A selection of Pinot Gris

I happened to pull a bottle of Pinot Gris out of the rack last weekend, and quickly scanned the surrounding bottles and realised there were quite a few different pinot gris wines, and thought it would be interesting to run through a selection of them throughout the week. So, in the words of the Fast Show, this week I have been mainly drinking Pinot Gris. Perhaps this is a sort of vinous Atkins diet? One clear result of this rather unusual drinking pattern was to show just how good a food wine pinot gris can make.

Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Gris 2002 Marlborough 14.5%. Stelvin closure. Booths £6.99
Very pale straw. Good nose with an excellent pinot gris character. Peachy with nice spicing and quite scented floral notes. Fair attack. Initially quite light, but fills enormously. Very, very big and full-flavoured. Almost a bit too powerful. Very round and full, with nice drying spice. But I think the sheer oomph of this wine is overpowering, rendering it a bit simple and it lacks individuality, elegance and character. Good (just).

Champagne Brossault NV Brut Majestic.
Ok, I admit it's not pinot gris, but I needed something suitable to go with fish and chips from my first visit in a couple of years to the Bowerham Chippy. I wonder if it's changed hands in the time since I last went there. Definitely a change for the better - nice crisp chips and a very light crispy batter, and all well drained.

The Brossault initially showed a rather coarse bubble stream, but it settled down a bit, and the coarse bubbles seem just to have been a bit of over-exuberance straight after opening, as there are much more impressive fine streams after the bottle's been open for a little while. There's a nice fruity nose with some yeasty notes and slightly sour stone fruit. Very good fruit on attack. Very forward. A lovely round easy drinking NV. Crisp and clean with excellent length and good character. Very good.

Bodega Lurton Mendoza Pinot Gris 1999 Wine Society labelling, £3.83 in July 2000. 13%
I opened two bottles of this wine, which in the past has been a reasonable basic pinot gris (though with a fair bit of bottle variation), but it's clear that it's now well over the hill. A medium to deepish gold. Very dried out nose. And undrinkable. Yuk.

Bodega Lurton Mendoza Pinot Gris 2000 12.5%
Medium straw. Good PG nose - not overpowering. Interesting lemony note. Quite light attack. Fresh & clean. Develops well. Light and really quite elegant on palate. Nice spicy notes - almost pepper smoked mackerel. Decent finish with fair length. Good.

1988 Tokay d'Alsace Eugène Meyer 13.5%
When trying to open it, the cork completely crumbled, and after pouring the wine through a fine sieve, it showed a worryingly deep colour: a slightly coppery gold. It actually looked less worrying in the glass than it did in the decanter, and as it turned out, I needn't have worried about its health at all. A rather mild nose - smoky, maple, peaches and pears with some honey. Good clean attack. Fills to a fairly full mouthfeel. Rich, rather honeyed flavours, but searingly dry. Really exceelent elegant mature pinot gris fruit and spice - intense and concentrated. Very good finish and length. Very good indeed/excellent.

Henschke 1999 Littlehampton Innes Vineyard Pinot Gris, Adelaide Hills 13.5% (Byrne's £10.59)
Pale copper. Very buttery PG nose with peaches, apricots and warm buttery cinammon/nutmeg. A light fresh attack fills nicely. Very buttery on palate with a nice herbaceousness and lots of spice on the middle and finish. Very spicy after, with excellent length: lingers in the mouth forever with pretty big spice, though a nice lemon curd note that runs throughout cuts the spice-power and stops it being overwhelming. Very rounded, fairly rich. Personally, I'd like to see a bit more elegance and finesse. Good/Very Good.

1996 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve 13% about £10 I think, from the Wine Society in 2000.
Bright lemony yellow pale gold. Elegant nose - soft tropical and stone fruit underlined by a creamy butteriness. Good attack, light and still fresh. Quite light, very clean and fresh. But also a touch of sweetness. Really elegant pinot gris. Very good indeed.

1996 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve Personelle 13%
£20.50 from the Wine Society in 2000.
Bright medium yellow-gold. Excellent nose - quite restrained with ripe peaches and melted butter, together with a hint of citrus and a nice warm spice. Very full attack. Good, very rich fruit on palate and subtle, but clear spiciness. Extremely elegant. Exceptional length. But somehow in its elegance and smooth rich clarity, it misses some of the edge that the plain reserve has, although the plain reserve has more of a sugary sweetness to it, while the reserve personelle has a richness apparently from riper fruit. Very good indeed.

