Some Thoughts on Pinot Gris

A Wine Profile and Review

There are two names for one grape variety in the world of wine, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio.  However the wine styles associated with these names can taste quite different.

Unlike grapes for Pinot Grigio that tend to be picked earlier in the season to make highly acidic, neutral, green fruit profiled wines, grapes for Pinot Gris style wines are left to hang and mature to a greater depth of ripeness.  What does this mean to the wine drinker?  Well it is the difference between eating a partially green acidic tomato from the vine, and one that is left to mature into a rich red fruit that has fuller flavour and ripe sweetness.  If Pinot Grigio were a person they would be a lanky teenager with braces, and Pinot Gris would be their sophisticated much older sibling sporting a pant suit and patent heels.

Typical flavours of old and new world Pinot Gris are Melon, Ginger, Banana, Ripe Pear, and Stonefruit. Quality versions of these wines will develop notes of honey and have light floral character.  As a generalization mos wines are fermented and aged in stainless tanks, however some wines can see mild treatment in oak. These are usually in inert older oak barrels that impart very little or zero ‘oak’ flavour into the wine.  Usually oak treatment will show through in notes of soft vanilla, honey, and a creamier texture to the wine due to small amounts of oxidation.

Because of the high level of acidity and fullness of body in many styles of Pinot Gris, these wines work beautifully with dishes that are rich in fat content, and equally heavy in texture.  One of my favourite pairings with Pinot Gris is poultry oil and cheese fondue.  Fried poultry, rich pork, poultry gravies, saurkraut, grilled seafood and smoked pork are great as well.  Avoid any sweet glazes, or fruit unless you know your wine has a little sugar content to it. The higher alcohol in the fully dry wines will cause a bitter taste in the wine to be intensified.

These wines are usually Dry to Off Dry in sweetness.  If you are looking for a truly dry style of Pinot Gris, look for bottles that list a higher alcohol percentage – usually in the 12.5-14% range if the g/L of residual sugar, or dryness level are not indicated.  That is a little trick that while not fool proof, should point you in the right direction.  The higher the alcohol percentage… the lower the sugar content of the wine.

The Taste Test

Alsace Pinot Gris, and BC Okanagan Pinot Gris are my top 2 favourite regions for this style of wine.

I had the pleasure of evaluating 3 wines from Tinhorn Creek winery in a vertical tasting of the vintages 2013, 2014, and 2015.  It was a fun exercise, and overall the vintages were quite consistent in flavour profiles, with only subtle differences on the nose and palate.  I have compiled my full tasting notes of each of these three great wines, and highly recommend picking up a bottle or two to test the goodness for yourself!

2013

Medium intensity nose of White Blossom, Honey, a tiny hint of Flint, Pear and Melon.  Dry on the palate with Medium + acid. Medium/Full body, but slightly lighter in body and lower in alcohol compared to the 2014 and 2015 at only 12.9%.  Flavours on the palate are of pears, ripe apple, a healthy dose of steely minerality, a hint of honey, ginger, and white pepper.  This had the lowest acid of the three, and when compared to the other two, was the least intense in flavour.

2014

Medium Intensity nose of Smokey flint and mineral dominate the nose upfront, then slowly give way to notes of pear, green apples, light floral, and finally tiny hints of ginger.  On the palate this dry wine has high acidity (most acidic of the three vintages I tried).  Medium to full body, with a creamy mouth coating texture, and a medium finish.  This had the most body of the three.  On the palate notes of crab apple, under ripe peach, and mineral dominate.  The alcohol content is warming on this at 13.5% and the finish lingers for a couple of minutes, though is overall is medium in intensity of flavours

2015

The most aromatic of the three wines, this was the Fruitiest and sweetest smelling of the three.  It is important to note however that it is just as Dry as the others, however the more intense characteristics of fruit and florals give the impression of sweetness.  The nose is reminiscent of ripe peaches, candied bananas, poached pears, baking spices (ginger, clove), white flowers, and a steely minerality on the nose (in that order!)  The intensity of fruit flavours is higher on the 2015 vs. the 2014, or 2013 and all of the flavours are riper and louder in their expression on the nose and palate.  On the palate ripe peach, orange blossom, saline, steely minerality, and a lingering final note of yellow grapefruit rind dominate.  The finish was the longest, and most intense of the 3.

Overall the 2015 was my favourite, and in my opinion the highest quality of the three options you can find on local shelves today, and is the one I would pick up an extra bottle or two of.

Where can you buy it?  Locally in my hometown of Airdrie these can be found at Airdrie Superstore, Co-op, Sobey’s, and Liquor Depot.  Though at the time of this blog only Sobey’s Liquor had all 3 vintages still in stock to choose from.  Prices vary, but this wine will typically cost around $19-$24, which is great value considering the dimension of flavours in all of these quality wines.  On a side note, their Gewurztraminer is a 4.5/5 Star wine for me, so be sure to grab a bottle of that while you are there!

A Little Note About Tinhorn Creek

Tinhorn Creek was founded in 1993 and is Canada’s first “Carbon Neutral Winery”.  Their scenic vineyards overlook the winery’s namesake gold mining creek with vines planted on both the Black Sage and Golden Mile Bench.  The 2015 and 2014 Vintages were made in the trusted hands of winemaker Andrew Windsor, meanwhile the 2013 Vintage was credited to Sandra Oldfield.  Their diversity in having land on both sides of the creek gives them a special opportunity to properly explore their local and extremely varied terroir of both gravelly, rocky soil, and sandy loam.  This gives them a unique opportunity to carefully offer the best growing conditions for the grapes of the wines they create.

Cheers!

– Kathryn

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