The time for harvest is upon us, and as winemakers across the country roll up their sleeves and put in the hard work, we wanted to take time to stop and appreciate one member of the amazingly diverse grape family - Pinot.
" Autumn to me is the two Pinots - Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. It's when the vines and trees senesce, changing colour from green to orange/red in their Autumnal splendour, and in Pinot grapes the colour change is how we get the two different varieties (well, three actually). Pinot is genetically unstable and expresses itself in three colour ways - Noir (black); Gris (pinky/grey) and Blanc (white)." - Jo Gear
The Pinot family is made up of three grape varietals - Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc. We can thank years of natural genetic modification for this; Pinot Gris, or Grigio, and Blanc are all colour mutations of Pinot Noir.
So how does this work? Pinot is genetically unstable and expresses itself in different grape berry colours. Pinot Noir has the most active anthocyanins (a component that contributes to the colour of a grape) while Pinot Blanc has the least. Pinot Gris/Grigio sits somewhere in the middle, part way between Pinot Blanc and Noir.
Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape variety, the difference in name reflecting the origin and sometimes the wine style.
Originating in Alsace, the Gris in its name translates to "grey"; in French it's Gris, in Italian it's Grigio.
What many people don't realise is the grape's skin is a pinky grey, not the green you would expect. The grape is easily influenced by terroir and wine making choices which achieves a great range of flavour characteristics and styles for wine lovers to enjoy.
In terms of style, Gris is typically grown in cooler climates and can be richer/sweeter/heavier in body with classic pear/ginger/stone fruit characters.
Grigio is drier on the palate and more refreshing, typically grown in hotter climate countries like Italy.
Pinot Blanc is most commonly found in Alsace, France. Unlike Pinot Gris which tends to be heavier in body, Pinot Blanc displays a bit more acidity and structure and has a rounder expression. Pinot Blanc can also be oaked for more richness, resembling Chardonnay to a degree, and is also used in sparkling wine production, in Italy in particular.
So, whether you love your Pinot Noir, Gris or Pinot Blanc we suggest you raise a glass this harvest to the talented Winemakers of New Zealand.