It was very interesting to compare the plain reserve and the reserve personelle from the same year, and I find it very difficult to choose between them. I think I probably tend to the plain reserve on QPR grounds.

1996 Tokay Pinot Gris Grand Cru Hengst, Clos du vicus romain. Domaine Aimé Stentz 13.5% (£8.49 from Booths in 2000)
Medium gold with pinkish hints. Rich, rounded almost buttery nose with nice subtle backbone of PG spice. Rich attack. Rounded and full. Then a bit of freshness from some acidity on the middle and it actually lightens a little. Finishes with great elegance and clarity of flavour. Very fine indeed. Could suggest almost VT levels of ripeness. Very impressive. Very good indeed.

For completeness, here's a note of the 1998 of the above, opened a couple of months ago:
1998 Tokay Pinot Gris Grand Cru Hengst, Clos du vicus romain. Domaine Aimé Stentz 13.5% (£8.49 from Booths in 2000 - Booths went straight from the 96 to the 98)
Medium gold and looks fairly viscous. Forward tropical and stone fruit nose, heavy on the mango with a warm nutmeggy spiciness behind. Big attack. Very clean, but very full. Very big pinot gris flavours with more than a hint of residual sugar. Some acid to balance, though becomes a little harsh after. Stunning length. Good/Very Good.

1996 Tokay Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives, Albert Mann 13.5% Lay & Wheeler £13.95 50cl.
Bright, medium gold. Slow, hefty legs. The nose is deep and intoxicating. There is some sweetness on the nose, but also a notable freshness from citrus, honeysuckle and perhaps a hint of deodorant. Very much an extract of pinot gris nose - in fact so much extract that would possibly not immediately guess at it being pinot gris, wondering rather if it might be a dullish gewurtraminer. Lush and rich on the attack. Very elegant. Some very classy acidity. Mouthfilling. Rich and very very ripe rather than being particularly sweet. Extremely intense and very elegant. Beautiful finish. Very full and clean with a haunting, lingering after. Excellent.

1989 Tokay Pinot Gris Sélection de Grains Nobles, Léon Beyer 14% 37.5cl (£35 from the wine society in 1999).
Hefty tartaric deposits. Medium gold with orangey hints. Fine, slow legs. Intense, perfumed, honeyed nose with tropical fruit and beeswax. Sweet on attack. Fills enormously. Utterly luscious, heavy, rich. Very very sweet and even a touch cloying. I have to admit that this is a bit disappointing. It's fairly simple and straightforward; it lacks elegance, and it's also a bit lacking on fruit. Rather it is dominated by sweetness. A rather odd finish of burnt caramel with a bit of harsh, unrounded acidity. Perhaps it's in a closed phase? Fair.

And finally, on returning from a party in Preston (I was driving, so the note's reliable!) at 2.30 am this morning with a late night/early morning snack of Grandma Singleton's reserve Lancashire, Butler's Blue and Butler's Double Gloucester, I cracked open:
1998 Tokaji Furmint Late Harvest. Oremus. 375ml. 12% (Byrne's c. £9.)
I last had this at Gordon Ramsay's Royal Hospital Road cafe in London, where it cost considerably more than it does from Byrne's of Clitheroe! Oremus is the Tokaji estate, founded in 1993 by Spain's Vega Sicilia.
Rich coppery gold. Intense nose - honeyed, slightly raisined tropical fruit and citrus. Elegant and rich. Very good mouthfeel. Attractive sweetness that avoids being cloying. Intense, very fresh fruit flavours with very good length. Very good indeed, though it's not quite as good as the Oremus Late Harvest Furmint 1999, tasted with Vega Sicilia's technical director and winemaker, Xavier Ausas Lopez de Castro at Valbuena in May 2003. The 1998 had, apparently, suffered from a lot of rain throughout the year, while 1999 was a much better year and the late harvest furmint 1999 ended up with 100g/l residual sugar. The 1999, also from halves, had an amazing nose - some honey, some very fresh tropical fruit. Very good on the attack. Very very fine balance of sweetness and acidity. Creamy rich, exceptionally fine and elegant. Excellent.

Andrew Stevenson


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Last updated: 15 December 2005 13:51