- Vine variety information
Other Names: Ruländer, Pinot grigio, Grauburgunder
Country of origin: France; has been known from the Middle Ages in the
Burgundy region, where it was probably called Fromenteau.
It spread from Burgundy, along with Pinot noir, arriving in Switzerland
by 1300. The grape was reportedly a favorite of the Emperor Charles IV, who had
cuttings imported to Hungary by Cistercian monks: the brothers planted the vines
on the slopes of Badacsony bordering Lake Balaton in 1375. The vine soon after
developed the name Szürkebarát meaning 'grey monk'. In 1711, a German
merchant, named Johann Seger Ruland (re)discovered a grape growing wild in the
fields of the Palatinate. The subsequent wine he produced became known as Ruländer
and the vine was later discovered to be Pinot gris.
Until the 18th and 19th century, the grape was a popular planting in Burgundy
and Champagne but poor yields and unreliable crops caused the grape to fall out
of favour in those areas. The same fate nearly occurred in Germany, but vine
breeders in the early 20th century were able to develop clones that would
produce a more consistent/reliable crop.
Year of breeding: one of the oldest varieties, thought
to be a bud mutation of Pinot noir.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, have determined that Pinot
gris has a remarkably similar DNA profile to Pinot noir and that the colour
difference is derived from a genetic mutation (in
either the VvMYBA1 or VvMYBA2 genes that control grape colour) that occurred centuries ago. They
say the vines are so similar that the colour difference is the only thing that tells them apart.
Pinot blanc may represent a further mutation of Pinot gris. The DNA profiles of both Pinot gris and blanc are
identical to Pinot noir.
Breeder/License holder: clone producers
Clones: French: 52, 457
German: Fr 49-207; LB 505 and
514. (note: the old Hauser-1 is obsolete)
and selection massales - some thoughts from a French vine nursery.
Year of entry into the German Federal Office's Varieties Register:
Area planted in Germany (July 2006):
Area planted in England (as at August 2004):
Wine Character - colour: straw or golden yellow to copper, even a light shade of pink.
- bouquet: fine, delicately fragrant.
- palate: mildly floral with lightly lemon-citrus flavors. Depending upon ripeness at
harvest and vinification technique, it can be tangy and light, buttery or quite
rich, round and full bodied. Made appropriately (with sufficient acidity) it is a dry white wine that can age well.
Wines made from Pinot gris vary greatly and are dependent on the region and
wine making style they are from. Alsatian Pinot gris are medium to full bodied
wines with a rich, somewhat floral bouquet. They tend to be spicy in comparison
with other Pinot gris. While most Pinot gris are meant to be consumed early,
Alsatian Pinot gris can age well. German Pinot gris are more full-bodied with a
balance of acidity and slight sweetness. In Oregon the wines are medium bodied
with a yellow to copper-pink color and aromas of pear, apple, and/or melon. In
California the Pinot gris are more light bodied with a crisp, refreshing taste
with some pepper and arugula notes. The Pinot grigio style of Italy is a
light-bodied, often lean wine that is light in color with sometimes spritzy
flavors that can be crisp and acidic.
Time of bud-burst: late, although it is not suitable for sites which
experience late spring frosts as the second-buds are much less fruitful.
Strength of growth: medium
Growth of side-shoots: medium-strong
Flowering time: late
Flowering strength: medium-high (a high stem helps to maximise flowering strength)
Leaf: - size: medium
- surface undulation:
- petiolar sinus:
Grape bunch: - size: medium
- density: tight
Pinot means "pine cone" in
French, which could have been given to it because the
grapes grow in small pine-cone shaped
Berries: - size: medium-small
- skin colour:
bluish grey to light pinkish brown
Time of veraison: middle-late
Time of harvest:
Grape yield: medium-high
Must-weight: medium-high (Germans say it needs over 80 Oe to make really good
Must-acidity: medium-high (in hot climates it can attain a very high level of ripeness, but
begins to lose acidity rapidly when near to fully ripe)
Wood ripening: good
Winter hardiness: good
Susceptibility to - Oidium: medium-low
- Peronospora: medium-low
- Botrytis: medium, can suffer from outbreaks just prior to harvest
- Roter Brenner:
Preferred soil: deep, fertile, rich soil, gives full bodiedness which is determined more by 'extract' than simply by grape ripeness.
Suitable rootstocks: weak to medium strength
Normal stem height:
Normal row spacing: 1.8 to 2.0m, wide planting helps to avoid berry rot
Vine spacing in the row: wide, to avoid berry rot
eyes/buds per sq. metre of land occupied by the plant.
