When someone says ‘I’ll have a glass of Pinot’ do you think red or white? Most think Noir, but why? Pinot Gris (or Grigio) is just as common, isn’t it?
The answer is a firm yes! And yes, they are related, but they are also so different.
Let’s clarify a couple of things first. There are four ways of identifying grape varietals: crosses, clones, hybrids and mutations.
A cross is when two species of the same variety are crossed to produce something new. A prime example of this is the cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc to produce Cabernet Sauvignon.
The simplest description is to think of parents and offspring. The offspring contain the same genetic material but display unique characteristics. There are many clones of Chardonnay that all produce Chardonnay (wine) but offer different characteristics.
For example, the Mendoza clone of Chardonnay is known for producing ‘hen and chicken’ berries- some big and some small, all on the same bunch. This offers differing levels of ripeness, sugar levels and acid levels.
A hybrid occurs by design, done to achieve a purpose. When Phylloxera almost wiped-out Europe’s vineyards in the early 19th century, American rootstock was seen to be impervious to the devastating vector, thus a hybrid (created for disease tolerance in this example) was created.
Pinot (Noir) has entered the chat. Both Pinot Gris (or Grigio) and Pinot Blanc are mutations of Pinot Noir. Yes, you read that correctly. All Pinot (Gris and Blanc) starts as Noir but due to a genetic mutation in the grape skin pigment, instead of seeing the dark purple/blue skins, the result is either a total absence of colour, producing Pinot Blanc (white) or half coloured Pinot Gris (grey).
If we return to clones for a moment, there are many clones of both Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, which have been selected and bred for specific attributes but that doesn’t mean they won’t spontaneously revert (although very rare). The images below is from a vineyard I worked at in Central Otago, NZ. What you can see is that in a row of Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir formed on only one cordon, just one year (out of the four I was there).
The image above (from teh save vineyard) is of a ‘confused bunch’. What do you do when you want to wear purple and grey and can’t choose? Wear both!
These two examples are from field grafted vines, meaning there was really no way to know for sure what they were grafting.
Pinot Noir is known for its berry and cherry flavours – sometimes described as a fruit bomb, with the ability to age for up to 20 years in special cases (here’s looking at you Domaine de la Romanée Conti).
Pinot Blanc is F R E S H, high acid, crisp, floral and often with a minerality component. Pinot Gris is often in between both of these; moderate to high acidity, richer fruit (pear, apple, warm florals, possibly some oak spice) and with an age-ability to rival a Riesling in some situations.
As for our Brockenchack Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio, well hold onto your hats because these beauties (in our eyes and tastes) are in a class of their own, and highlight the best of our cool-climate, Eden Valley region.
Our On Point Pinot Grigio while belonging to the Pinot family, couldn’t be more different (although equally as delicious to its Noir counterpart). Our Pinot Grigio literally explodes out of the glass with tropical, floral and citrus aromatics make this truly ‘scent-sational’. A mouthful of zingy ruby grapefruit emerges, layered over honeyed tropical flavours that seem to keep trundling along to a lovely length, finishing with a zippy little lemon zest kick.
And while we’re on the topic, if you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio. Well, it’s only the winemaking technique. Both wines are made from the same Pinot Gris grape (gris being French for grey, the colour of the Pinot Gris grape skin). Grigio is the Italian expression; typically lighter-bodied, crisp, fresh, with vibrant stone fruit and floral aromas and a touch of spice. In contrast, the French Gris style delivers typically more full-bodied wines that are richer, spicier, and more viscous in texture. We make ours in the Italian Grigio style, purely because we prefer it that way.
Then you have our Hare Hunter Pinot Noir that is purple edged and garnet in colour with herbal toned aromas over bright red berries, and a lift that’s reminiscent of tomatoes ripening on the vine. The savoury sweet crossover palate features cherry flesh and cranberry tart over glossy tannins.
So next time someone asks if you want a Pinot, it is safe to assume they’re talking about Noir, but don’t be surprised if you get a crisp, refreshing Grigio either. And hey, if it’s one from the Brockenchack family, we promise you won’t be disappointed with either!
-Chloë, marketing coordinator & wine nerd