Monday, November 10, 2008

Joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, November 9, 2008: The Rise of Pinot Gris Down Under

Most Italian pinot grigio tastes of next to nothing – LDN (light, dry, neutral) in wine writers’ shorthand. Presumably that’s its virtue for the huge numbers of people who buy it week in week out in Britain. The surprising thing (apart from its popularity) is that, inherently, pinot grigio is not short on flavour and body. You only have to look at wines made from pinot gris - same grape - in Alsace. They’re honeyed and fruity with a nutty, spicy richness. They can also be sweet and labelled Vendange Tardive accordingly.

The difference between the two styles is partly geography, but a lot is down to choice: the number of grape bunches growers allow their vines to bear and when they decide to pick them. Big crops and early harvests give the timid-tasting big-sellers. Small yields and late harvests give full-on flavour, but a more niche market.

This has made it tricky for producers in the new world. They want to cash in on the fashion for Italian pinot grigio, but neutral-tasting wine goes against the grain. In the end, most stick to what they do best: flavour. Lots of it.

2008 The Ned Pinot Grigio, £9.99
Pink-tinged, medium-weight, with apple, peach, spice and a hint of sweetness; from New Zealand (Majestic, £7.99 when you buy 2; Waitrose).

2007 Tinja Pinot Gris, £9.75
Crisp, zesty pear, peach and orange flavours, from Orange, Australia (Lowe Wines,01389 830643, Vin du Van, 01233 758727, L'Art du Vin, 0131 555 6009, Provender Brown, 01738 587300).

2006 The Lane Single Vineyard Pinot Gris, £9.99
Rich, nutty, peachy with fine acidity; from the Adelaide Hills (Waitrose).