For whatever reason, viticulture has decided that wine grapes, which appear to be green to yellow to pink to red to purple, should be named according to grayscale. White, gray, black. Or, more familiarly, blanc, gris, and noir. Bianco, grigio, nero. Blanco, gris, negro. Schwartz, grau, weiss. And because all grape juice runs clear regardless of the color of the skins (except a few, lookin’ at you, baco noir), you can make white wine out of any of them. Except the red-fleshed ones, of course. (The term for them is “teinturier” and they usually wind up in blends as a color deepener, except for saperavi, the great red grape of Georgia, which is kind of a big deal, actually.) We carry a few white wines made from red grapes here at KCW and they’refun, but we’re here to talk about the grays, the most familiar of which is pinot gris/pinot grigio/grauburgunder.
Most folks know pinot grigio to be neutral, palatable jug wine, and to be fair, most of it is. To get this just-okay product one must only press the juice from the skins and whisk that juice away immediately so that none of the skins’ pigment soaks into it. Then you throw it in a steel tank with some yeast and you’re off to the races. Or you can take a different approach. Pinot grigio (it’s the Italian name for it, obviously, but it’s also become associated with this neutral style, for better or for worse) becomes pinot gris (the French word for it) when it’s made with a little more seriousness. The grape can easily be coaxed into making substantial, perfumed, elegant, long-lived wines, too, notably in Alsace, Oregon, and Germany (where it’s called grauburgunder). And with a little time macerating on those pink skins, you can achieve that between-rosé-and-orange wine known as ramato (Italian for “coppery”).