By Christine Salins.
If neither Chardonnay nor Sauvignon Blanc is your drink of choice, consider Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio for summer quaffing. It’s a very food-friendly variety that pairs easily with spicy Asian dishes, Indian curries, seafood, salads, pasta and risotto.
Thought to be a mutant clone of the Pinot Noir grape, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the same variety, referred to as Grigio in Italy and Gris in France (both words meaning “grey”). It can produce a huge range of styles, from bright, crisp, restrained wines through to rich, unctuous textures.
Traditionally, Grigio would be picked a little earlier and would be lighter-bodied, crisp and zesty. Gris is usually allowed to ripen more fully and is likely to be barrel-fermented, making it richer and more complex with hints of spice such as cinnamon, clove and musk.
Here in Australia, we see a wide range of styles and it can be difficult to choose between them, as the labelling doesn’t always accurately reflect the style. Some Aussie producers market their wine as Grigio or Gris based on what they perceive the market will respond to, rather than the style of the wine.
As with Pinot Noir, the best examples tend to come from cool climate vineyards.
Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, $21.99: This Italian wine is the best-selling Pinot Grigio by value in Australia. When it debuted in the 1950s it spurred a revolution in the industry. The visionary behind it, Count Gaetano Marzotto, was driven by a desire to capture the delicate fruit and floral notes of the grape. He decided to ferment the grapes without skin contact, a move away from the then-standard “Ramato” method where grapes are crushed and fermented with their skin. The wine is lively with citrus and apple notes followed by a crisp, refreshing palate. It goes beautifully with Silvia Colloca’s Spaghettini dish featured in this week’s recipe column.
Dalfarras 2021 Pinot Grigio, $19.70: Previous vintages of this Central Victorian wine have been very successful on the show circuit and this one will surely also shine. Made by the highly regarded Tahbilk winery, it’s in the Italian style, aromatic with a bright palate and great acidity. Orange and pear notes and hints of spice, it is bold and contemporary, just like the vivid label designed by Rosa Purbrick.
Smith & Hooper 2021 Pinot Grigio, $19: Wrattonbully is an exciting viticultural region, lesser known than nearby Coonawarra but similarly blessed with terra rossa soil over limestone. It produces wines of depth and elegance, and that’s where this beautifully expressive wine hails from. It has a touch of floral on the nose, pear and apple flavours with a hint of musk, plenty of complexity (it is wild-fermented) and great length.
Corryton Burge 2021 Adelaide Hill Pinot Gris, $28: Made by siblings and sixth-generation winemakers, Trent and Amelia Burge, this elegant wine has a beautiful balance of crisp acidity and a lingering creamy mouthfeel. Vibrant with ripe pear flavours and a delicious complexity with hints of honey and spice.
Tahbilk 2021 Pinot Gris, $21.50: Despite a wet and challenging vintage, this classy number turned out not too shabby indeed. With lifted notes of lemon/lime and nashi pear, it is flinty and crisp with good texture and complexity, making it perfect to enjoy with a Thai curry that isn’t overly spicy.