The Pinot Gris (French name) or Pinot Grigio (in Italian) or also Grauburgunder (in German) is a white wine grape variety of the species Vitis Vinifera (the common grape vine) that is thought to be a mutation of the Pinot Noir variety. These grapes are normally a brownish-pink, or bluish-grey to black, and even white at times, in appearance. The word 'grigio' is the Italian translation of the French word 'gris' (whereas 'pinot' means 'pineapple', referring to the bunch's shape). It is a variety native to Alsace, found along the French-German border, within the Burgundy wine region of France. This variety is considered to be a fine pink grape suitable for making wine, growing in popularity annually in all wine markets.
The vineyards of the Pinot Grigio are now spread throughout the world and can be found in wine regions located in France, Romania, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Chile and Argentina. Of note, however, is that they are particularly relevant in the north-west regions of Italy, namely Emilia-Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto. Pinot Gris has gained popularity in Argentina in recent years and, despite not being a traditional grape variety in the country, has shown great potential in cooler climates, particularly in the Patagonian region. The grape was first planted in Argentina in the late 1990s, when a few pioneering winemakers recognised its potential, before quickly gaining a reputation for producing high-quality wines, with its characteristic acidity and delicate flavours. This has contributed greatly to its success, making it a popular choice among winemakers and consumers alike, offering a fresh and modern alternative to traditional Argentine wines such as Torrontes.
Pinot Gris is grown in several regions across Argentina, including Mendoza, San Juan, and Rio Negro but is most successful in the cooler climate of Patagonia, where it thrives due to the longer growing season and the large diurnal temperature variation. Here, the grapes ripen slowly, resulting in wines with excellent balance, acidity, and great complexity in a region ideally suited to allow for optimal ripening and flavour development. Pinot Gris adapts well to different soils, although it prefers those with good drainage. In terms of climate, it needs a temperate climate, with a wide temperature range between day and night, to achieve a good balance between acidity and sugar. For this reason, the Patagonian region has established itself, in no uncertain terms, as the ideal place for cultivation of this grape in Argentina.
Argentine Pinot Gris wines, which typically exhibit notes of citrus, pear, apple, along with mineral and floral undertones, are often fermented and aged in stainless steel to preserve their delicate flavours and aromas. These grapes also give rise to wines of various colours, from dark golden yellow, to copper or even slightly pink and may also taste of mixed tropical fruits, such as melon and mango. They produce wines that have moderately low acidity and good alcohol content, as well as an oily texture that contributes to their body.
According to the National Institute of Viticulture, in excess of 441 hectares cultivated with Pinot Gris were registered in Argentina, which represents 0.2 per cent of the total area of vineyards in the country. The number of hectares throughout the country has increased by approximately 30 per cent in the last decade with San Juan province having the largest planted area of this strain. Vineyard distribution includes San Juan with 203 hectares (46 per cent), followed by Mendoza with 190 hectares (43 per cent) while the other provinces have the remaining 48 hectares (11 per cent). The country's varietal exports, for the Pinot Gris and its blends were approximately US$10.4 million earned from markets including the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Belgium and Italy. In the domestic market, 1,979 hectolitres of this wine was consumed, representing an increase of 52 per cent over the previous year and 0.1 per cent share of the total varietals marketed in the country.
On the heels of yesterday's commemoration of Pinot Grigio Day worldwide, Thursday Food shares five of the best Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio wines from Argentina:
Pulenta Estate XIV Pinot Gris is a 90-point, 100 per cent varietal made from vines first planted in 1992, at 980 metres above sea level, by Bodega Pulenta Estate. The wine is yellow in colour with slightly greenish tones. On the nose, there are white flowers, peaches and apricots while on the palate, it is very fresh and persistent with balanced acidity and a long, pleasant finish.
Bodega Piedra Negra Alta Colección Pinot Gris is a 100 per cent varietal produced from vineyards at Finca Chacayes in the Vista Flores region of Mendoza's Uco Valley. The wine has a clear green colour with bright lights. Its aroma is intense and fresh with notes of pear and lime blending with aromas of quince, melon and green tea. In the mouth it is round and smooth with a fruity finish.
Callia Pinot Grigio is a 100 per cent varietal from Bodegas Callia, that was produced from vineyards located in Tulum Valley, San Juan province. This wine is pale yellow with steely hues, expressing fruity aromas with marked citrus notes such as orange. It is intense, yet delicate and harmonious all at the same time, with a full mouth-feel, balanced acidity and orange flavours.
Argento Estate Bottled Organic Pinot Grigio is a 100 per cent varietal by Bodega Argento that was made from grapes grown at Finca Pedemonte, Mendoza. This wine is an elegant Pinot Grigio that offers floral and tropical fruit aromas. On the palate, it is light and clean expressing flavours of ripe apricot, white peach as well as chamomile notes with a bright finish.
Trapiche Costa & Pampa Pinot Grigio is a 92-point, 100 per cent varietal made by Trapiche Wines in the Chapadmalal region of the Buenos Aires province. This wine has light green tones and expresses citrus notes, with a predominance of lime and lemon. It is very fresh in the mouth with a marked mineral presence and a long and refreshing finish.
Overall, Pinot Gris is a promising grape variety in Argentina, offering a unique expression of the country's winemaking prowess. Salud!