Malvoisie, Pinot Gris: sweet origins
Malvoisie takes its name from Malvasia, a group of Italian grape varieties used to make sweet wines. The name is used for Malvasia Bianca from Piedmont, as well as for Malvasia di Candia de Madeira, neither of which have any real link.
And thus Malvoisie gave its name, wrongly, to several different grape varieties, all of them grapes that tend to give sweet wines: Pinot Gris in Valais, the Val d’Aosta in Italy and Val de Loire in France, as well as Vermentino in Corsica, Savagnin Blanc in Tyrol, etc.
Malvoisie appears for the first time in writing in Valais in a recipe book edited between 1671 and 1698. It’s not easy to work out which grape variety(ies) are hiding behind this name. In 1869 Zurich chemist Kohler established for the first time the common identity shared by Malvoisie from Valais and Pinot Gris.
Pinot Gris is a colour mutation from Pinot Noir, known in Burgundy from the Middle Ages as Fromenteau. The name Pinot Gris was first used in 1783-1784 in the vineyards of the Côte d’Or in Burgundy (Rézeau, 1997).
Source: Histoire de la Vigne et du Vin en Valais, «Malvoisie, un nom galvaudé», José Vouillamoz, ampelographer.