TheWineRambler "A German wine label is one of the things life's too short for" - Kingsley Amis



Wittmann, Grauer Burgunder trocken, 2010

Posted by Torsten 09 Nov 2013

Pinot Grigio is dull. That would be a textbook provocative statement to catch the interest of the reader, and of course the author would qualify that statement to the extent that it was almost turned into the opposite. However, I do honestly believe that Pinot Grigio is dull. Not on principle, but the vast majority of Pinot Grigio I encounter is mass produced dullness to the extent that I'd discourage everyone to choose one - unless there are reasons to have hope for the wine, for instance when sourced from a good wine merchant or knowledgeable sommelier.

That at least is how I see the situation in the UK with imported Pinot Grigio. In Germany, or where German wine is available, there is a second route: buy wine made from the same grape variety, but done in Germany style. Sometimes, these wines are labelled Pinot Gris, like in France, but mostly you will find the German name Grauburgunder.

Now, you can also pick a dull German Grauburgunder, after all German wineries can be as guilty as the Italians when it comes to mass-produced cheap plonk. However, if you avoid the cheapest specimens and especially some dreadful off-dry ones exported to the UK, your chances of finding pleasure with a random German Pinot "Grigio" may not be too bad. Leaving my questionable comments about comparative average quality aside, Germany offers a style of Pinot Gris that is different to Italy. The most striking difference is represented by the substantial, oaked Pinot Gris that comes from Baden in particular - truly great wines that can age and make stunning food companions.

Today's specimen is a representative of a lighter style. It comes from Rheinhessen and is an entry level Grauburgunder from the estate of the well respected Philipp Wittmann. The Grauer Burgunder has an interesting dynamic between freshness and elements of a more robust style. There are almost Christmassy aromas and flavours such as nut (oil), honey and Orangeat (candied orange peel) but also citrus and aromas of sharp flowers and mineral. Lovely yellow fruit and in particular juicy pear make it quaffable but vegetable bitterness, coconut flake aromas and a ground pepper touch in the finish keep it interesting. Especially the oily aromas and, what my tasting notes describe as, "rough honey texture" give the Grauburgunder an air of age, which is nicely contrasted by the freshness of the light-medium bodied wine.

Reflecting the price Wittmann's Grauburgunder may not be a truly great wine but it shows that the "Pinot Grigio" grapes can produce enjoyable wines that are miles away from the average dull supermarket fair.

Grauburgunder, a grape with many faces

Hello Torsten

Nice to read a post about a white wine other than Riesling, I do enjoy your tasting notes and news about THE noble Kaiser of white grapes; but at times one must try or write about something different.

I was surprised to read about a Grauburgunder being grown & produced in Rheinhessen as that for me has been either Muller-Thurgau or Riesling area. Yes Baden seems to be where both Grau and Weissburgunder are doing well with there being the right kind of soil & wine making techniques.

That wine does sound intriguing though with the Orangeat, nut oil & ground pepper & rough honey texture; as it does sound different than your average Pinot Gris/Grauburgunder. I did have a pretty unusual Pinot Grigio from North Italy this summer I don't remember if it was Sud-Tirol (Alto Adige) or Trentino.

It was a rich and smooth wine, and a departure from the 'standard' Italian Pinot Grigio; I have also drunk some interesting bottles of Szürkebarát (Grey Friar) as it is called in Hungary from Badacosy and Aszar-Neszmely can be pretty good. No tasting notes, sorry!

Cheers!

Solomon Mengeu


Alto Adige

Thank you for your comment and kind words, Solomon. Rheinhessen is indeed dominated by Riesling and MT, although that is true for most of Germany. Silvaner is also quite popular there. Grauburgunder should be around 4% of the vineyard area in Rheinhessen, so while not exactly common it is also not rare. You may have come across it under the name "Ruländer".

It is interesting that you mention Alto Adige and Trentino; some of the most enjoyable Italian wines, including the only Pinot Grigios that I really liked, I have tasted are from these regions (not to say that the others are bad, quite the opposite, I just like the style, especially Alto Adige). I seem to remember that Marks and Spencer in the UK actually stock a Pinot Gris from Alto Adige; they definitely sell an Alto Adige Riesling.

Let us know about future adventures with Pinot Grigio/Gris!