The white grape variety comes from France. Around 150 synonyms testify to its great age and wide distribution. Some of them are grouped alphabetically by country: Druser, Grauburgunder, Grauer Burgunder, Grauer Clevner, Kleiner Traminer, Rheingrauer, Ruländer, Speyerer(Germany, Austria); Arnaison Gris, Arnoison Gris, Auvernat Gris, Auxerrois Gris, Beurot, Friset, Fromenteau Gris, Griset, Malvoisie, Moréote Gris, Noirien Gris, Pinot Beurot(France); Edelklevner, Tokay until 2007(Alsace); Pinot Grigio, Rulander Grigio(Italy); Râjik(Moldova); Griset, Musler(Switzerland); Burgundské Sivé, Rulandské Sivé(Slovakia); Sivi Pinot(Slovenia); Rulandské Šedé, Burgundské Šedé(Czech Republic); Hamvas Szoeloe, Skürzebarát(Hungary). It is a colour mutation of Pinot Noir. From the Pinot Gris the Pinot Blanc is then mutated (or vice versa). The variety Pinot Gris thus belongs to the Pinot varieties (see there in detail). In spite of morphological similarities or apparently indicative synonyms, it must not be confused with Savagnin Rose (Traminer variety).
The three varieties Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris have passed on their genes through natural crossbreeding (often with the crossing partner Gouais Blanc or Heunisch). However, these three varieties have an almost identical DNA profile, which is why DNA analyses of natural crosses cannot determine which one this was. For this reason, only Pinot is given as the parent in DNA determinations (see there a list of all direct Pinot descendants). In the case of new varieties, the variety is explicitly known; Pinot Gris was a crossing partner in the varieties Columna, Deckrot, Freisamer, Hecker, Hölder, Johanniter, Merzling, Nosztori Rizling, Ruling and Schantlrebe.
According to legend, Emperor Charles IV (1316-1378) brought the vine from France to Hungary as early as 1375, where it was cultivated by Cistercian monks on Lake Balaton. Therefore the Hungarian name is Szürkebarát (Grey Monk). From Hungary it supposedly found its way back to Alsace and was called Tokay here. About the origin of the synonym, which has been banned since 2007, it is assumed that the Alsatian winegrowers wanted to profit from the famous name. The variety has been known since the 12th century. However, the first reliable mention of it comes only from the year 1711 in Speyer in Rhineland-Palatinate (Germany). In that year it was saved and spread here by the merchant Johann Ruland (1683-1745) from abandoned vineyards. Therefore it was given the name Ruländer, which is common in Germany. In France it was mentioned in 1712 as Auvernat Gris, in 1770 as Pinot Beurot and only in 1783 in Flavigny on the Côte d'Or as Pinot Gris.
The vine, which sprouts and ripens early, is susceptible to downy mildew and botrytis. The berry colour ranges from greyish-blue to reddish-brown, not infrequently all shades occur on a single grape (see on this phenomenon under Chimera and Mutation). It produces fragrant, extract-rich but rather low-acid white wines with aromas of apples, almonds and honey. These wines also have storage potential if matured appropriately and are often also sweet due to the high sugar content in the berries, especially in French Alsace.
In France, the area under cultivation totals 2,617 hectares, 90% of which is in Alsace alone, where it is one of the varieties approved for the 51 Grands Crus. The rest is mainly in Burgundy and the Loire. In Germany, it covers 4,517 hectares, especially in the Baden, Rheinhessen and Pfalz growing regions, with a strong upward trend, and in Austria 222 hectares with a downward trend. In Italy, the variety is widespread mainly in the north-east in the regions of Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, South Tyrol and Veneto, occupying 17,281 hectares with a strong upward trend.
Other European countries are England (9 ha), Croatia (219 ha), Luxembourg (146 ha), Moldova (2,042 ha), Portugal (5 ha), Romania (1,301 ha), Russia (78 ha), Switzerland (216 ha), Slovakia (211 ha), Slovenia (501 ha), Czech Republic (706 ha), Ukraine (685 ha) and Hungary (1,624 ha). Overseas stocks this year were found in Argentina (297 ha), Australia (296 ha), Brazil (7 ha), Chile (100 ha), China (2 ha), Japan, Canada (549 ha), New Zealand (1,051 ha), South Africa (261 ha) and Uruguay (12 ha), as well as the USA with the states of California (5,223 ha), Michigan, New York, Oregon, Virginia and Washington.
In 2010, the variety occupied a total of 43,563 hectares of vineyards. Compared to 1990, when only 18,879 hectares were planted, this is more than double the amount, and the trend is still rising. This puts it in 19th place in the worldwide grape variety ranking (Kym Anderson statistics).