What’s in a name?

Market Bulletin | Issue 59

16 May 2017
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The secret to understanding Pinot Gris/Grigio is in its name – or rather, its two names.

Pinot Gris (or Grigio) means ‘grey pinecone’. The ‘Pinot’ reflects its origin as a mutant of Pinot Noir, with the same tendency to grow in pine-cone shaped clusters, while the ‘Gris/Grigio’ (grey) is generally thought to describe its greyish-pink skin colour, which is much darker than most white grapes.

The Gris/Grigio variation has come to be associated with the style of wine made from the fruit.

The traditional French Pinot Gris wines, that come mainly from the Alsace region, are typically full-bodied and rich with low acidity as a result of being left to reach full ripeness. Whereas the popular Italian style is picked early, making it lighter-bodied, crisp and acidic [1]. However, there is no rule that says the wine must be made in this way.

Global plantings on the rise

Pinot Gris/Grigio has become a globally popular variety in the past 20 years and is now planted in most wine producing countries.

Globally, plantings have increased from just under 19,000 hectares in 2000 to 43,500 in 2010. Nearly half of the plantings are in Italy. Australia now has the fourth largest area of the variety (after Italy, the US and Germany and ahead of France).

Figure 1: Plantings of Pinot Gris/Grigio in Australia (source: ABS)

 

Most Pinot Gris/Grigio in Australia is grown in the warmer inland regions: Murray-Darling Swan Hill, Riverina and the Riverland, but it is also grown in much cooler regions such as Padthaway, Wrattonbully, Adelaide Hills and King Valley – indicating its versatility.

It is a favoured variety with growers, having relatively high yields and strong grape prices, reflecting strong consumer demand.

Gris vs Grigio – what do the markets show?

In Australia, sales of Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris grew strongly in 2016.

Data from IRI Market Edge Liquor shows that Pinot Grigio is more popular than Pinot Gris, accounting for over two-thirds by volume of wine of this variety on the off-trade and growing at three times the rate. However, the average price for Pinot Gris is more than 50 per cent higher than Pinot Grigio.

High demand for the variety in Australia has reduced exports. Exports of Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio to our top three markets – the US, UK and Canada – have all declined in the past 12 months.

Interestingly, the export markets vary in terms of what proportion of wine made from this variety is labelled ‘Pinot Grigio’ and what proportion is labelled ‘Pinot Gris’ (see table below). For example, Pinot Grigio dominates exports to the US, but Pinot Gris is the clear leader to the UK.    

Table 1: Australian exports of Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio by market

 

 

Exports labelled as

 

% of exports of Pinot Gris/Grigio

Pinot Grigio or blend

Pinot Gris or blend

World

100%

62%

38%

US

60%

78%

22%

Canada

14%

44%

56%

UK

10%

31%

69%

Ireland

4%

75%

25%

Finland

1%

45%

55%

 

[1] Robinson, J., Harding, J. and Vouillamoz, J. (2012) Wine Grapes.