Advantages: grows best in cool climates, one of the most
Some Pinot gris is grown in Burgundy, where it
may be called Pinot beurot. Where planted in Germany, it is known as Ruländer
or Grauer Burgunder.
It is of minor commercial significance in either country.
Only two regions have widely recognised wine quality:
Alsace in France, the traditional base of Pinot gris, and Oregon, the newest
Pinot gris area to come to light. However, the least known but possibly the finest Pinot gris wines come from Luxembourg.
Pinot gris is a major grape in Alsace, grown on 13.9% of the region's vineyard surface in 2006,
the wine produced here are markedly different from Pinot gris found
elsewhere. The cool climate of Alsace and warm volcanic soils are particularly
well suited for Pinot gris, with its dry autumns allowing plenty of time for the
grapes to hang on the vines, often resulting in wines of very powerful flavours.
Along with Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Muscat,
Pinot gris is one of the so-called noble
grapes of Alsace, which may be used for varietal Alsace
Grand Cru AOC and the late harvest wines Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles.
Previously, the Pinot gris wines produced in Alsace were
originally labelled Tokay d'Alsace. In the Middle Ages, the grape was popularized in the region by Hungarian traders who were
introduced to the grape from Burgundy. During this time, Tokaji
was one of the most popular and sought after wines on the market and the name
was probably used to gain more prestige for the Alsatian wine. Pinot gris is
believed to have been brought back by to Alsace by General Lazarus
von Schwendi after his campaign against the Turks in the 16th century. It
was planted in Kientzheim under the name 'Tokay'.
However, the Pinot gris grape has no known genetic relations to the Furmint,
Hárslevelű, Yellow Muscat and Orémus
grapes that are traditionally used in Tokaji wine.
In 1980, the European Economic Community passed regulations related to Protected
Designations of Origin, and when Hungary started negotiations for European
Union membership, it became clear that the Tokay name would have to become a
PDO for the Tokaj-Hegyalja region.
Therefore, in 1993, an agreement was reached between the Hungary and the
European Union to phase out the name Tokay from non-Hungarian wine. In the case
of Alsace, 'Tokay Pinot gris' was adopted as an intermediate step, with the 'Tokay'
part to be eliminated in 2007.
Many producers had implemented the change to plain Pinot gris on their labels by
the early 2000s, several years before the deadline.
In Italy, where the grape is known as Pinot grigio, plantings
can be found in the Lombardy region around Oltrepo Pavese
and in Trentino-Alto-Adige (Sud-tirol) Italy's northernmost wine region.
The grape is most prominent in the north-eastern Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region.
Pinot grigio can be quite distinguished, coming
from some producers, especially in the Friuli region, who devote attention to
growing and vinifying. Unfortunately for its reputation, there are many other
Italian Pinot grigio makers that overcrop and harvest early to produce crisp,
but vapid wines. The quantity of Italian Pinot grigio imported into the UK is
greater than the quantity produced in Italy (UK Wine Standards Board are
Oregon and California:
David Lett, from Eyrie Vineyards, planted the first Pinot gris in Oregon in 1966. Hoping to
increase sales, Lett started to graft Riesling vines over to Pinot gris in 1981.
The grape originally had difficulties finding a sustainable market until Lett
began marketing the wine to Salmon traders as a good match to the fish. The wine's popularity began to slowly
increase and hit a high point in mid-1990s when nearly every top Oregon winery
was producing a Pinot gris.
Many Oregon wineries are moving steadily away from making
Chardonnay while increasing production of Pinot gris. In the 2000 vintage, Pinot
gris total plantings (1270 acres) and quantity crushed (2917 tons) surpassed
Chardonnay (1125 acres, 2523 tons) for the first time. Today there are over 1,797 acres
of Pinot gris in Oregon.
There are almost 1,620 acres planted in the Central and South coastal areas of California.
The Pinot gris from California is often called Pinot grigio because of its
similarity in style to the wine of Italy.
Pinot gris was first introduced into Australia in 1832 in the collection of grapes brought by James Busby.
In Victoria, wines from the grape are labeled both Pinot gris and Pinot grigio, depending on
the sweetness of wine with the drier wines being labeled Pinot grigio.
Pinot gris is grown in both the North (Martinborough, Hawkes Bay, Gisborne)
and South Islands (Central Otago, Nelson, Marlborough, Waipara), with 762 Ha planted.
This makes it the fourth most planted white variety after Sauvignon blanc,
Chardonnay and Riesling. Half of all plantings are in Canterbury and
Marlborough, with the wine developing a "rich, flinty, fruit-laden character".