Import Selection: Pinot Gris, 1991. Dunavar

This wine comes from the larg­est mountainous wine-growing re­gion in Hungary, Mátraalja, in the foothills of the Mátra mountains. Running from east to west, this mountain range offers ideal viticul­tural conditions to about 30,000 acres of grape vines which thrive on its sunny, south-facing slopes.

There are three major quality strata in Hungarian wines. Vin or­dinaire types are designated Ki­mert Bor, good table wines Aszta­li Bor, and better wines, such as our selection, Minosëgi Bor. Most Hungarian wines are identified principally by grape variety and the name of the place from which they have come, with a final possessive “i” added to it. Formally, this wine is called Mátraaljai Pinot Gris.

Most important in its name is the word Pinot, which designates a whole family of grapes of French origin. Siblings within this illustri­ous clan include Pinot Blanc (the “White Pinot”) as well as the very famous Pinot Noir (the “Black Pinot”). This latter variety is referred to in one rather scholarly work as a “notoriously degenerate vine varie­ty, prone to mutate at the drop of a gene.” Mutate? Sounds like we could enter a grey area here.

Quite so! For Pinot Gris (the “Grey Pinot”) stands, in fact, as one of this vine’s most fortuitous mutations! Understandably, it suf­fers from a bit of an identity crisis.

It hardly knows whether it is a dark or light grape. Sometimes its skins looks closer to black, some­times white, ranging from greyish blue to brownish pink.

Widely grown in Italy (where it is known as Pinot Grigio) it pro­duces one of the most popular dry white wines exported from there to the U.S. But it is in Hungary that this grey brother of a grape is most revered (Szürkebárdt, the Hungari­an name for this variety, actually translates as “Grey Monk”, “Grey Friar” or “Grey Brother”!). When left on the vine late-harvest-style, it produces deep colored wines that have a slightly coppery tinge and a somewhat sweet finish. Harvested at the regular time, and then cold fermented, as in our selection, it yields appealing, dry white wines.

Our example has a pale char­treuse color with a fragrance of fresh grapes and green plums. It is very smooth on the palate, light, but with some richness of texture, fruity in flavor, yet nice and tangy/dry. The aftertaste is clean; the fruit flavors linger.

Serve chilled with light fish courses, fruit and cheese platters, or just for sipping.

Cellaring notes: At its peak now, enjoy over next 2 years.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper

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