A Touch of Gris

Most don’t think about the contribution “texture” makes to the perception of a wine. The way a wine feels in your mouth is as significant as aroma and flavor – but it doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a balancing act to craft a wine with an impressive texture… especially from a non-red grape like Pinot Gris.

Pinot Gris is a bit of a chameleon with many different renditions based on tradition or growing region, with each style in a different place on the texture spectrum. The differences can be based on climate, soil, clone or selection and vinification techniques.

The most popular modern version of the Italian variant of Pinot Gris is what most people know as Pinot Grigio. These wines are the lightest in texture. Most Pinot Grigio wines are fermented off the skins and are bright in acidity balanced by either fruit characteristics or sweetness. This style makes for great summer sipping, especially when food and conversation is more important than what’s in your glass. They are light and delicious but sometimes lack balance and gravitas.

The Alsatian version of Pinot Gris can be a little more difficult to get a handle on. They tend to be higher alcohol than their Italian neighbor’s rendition and many have some form of residual sugar. The combination of alcohol and sugar can make the wine feel thick, as Pinot Gris can naturally have an oily texture and, since it is naturally low in acidity, that can make it seem flabby.

What is missing in these examples is tannin. In the old, pre-industrial winemaking days, almost all wines were fermented on the skins. The downside to fermenting non-red wines on the skins is that it can make a wine with hard, bitter phenolics. The upside is that the wines age as the tannin acts as a natural preservative, but you have to wait…sometimes many years before the wine is drinkable. But these wines have texture. You can feel how the tannin plays off the fruit, sugar and acid for a wine with a great mouthfeel that makes it incredibly versatile to almost any cuisine and dining environment.

Orgia is a refined version of an “old school” Pinot Gris. It combines the best of both whole-cluster-pressed (no skins during fermentation) and skin-contact wines to strike that delicate tactile balance of acid, fruit, alcohol and tannin in a wine that is seriously delicious, with a magical mouthfeel and a beautiful copper (ramato) hue that is unlike any other wine. We feel it reflects the “true” character of Pinot Gris.

Rob Sinskey