50 Shades of Gris (Grey)

Black or White was so easy before 50 shades of Gris!It used to be so clear.  Things fell into simple categories.  Black or white.  Good or bad.  With us or against us.  Easy.

Then some braniac introduced the grey area – neither white nor black, neither good nor bad.  Areas open to interpretation.  Conditional morality.  Circumstantial justifications.  Flawed heroes.  

50 shades of gris?And then, just recently, a pudgy middle-aged British mom-cum-best-selling-sex-author (the most unlikely sex guru since Dr. Ruth!)  introduced the idea of FIFTY shades of grey, and forever more we’ll have to consider not just one or two shades of nuance, but FIFTY of them.

And the notion is spreading to other fields, areas one would never think of as being the subject of hued doubt.  Even the world of wine, it turns out, finds winegrapes caught in this nether world of grey – not quite white and yet not quite red, either.  These lightly-hued orbs look like a white grape that really wants to turn red. 

What used to be a simple red or white is now a complicated situation I’m calling “50 shades of Gris, Grigio and Grey“.  

OK, so I’m still working on the catchy title.  But trust me, the wines are just plain yum.

Just one of the 50 shades of Pinot Gris!
Pinot Gris ready for harvest. Staete Landt Vineyards, Marlborough, New Zealand

The grape known as Pinot Gris (or Pinot Grigio – same grape, different country) produces a wide range of intriguing styles of wine.  It can be light and crisp (Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy typifies this style) to wines that are rich and ripe with a distinctive waxy note (though I always felt that description was less pleasurable than the experience would indicate).   To see what I mean, try one of the more viscous, oilier Pinot Gris from the warmer parts of California or New Zealand’s North Island.  Compare this wine to a Pinot Gris/Grigio from a cooler climate – tighter wines offering more aromatics and rewards for the focused taster who enjoys layers of complexity, such as those from the Alsace-Lorraine region of France.

Whatever style you prefer, you’ll have to agree that a well-made Pinot Gris is simply a sexy wine.  In fact, various descriptions I’ve come across sound as if they were ripped from the pages of one of the ‘Fifty shades’ novels – “Mouth-filling, rich and refreshing” are the words one producer chose to describe their Pinot Gris.  Another claims their wine to be “An intense pleasure“.  But this one takes the cake – “Enters with a mouth-filling creaminess that lends a generous texture to its long finish and pleasant memory“.  Wow.  Who’d have thought they were describing a wine?

Here’s a fun idea for an inexpensive night at home – order your favorite Thai food, or whip up a bit of ceviche, or roast your favorite bird.  Then invite the neighbors and separate three or four Pinot Gris/Grigio from their corks.  Dinner for six, under $100.  

Three Pinot Gris In Contrasting Styles:

Morgan, 2010 Pinot Gris, Monterey, $18  –  This wine personifies the warm, round and ripe style of Pinot Gris, with a tinge of color from brief skin contact.  Good acidity keeps it from being cloyingly round and banal, with enjoyable spice notes complimenting the fruit notes.

Mary Elke, 2011 Pinot Gris, Donnelley Creek Vineyard, $16 – Slightly crisper than the Morgan, this wine is from the cool Anderson Valley area, and expresses that fact with more mouth-watering acidity and a leaner body.

Boeckel, 2008 Pinot Gris, Alsace, $19  – Alsace-Loraine is that region in North-Eastern France that abuts Germany.  An even cooler growing region, these beautiful wines are capable of considerable aging, as seen in this particular wine.  

Try All Three and Save 17%!- $44 – One bottle of each wine – the perfect start to your tasting party! 

Dave the Wine Merchant


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