Pinot Grigio / Gris wine grape

Pinot Grigio / Gris
Known as Pinot Gris in France and Grauburgunder or Rülander in Germany and Austria, Pinot Grigio is originally French but there is far more grown in Italy and so the Italian name has come to dominate – even on new world wine labels.
It isn’t really a separate variety at all, but a pale-skinned mutation of Pinot Noir.  The first Pinot Noir vine appeared about a thousand years ago, probably in Burgundy, as a chance crossing of now-lost varieties.  All Pinot vines since then have been propagated by taking cuttings from existing Pinot vines.
They’re not all genetically identical because DNA replication is not perfect and mistakes creep in as cells divide, giving rise to different clones.  Pinot Noir seems especially prone to a mutation that causes pale skins (the grape’s colour is all in the skin).  Sometimes a particular cane on an otherwise black-berried Pinot Noir vine will produce pale-skinned grapes.  If a cutting is taken from that cane, the resulting vine will produce only pale grapes.  Hey presto – Pinot Grigio!
As its name suggests, Pinot Grigio berries are not completely pale: they’re grayish-blue or grayish-pink, because the mutation has affected only one of the two coloured layers in the grape’s skin.  A mutation in both layers produces the properly green-skinned Pinot Blanc.
Perhaps its most intense version is produced in the Alsace region of France where it is quite different from elsewhere – powerful and spicy with lots of peachy, stone fruit flavours.  In Italy it is mainly grown in the north in Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino – here it is a light, fresh, undemanding white.  More serious versions can be found in Friuli and Alto Adige, though they’re still lighter and fresher than those from Alsace.

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