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Alsace druvor

Pinot Gris of Alsace

One of a large family

Pinot Gris is one out of several varieties of the Pinot-family that are grown in Alsace. In Italy it is known as Pinot Grigio, while it is calledRuländer in Germany. In Hungary, the name is Szürkerbarat. In Loire it is called Malvoisie, strangely enough, and it is identical to Pinot Beurot of Bourgogne.

According to the legend, Pinot Gris was brought to Alsace from Hungary in the 16th century. The famed officer Lazare de Schwendi is honoured all across Alsace for this. Pinot Gris was brought to Hungary by Burgundian monks in 1375.

Because of its connection to Hungary, the variety has always been called Tokay d´Alsace, later Tokay Pinot Gris. The EU-commission ha given the final, mortal blow to the Hungarian connection, so from 2007 only Pinot Gris is allowed on labels.

Pinot Gris is grown on 13% of the area in Alsace. About 15 million liters of Pinot Gris is produced each year.

A sensitive grape

In Alsace, Pinot Gris gives the biggest of all wines. The aroma includes exotic fruits, dried apricots, toffee, a hint of smoke and most often some mushrooms and wilting leaves (Fr. sous-forêt). The mushroom aromas are to a great extent caused byunavoidable traces of rot. It is thus an artifact that can only be limited at picking.

The color of Pinot Gris is golden yellow, normally with a ray of copper that makes it easy to identify already in the glass.

Pinot Gris competes with Gewurztraminer as the wine with most body and weight. At best, a Pinot Gris is a charged wine loaded with compact fruit. At worst, it is flabby with sweet smell and sugary, bland taste.

Pinot Gris is sensitive to yield. The main consequence of high yields is that the grape bunches mature unevenly and incompletely. Some clones result in much fruit, so the quality is largely decided already at planting.

It is also important to pick at the right time. During September and October, the grapes may gain 2% potential alcohol in a few weeks. At the same time, acidity levels drop, making timing of the harvest very important.

Every grower must balance maturity against the risk of late rains. Due to its extremely thin skin, rot and cracked peels presents a huge threat to the quality.

However, if the rot appears as noble rot, Pinot Gris can reach sensational must weight corresponding to 18-20% potential alcohol. Under such conditions, winemakers may create wines with 14% alcohol, 80-100 g/liter R.S. and remarkable levels of acidity.