I’m certain most of you have heard, if not tasted Pinot Grigio, as it is quite common at the grocery store. Slightly less common is Pinot Gris. Is there a difference between these two or are they the same just labeled slightly different? While they do originate from the same grape, Pinot Gris, as it is named in Alsace, France, tends to be acidic with a fuller mouth feel and complexity from the soil in which it grows. Pinot Grigio, as it is named in Lombardy, Italy, is crisp and delicate with hints of citrus fruit. If you have tasted one of the large volume, commercial Pinot Grigios, then you may be aware it is very unoffensive. What I mean is that it is not too acidic, too sweet, too fruity, too floral, too oaky, or too buttery. Most bottlings of it, as a wine professor I once had aptly stated, are the water of wine. (There are far better versions that originate in Italy, but those need to be sought out). While the wines do originate from the same grape, Gris tends to have brighter, more discernible fruit and floral notes with a heavier body, especially if they originate from Oregon, like a vast majority of those we find in the Northwest. Renditions from Willamette are said to be a good marriage between the two styles.
The wine (and food pairing) I selected this week, I picked up at my local Costco. The wine is from King Estate in Willamette Valley, Oregon. They have been a family owned winery since 1991 with a focus on sustainability. Sustainability in wineries is important because it allows the farmers to put nutrients back into the soil as they grow quality fruit. Biodynamically focused wineries such as King Estate, use sheep flocks to eat the cover crop (clovers and grasses) during the months of vine dormancy. While doing this, the sheep also fertilize the grape vines for the following growing season. Utilizing these principles allows wineries to limit, if not completely avoid, the use of herbicides, synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Using biodynamic and sustainable farming practices in wine grape production, closes the loop, keeping most all outside influences away from the fruit. For many of us that grab a bottle of wine off the grocery store shelf, these concepts may not even be in the corner of our minds but for me, over my years of drinking wine, I have come to love and appreciate methods. Seeing pics of the grazing sheep in Mid March at some of my favorite wineries reminds me they care about producing the best product and they understand there is no other way to do it but by treating the soil as a living entity that needs to be cared for in the coming generations.
My Costco had a few brands of Pinot Gris to select from but I grabbed the King Estate, as I am a sucker for ‘Family owned and farmed’ labelling. When I poured the glass of the medium lemon wine that covered my glass in discernible legs, I smelled notes of citrus and tropical fruits with honeysuckle. I decided, with zero thought, to pair this with a shrimp ceviche. The ceviche had red bell peppers, cilantro and a healthy amount of lime juice. While the acid in the ceviche was a touch too much for the wine, the tropical fruit and citrus notes, along with the floral notes, in the wine, paired beautifully with the ceviche. The juxtaposition of the textures in both also added to the pairing experience. The hint of sweetness in the wine shaved an almost immeasurable amount of acid from the ceviche. Overall, the wine was lovely for many reasons, including its long, lovely finish and beautiful complexity. This wine is wonderful for warmer spring days before the summer heat arrives!