Pinot Grigio vs Chardonnay

White wine has a reputation for being easy to drink. Since most white wines lack the high acidity and tannin count of red wines, they’re rarely aged and are often consumed fresh. Pinot Grigio vs Chardonnay is a solid example of the extremely different approach white wines still have.

Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay are rather different, so much so that you can find drinkers who adore one and can’t stand the other. One is light and tangy, while the other is tropical and even buttery.

One is often consumed casually, while the other is frequently a holiday affair. If you’ve found yourself wondering which wine will suit your next dinner or celebration, keep reading!

We’ll dive deep into the history of each wine grape, its unique characteristics, and which one will suit you best.

Pinot Grigio Vs Chardonnay

pinot grigio vs chardonnay

When you shop around for a wine that’s approachable and balanced, pinot grigio vs chardonnay are often brought up as solid examples. These details are where the similarities end!

Pinot Grigio is a white wine grape that is also known as pinot gris: the distinction is drawn on where it’s grown. Pinot grigio is grown in Italy, while Pinot gris is grown in France.

Pinot grigio’s flavor notes shift a little toward the tart and zesty due to the Mediterranean climate, whereas pinot gris is often sweeter and softer.

Chardonnay is a beloved French white wine grape with its roots in Burgundy, one of the most esteemed wine regions in the world.

While France grows this grape in abundance, you can easily find it in California, New Zealand, or Australia. A 2018 study revealed that 25% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 bought a bottle of Chardonnay in the past few months, which is a testament to the grape’s popularity.

Fleshing Out Pinot Grigio

We’ll start off the list by fleshing out pinot grigio’s standout qualities. While not quite as popular as chardonnay, this Italian varietal is often deemed a great casual wine for everyday settings.

Pinot Grigio is a Casual and Approachable Sipping Wine

What makes pinot grigio so casual and approachable, anyway? These features have something to do with how balanced these wines tend to be.

Pinot grigio skews toward semi-sweet and semi-dry characteristics. If you steer clear of very bitter, leathery, or sour wines, this is the varietal for you.

Pinot Grigio Has Light Gentle Fruit Flavors and Floral Aromas

Pinot Grigio aromas

Do you love sipping a drink that leaves you feeling cheerful and refreshed? Pinot grigio’s disposition toward gentle fruit flavors and floral aromas makes it a must-have for drinkers with lighter palates.

Common flavor notes for pinot grigio include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Yellow apple
  • Pear
  • Honeysuckle
  • Melon
  • Lemon

Aromas you can expect include:

  • Honey
  • Flowers
  • Vanilla
  • Cloves
  • Lemon zest

Pinot Grigio is Often Sipped Chilled

Do you prefer the smooth, crisp feel of chilled wine? Pinot grigio is fantastic after a dip in the ice bucket since the colder temperature enhances its fruit-forward nature.

If you don’t have ice on hand, stick your bottle in the fridge for fifteen or twenty minutes to chill it up.

Fleshing Out Chardonnay

The king of white wines already has a huge reputation preceding it. Does that mean it’s the right white wine for you? Let’s take a look at what makes chardonnay such a knockout.

Chardonnay Has Higher Aging Potential

While the majority of white wines lack the structure to benefit from aging, chardonnay is a huge exception. This wine’s lean toward higher acidity and positive response to oak aging make it suitable for the long term.

Chardonnay is often aged in oak to enhance its characteristics, resulting in rich, buttery mouthfeels and flavor notes.

Chardonnay Leans Toward Tropical Fruit

Chardonnay aromas

Do you prefer flavor notes that lean toward the tropics? While pinot grigio has more apple and pear notes, chardonnay leans in a different direction.

Common flavor notes associated with younger, unoaked chardonnay include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Pineapple
  • Green apple
  • Papaya
  • Mango
  • Lemon

If you get an oaked chardonnay with a few years of aging, you may get flavor notes such as:

  • Butter
  • Vanilla
  • Cloves

Chardonnay is a Fantastic Celebratory Wine

Due to its silky, buttery texture and diverse medley of flavor notes, chardonnay is the go-to celebratory wine.

Chardonnay is consumed at both room temperature and chilled. It all depends on your tastes!

Should You Have Pinot Grigio vs Chardonnay?

Should You Have Pinot Grigio vs Chardonnay

Both wines sound pretty tasty, aren’t they? We’ll take a look at a few reasons why you should have one over the other.

Drink Pinot Grigio if You Enjoy Lighter, Tangier Fruit

Fruit-forward is a definition that’s a little vague. If you specifically prefer light and tangy fruit, pinot grigio will leave you pleased as punch every time.

If you want to see what this wine tastes like a touch sweeter and lower on acidity, give pinot gris a try!

Drink Pinot Grigio if You Don’t Want to Age Your Bottle

Not interested in holding onto your bottle? Pinot grigio doesn’t benefit from aging like chardonnay, so it’s best consumed as soon as you get it.

Drink Pinot Grigio if You Want a Lower Price Point

Another detail that makes pinot grigio approachable is its lower price tag. We’ll explore the average price range you should expect for both wines below.

Should You Have Chardonnay Vs Pinot Grigio?

Now for the other side of the white wine coin! Chardonnay is quite unique compared to most white wine grapes, filled with details that could make it your new favorite.

Drink Chardonnay if You Enjoy More Tropical and Buttery Flavors

Chardonnay Buttery Flavors

Chardonnay’s flavor notes may have one or two similarities to pinot grigio, such as a citrus bent, but they also tend to be rather tropical. If you often prefer papaya or pineapple flavors over apple and pear, chardonnay will be highly appealing.

Drink Chardonnay if You Want to Save Your Bottle

Do you like saving your bottle for special occasions? If you want your wine to taste great (or possibly better) after a few years of storage, chardonnay is your meal ticket.

Remember to double-check the vintage date and whether or not your bottle was oaked. These details will add further depth to your wine storage and give you an idea on what to expect.

Drink Chardonnay if You Want a Heavier Mouthfeel

While pinot grigio is often smoother and medium-bodied, chardonnay runs the gamut of lighter-bodied to heavy and buttery. If you’re a fan of unique mouthfeels, unoaked and oaked chardonnay will give you more variety to choose from.

What are Pinot Grigio Prices?

Pinot grigio is usually pretty affordable. Thanks to its lower acidity and tannin count, aging doesn’t change pinot grigio’s properties in any profound way.

The lowest prices you’ll find the range between $5 to $15, while the highest price points you should expect rarely exceed $40.

What are Chardonnay Prices?

Comparatively, chardonnay has a much wider price range. Its ability to age in oak and hold well in the bottle for up to a decade makes it a shoo-in for premium pricing.

Lower-priced bottles hover between $6 to $15, while the most expensive will exceed $600.

Wine Breakdown Pinot Grigio Chardonnay
Origin Italy France
ABV 12% 13.5%
Flavor Notes Yellow apple, pear, lemon zest, honeysuckle, melon Papaya, mango, pineapple, lemon zest, vanilla, butter
Aroma Flowers, honey, saline Vanilla, coconut, nuts
Mouthfeel Smooth, medium-bodied Light-bodied to full-bodied, buttery
Pairings Grilled vegetables, chicken-based dishes, pasta salad Chicken or turkey-based dishes, potatoes, salmon, halibut, blue cheese

Curious to know the differences between other wine grapes? We’ve written guides on the difference between merlot vs cabernet sauvignon, as well as a guide on the difference between pinot grigio vs sauvignon blanc!