If you’ve looked at the rosé section of a wine list lately – and hey, it’s summer, so who hasn’t? – you might have noticed a few listings of vin gris. No, this isn’t “gray wine,” as the name would suggest. Instead vin gris is just a type of rosé wine that tends to be so light as to be almost white. It just has that telltale tinge of pink to it.
As you might recall, you make rosé by pressing red grapes and allowing the resulting juice to have contact with the grape skins briefly so that they take on a hint of color. This process, called maceration, usually lasts just a few hours.
There is a traditional, shortened version of this known as saignée, or “bleeding” (the French are so morbid!), where the first bit of pressed juice is run off directly, taking on just the faintest of pink hues. The rest of the juice remains on the skins and is used to make a red wine that is more concentrated than it would have been had all the juice been used.
Vin gris can be produced either way, though it obviously spends very little time macerating. You tend to find it is made from Pinot Noir, Gamay (which is also used to make Beaujolais), Grenache and Cinsault. You can find some lovely versions of it being produced right here in the United States as well as in its traditional French fiefdoms like the Loire, Provence, the Rhone Valley and Corsica.
Here are a few readily available versions you can try this summer.
Robert Sinskey 2013 Vin Gris: Made from Pinot Noir grapes, this palatably pale libation is bursting with signature aromas like fresh strawberries and tangy nectarine. It’ll go great with grilled fish.
Calera 2015 Central Coast Vin Gris: This version is made from Pinot Noir and is darker than your typical vin gris, but still exhibits the same hallmarks of freshness and acidity that you expect from the style. Look for notes of ripe citrus and fresh summer berries.
J Vin Gris: This wine is made in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley from whole-cluster pressed Pinot Noir grapes. It’s got flavors of fresh-cut grass, red cherry and even a few more tropical notes to it.
Bonny Doon 2015 Vin Gris de Cigare: Probably one of California’s best-known vins gris, this one hails from a famous winery in Santa Cruz. It is also the most diverse of the bunch I’ve included here since it’s made from Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Carignane, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Roussanne. As such, it’s got a unique flavor profile with a bouquet of dried herbs, citrus zest and raspberry, but with a mouthwatering crispness and complexity from aging on its lees.
Have you tried a vin gris lately? Tweet me about it @clustercrush.