While flattered that the name of their most famous wine had been co-opted by the French all so long ago, the Hungarians were sure to protect their iconic dessert wine Tokaji and the European courts agreed, forcing both Alsace and Friuli to drop their brands of Tokay and use simple varietal names in their place. In Friuli’s case that meant bottling their wines as Friulano, not nearly as glamorous, but the Alsatians just fell into place, adopting the same labeling conventions as they have used for most of the rest of the wines for decades if not longer.
What to expect: In Alsace, and virtually nowhere else on earth, Pinot Gris produces a rich, opulent style of wine filled with spice notes and floral accents that are sometimes so spicy they often lead people to mistake Pinot Gris for Gewurtztraminer. The fruit of these wines tends very much toward the sweet end of the orchard fruit spectrum, oozing notes of apricot and peach. Pinot Gris is often made as a Vendange Tardive (VT) or late harvest style of wine. Because Pinot Gris has a rather high natural acidity, it is able to balance out some sweetness in the wine. That, coupled with the grape’s naturally sweet flavors, makes for compelling VT wines indeed.
Pairing with food: Alsatian Pinot Gris tends to be rich, spicy, frequently highish in alcohol and possibly a touch on the sweet side. All of that can make for an intense experience, so pairing the wine with something equally intense makes sense. Again cheese works well, though strong, washed rind cheeses really come into their own here. Fatty birds like a nice stuffed goose are great matches, as are rich pork dishes.