through those 30 years.

Their ‘Quill’ label, introduced in 2014, allows the winemaker, Bailey Williamson, to express his talents. Their goal with these cross-regional BC blends is to strike a balance between the lean, crisp grapes grown on Vancouver Island and the riper fruit-forward grapes from the Okanagan.

Two thirds of the grapes in Blue Grouse Quill Pinot Gris (4487) $19.65 come from Vancouver Island’s Comox Valley and a third come from the Okanagan Valley. The grapes were fermented separately in stainless steel and then blended together.

This lively white overflows with aromas and flavours of apricot and pear and finishes with a splash of lemon and lime.

Sample Blue Grouse’s finest wines at the Campbell River Daybreak Rotary Wine & Blues Fest on Saturday June 9 at the Maritime Heritage Centre. Advance tickets are available for $60 at the Tidemark Theater. After May 31 tickets are $75.

Reach WineWise by emailing douglas_sloan@yahoo.com

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