January 19, 2009

Delicious pinot gris

Here in Oregon, pinot gris has a terrible reputation. Yes, many producers make it. And yes, it's our top selling white wine.

But almost no one I know in the business likes it. There's a general disdain for pinot gris. It's bland. It's alcoholic. It's a pain to deal with at harvest time, like any white wine since the grapes are pressed before fermentation meaning they're sweet, tough to get juice out of, and they attract lots of bees.

Really, it's the wine that draws such exasperation. There's good reason, too. So often, local pinot gris IS bland, alcoholic, and otherwise completely forgettable.

Then there's Alsatian pinot gris, or Tokay Pinot Gris as some labels still read. (There's no connection to the wonderful Tokay wines of Hungary, and I thought there were new rules meant to get rid of this old labeling practice.)

Case in point, the 2004 Meyer-Fonne Tokay Pinot Gris Reserve Particuliere. Moderate yellow in color, it's immediately different from the usually watery pale pinot gris you typically find in Oregon.

One sniff and the difference magnifies. There's honey, minerals, yellow fruit, floral notes, and a distinct lack of alcoholic harshness, rather a spiciness that reminds me of being a kid and my grandma's candy jar that always had these delicious looking jelly candies that weren't nearly as sweet or tasty as I hoped.

Sure enough, in the mouth this is a lightly sweet wine but with nice acid cut that balances the residual sugar. Clean and lightly honeyed on the finish, even a little smokey, this wine is delicious and everything I wish local pinot gris could be. Not sweet for the sake of roundness and lower alcohol, but sweet and tangy with great complexity and interest that isn't cloying, tiring to drink, or problematic at the dinner table.

My only complaint -- you don't really know what you're getting with this wine if you only go by the label. It's not clear about sweetness level, or anything really. It's a "particular reserve" wine that suggests it should be good. But what does that mean? Nothing to me anyway, and I'm not up on Alsatian wines enough to know if it's a regulated designation. Maybe consult Thor Iverson for more on such things. Meanwhile, here's pinot gris that you should buy and enjoy.


thor iverson said...

Thoroughly up to the producers' discretion and ethics.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Well that's not helpful. The producers being left up to their discretion, that is. Thank you for the clarification. So we're left to compile our own list of producers that make sweeter or drier wines. I know this - Trimbach, drier. Zind Humbrecht, sweeter. Plenty others in the sweeter category. Perhaps fewer to the drier end. Good luck in your tasting.

Joel said...

Oregon please plant Tocai Friulano more and Verdejo too!

Vincent Fritzsche said...

I admire the request. But just to be clear, "Tokay Pinot Gris" has no relation to "Tocai Friulano," in case there's any confusion about that. Not that either are actually used in real Tokay. That's made with furmint. Sweet, delicious furmint.