I just read a story by Joshua Mason on SCNOW, Published: August 14, 2012 entitled, A pinot gris for every taste, darnit. The title totally intrigued me, because I’m working with a group of Oregon wineries on a Pinot Gris project to get publicity for their variety. (Of course, I was intrigued.)

Joshua has lived in Oregon, and traveled through Willamette Valley, even getting the proverbial t-shirt… “It’s Willamette Dammit.” Yeah, I understand that attitude, having been there many, many times. Joshua wrote, “The slogan wasn’t crude cursing on behalf on an Oregon wine region. It was commentary on an oft-mispronounced name: Willamette rhymes (more or less) with ‘dammit.'”

He’s totally nailed the uniqueness that I’ve been trying desperately to find as a “statement” about an Oregon Pinot Gris, versus what’s happening in Alsace, Italy, California, or any where else. He writes:

Oregon Pinot Gris are much different than those of California or Burgundy. Oregon Pinot Gris are a night and day comparison to those from northeast Italy or Alsace. How can the same grape can have such a different representation simply because where it is produced? … Pinot Gris … is produced in many different ways. The Italians make it as a wine that is light with crisp acidity, with pronounced granny smith apple hints along with a floral nose. It is what we in the industry call “clean.” Winemakers in the Willamette Valley tend to make more of a spicy, slightly fuller-bodied Pinot Gris with hints of orange and coriander. (Yes, I am suggesting that comparing the two styles are like comparing apples to oranges).

There it was… My own light bulb finally went on for how to differentiate it from Italy. Apples to oranges…

But, what about Alsace?

Pinot Gris from Oregon is always compared as either being similar to one region or another, but never what it is from its own region. So I went further hunting off line, in my own wine (books) library. I researched Pinot Gris wines from Alsace, to grab the most used adjectives, trying to find out what else beside apples and oranges would help to guide writers, who are asking, “If it’s not like an Alsatian or Italian Pinot Gris, then what is it about?”

  • The Everything Guide to Wine
    • “Alsatian Pinot Gris grapes show up in dry, acidic wines or decadent late harvest styles.
    • “In general, Oregon’s Pinot Gris is medium-bodied, yellow to copper pink in color, crisp, with full fruit flavors. The wines from Alsace are medium-to full-bodied, slightly floral, and less fruity.
  • Drink This Wine Made Simple
    • “… You should find that the cheap Italian one is thin, the Alsatian one fatter and more complicated, the Oregon one someplace between the two…”

Back on the Internet, I went looking for that third defining fruit character, also used a lot… “pear…” which is much more complex in flavors than an apple, and richer in texture than an orange. sure enough, it was very easy to find.

Tom Stevenson’s Alsace Guide:

  • Alsace Tokay Pinot Gris “Barrique” 2001 Zink Pierre Paul ~ Oaky Pinot Gris! This is a very serious, very sweet wine, with classy oak on the finish, and toasty, crystallised apples, pears and pineapples on the aftertaste.
  • Alsace Grand Cru Brand Tokay Pinot Gris 2002 Boxler Albert ~ Soil: granitique. Concentrated fruit. Real VT level, even if not so classified. Very rich, very sweet. Crystallised pears and apples.

Eric Asimov equates the flavors of an Alsatian Pinot Gris with the word “peach,” decidedly more complex than apples and oranges:

  • Barmès-Buecher Rosenberg Calcarius 2002 ~ Sweet but beautifully balanced, with plenty of peach and apricot flavors.
  • Trimbach Réserve Personelle 1999 ~ Dry, with intriguing aromas of peach and flowers.
  • Albert Mann Grand Cru Furstentum 2001 ~ Semisweet with aromas of peach and honey.

What I’ve come to surmise in this exercise, using other people’s comparatives, is this:

  • Light ~ Italian Pinot Grigio ~ apples
  • Medium ~ Oregon Pinot Gris ~ oranges and tangerines, to pears
  • Heavy ~ Alsatian Pinot Gris ~ pears, to peaches and apricots

Now, the true lesson will be to buy several of each and set up a tasting.


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