WINE O’CLOCK: Pinto Gris and Pinot Grigio: neighbours divided by shades of grey
PINTO Gris and Pinot Grigio are neighbours. Both wines come from the same white grape with a greyish skin (hence the French name ‘gris’). At one stage these wines must have been identical but different production methods have driven them apart.
In Alsace, where most of the French Pinto Gris is made, the harvest is late, producing a rich, slightly sweet, white wine which goes well with fish or chicken.
Across the border, Italians produce Pinot Grigio, which is lighter than Gris, sharp with citrus flavours. It also works well with fish but is very nice as an apéritif, or to sip by itself.
Pinot Grigio became very popular a few years back, which led to over-production and a lowering of standards. But such trends are cyclical and Pinto Grigio seems to have worked its way back to respectability.
The grey Pinot grapes are a mutant strain of the much older, much darker Pinot Noir which produces the smooth red wine of the same name.
Pinot Noir’s home is in France’s Burgundy region, particularly in Cote-d’Or, but it is grown all over the wine-producing world.
The United States has increasingly become a major Pinot Noir producer, with some of the best coming from the Willamette Valley in Oregon and California’s Sonoma County.
New Zealand also produces some fine Pinot Noir.
Another mutation of the grape has given us Pinot Blanc, a full-bodied, dry white from France, Italy and Hungary, with a sweeter version produced in Austria and Germany.
You won’t see much Pinot Blanc in Ireland beyond the shelves of independent, specialist traders. The others Pinots are common and not expensive.
Expect to pay €10 to €12 for a decent Pinot Noir or Gris, a little less for the Grigio.