Join Wines of Alsace for “The O.G. PG: An Exploration of Alsace’s Pinot Gris Styles” Wine Discovery Session and learn more about one of the region’s most versatile varieties: Pinot Gris. Held on Saturday, November 11th and led by Wines of Alsace’s Cassidy Havens, DipWSET, this session will focus on how and why Alsace’s version is different from Pinot Grigio (the same grape variety) and the various styles produced in the region.
While Pinot Grigio tends to be synonymous with a light, mild style and loved for its simplistic flavor profile, Alsace Pinot Gris is drastically different due to a number of elements including the region’s location, terroir and winemaking. Powerful, opulent, and well-structured, these wines provide substance and complexity in a range of different styles, from dry and aromatic, to rich and full-bodied to lusciously sweet. Though Alsace isn’t the birthplace of this variety, it has popularized the Pinot Gris style, which is referenced the world over.
Situated on the foothills of the Vosges Mountains in the northeast corner of France, Alsace follows the Rhine River southward in a long, narrow strip. The Vosges Mountains provide a barrier against westerly rains for the grapevines, making Alsace the second driest region in all of France. A sunny, cool climate also allows grapes to ripen slowly and gradually, while retaining natural acidity, which is key to producing fresh and balanced wines.
Alsace additionally has the most diverse terroir in France, with 13 distinct soil types that each influence Pinot Gris differently. From granite and limestone to schist and sandstone, each soil offers a unique influence on the taste profiles and characteristics of the grapes. Thanks to centuries of winemaking know-how, Alsace producers are able to harmonize their styles with each individual plot of land, resulting in a pure expression of the terroir and region.
Alsace viticulture and winemaking parameters also add unique factors to the production of Pinot Gris. Unlike other regions of France, the wines of Alsace typically indicate grape variety on their labels, when the wine is produced with 100% of that variety. Furthermore, a large number of wineries have fully converted to certified organic or biodynamic viticulture, representing 15% of the annual production. This practice embraces minimal intervention in order to preserve the natural evolution of the grapes, including total prohibition of all chemical pesticides.
All of these elements contribute to the vast variation in taste profiles offered in Alsace Pinot Gris, from the dry styles that feature stonefruit and floral aromas with a vibrant palate, to the smoky, richer styles with balanced residual sugar. Grand Cru production of Pinot Gris tends to be more robust, with aromas ranging from tropical fruit to earthy. Additionally, many winemakers pick their Vendanges Tardives (Late Harvest) grapes, which have reached maximum ripeness to produce sweet, dessert wines. Winemakers may also choose to bottle Sélection Des Grains Nobles (Selection of Grapes with Noble Rot) to produce a similar wine as Vendange Tardives, but with greater overall intensity and complexity.
To learn more about Wines of Alsace, please visit www.WinesofAlsace.com. Connect with us on Facebook at Wines of Alsace USA, tweet with us at @drinkAlsace and see the region on Instagram at @drinkAlsace.