Pinot Gris has at least another nine aliases which gives some indication of the world-wide popularity of this grape and, maybe, its adaptability to differing conditions. There is a huge range in the quality of wines it produces, from the insipid tasting Pinot Grigio to, for instance, the intensity of an Alsace vendage-tardive. There seems to be a consensus that Alsace produces the most interesting wines from this grape, no doubt helped by low yields and the long, dry autumns which enable full maturation of, and flavours in, the grapes.
The wine we tried was Kuentz-Bas Grand Cru Eichberg 2010 (ABV 14%). It cost £22 (WS). The vineyard’s area is just south of Colmar, in Eguisheim, and benefits from very low rainfall in normal years; in the ‘heatwave’ 2010 vintage the wines produced were expected to be of great longevity and very delicate. And so this proved.
The wine had rich lemon yellow colour with no hint of green, suggesting fully ripe grapes. This was detected on the nose, which was a fruit-bowl of smells – very ripe gooseberry, rich rhubarb, raisins – all at maximum maturity. Lovely. The initial hit was sweet but then, through a smooth, weighty mouth-feel, developed a long dry finish. It was a beautifully made and balanced wine.
The wines produced from this grape variety are wonderfully attractive – just avoid the cheap northern Italian versions. However, there are some excellent Pinot Grigios from that region, you just have to be prepared to pay a little more them.