Pinot Grigio vs Pinot Noir

Casual sipping wines are beloved for how easily they slot into everyday life. Pinot grigio vs pinot noir both has a reputation as staples of the modern wine rack, fantastic for sipping alone or paired with a meal.

Their lack of obscurity also makes these wines accessible to newer drinkers. Choosing between the two is rather easy since these grapes are quite distinctive. Not only are pinot grigio and pinot noir different wine types, but they also have very different flavor profiles and aromas.

Not sure if you want to drink pinot grigio or pinot noir? We’ll explore below the brief history of these wine grapes, their unique characteristics, and which one will suit your tastes best.

A Brief History of Pinot Grigio Vs Pinot Noir

history of pinot grigio vs pinot noir

Both pinot grigio/gris and pinot noir have been grown for centuries throughout France, having been introduced in the 1300s through trade in the Burgundy region.

To eliminate confusion early: pinot grigio and pinot gris are the same grape grown in different countries. Pinot grigio is Italian, while pinot gris is French.

In fact, the pinot grigio/gris grapes are believed to be a mutation of pinot noir. This white wine grape is quite favorable for beginning wineries due to its easy growing requirements in cool climates and rapid maturity.

Pinot noir also thrives in colder weather, though it’s a trickier grape thanks to its unsteady growing process.

Fun fact: at least 33% of wine drinkers between the ages of 50 and 64 bought pinot noir in the last three months. How’s that for popular?

Breaking Down Pinot Grigio

breaking down pinot grigio
Image: Brett Jordan

Pinot grigio is a commonly grown white wine grape, easy to find in a grocery store wine rack or wine shop.

The grape has been steadily grown since the 1300s, though it’s made a comeback recently due to increased interest throughout American wineries.

The pinot grigio has earned a reputation as an accessible wine for its low price point and balanced flavor profile. This Italian variety is zesty and bright, leaning toward flavor notes such as lemon, yellow apple, and melon. This wine’s mouthfeel is medium-bodied and smooth, often chilled beforehand to enhance its flavors.

Pinot grigio isn’t suitable for aging due to few tannins and lower acidity compared to other white wines like sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.

Breaking Down Pinot Noir

breaking down pinot noir
Image: Keith Ewing

Pinot noir straddles a delicate line between prestigious and approachable. It’s grown in just about every wine region thanks to its popularity, though it favors cold climates and is rather sensitive to ecological changes.

Despite the inherent challenges needed to grow this grape, pinot noir is widely considered the de facto red wine. Pinot noir is well-known for its ripe red fruit flavors, boasting subtle notes such as raspberry, strawberries, and cherries.

Thanks to a high level of acidity and tannins, pinot noir is also a fantastic aging wine with the potential for a wider range of flavor notes and aromas.

Alongside still reds, pinot noir is frequently blended to create sparkling white wines and champagne. With pinot noir’s highly adaptable growing process and flexible approach, you could drink this wine exclusively for a decade and still discover something new.

You Should Drink Pinot Grigio If…

Should you have pinot noir vs pinot grigio? With a balanced flavor profile and low price point, pinot grigio is a gateway wine for many.

We have several reasons why you should give this white wine a try.

You Prefer Semi-Sweet Yellow Fruit and Floral Flavors

pinot grigio fruit and floral flavors

From juicy yellow pears to tangy lemon, pinot grigio leans toward the lighter and semi-sweet end of the fruit spectrum.

Depending on the bottle you buy, you may also experience aromas of flowers or saline.

You Enjoy Balanced Wines With Low Acidity

Do you steer clear of wines that are quite bitter or very acidic? Pinot grigio tends to be balanced, hovering in-between all the extreme ends of the flavor spectrum.

Pinot grigio is often semi-sweet and semi-dry, with a tendency toward brightness without being sour. Thanks to this accessible profile, you can easily find canned pinot grigio and sparkling pinot grigio alongside conventional glass bottles.

You Prefer to Sip Chilled Wines

White wines are lovely when chilled. Pinot grigio is no different, bringing out tangier and brighter flavors after a trip to the ice bucket.

You Should Drink Pinot Noir If…

It might be a shorter list to say why you shouldn’t drink pinot noir. This stunningly popular grape hits high notes with drinkers of almost any palate, from complete newcomers to experienced drinkers.

Similar to pinot grigio, pinot noir is a balanced red wine that’s easily paired with several food groups. Unlike pinot grigio, pinot noir has different aging potential and unique flavors.

You Enjoy Semi-Sweet Red Fruit Flavor Notes

pinot noir fruit flavors

Whereas pinot grigio brings to mind sweet yellow apples and zesty lemon, pinot noir is on the opposite end of the spectrum. This red wine is all about brambly finishes and juicy berries.

Pinot noir’s aroma is often similar to its flavor notes, bringing to mind strawberries and roses. Young pinot noir leans toward a flavor profile of fresh raspberries and ripe cherries, while aged pinot noir tends to have more rummy fruit and vegetal qualities.

If you buy pinot noir aged in oak barrels, you’ll enjoy faint hints of cloves, vanilla, and earthy undertones.

You Want to Age Your Wine Bottle

If you feel like storing your wine bottle for a special occasion, pinot noir is more suitable for aging than pinot grigio.

Its high level of tannins and acidity act as a natural preservative, protecting its flavors from degradation while allowing subtle changes over time.

Pinot noir is able to age nicely up to twenty years, though there’s no shame in wanting to pop open the bottle sooner. If you want to have it both ways, save up to buy an already aged bottle.

You Don’t Mind a Wide Price Range

Unlike pinot grigio, pinot noir has a massive price range. This feature can be quite appealing to wine drinkers who want to explore as much variety in a grape as possible, but can also expose you to choice fatigue.

We’ll explore this aspect more in the next section.

What is Pinot Grigio Price Ranges?

Pinot grigio doesn’t respond well to aging due to its reduced tannins and lower acidity. Without these natural preservatives, pinot grigio will start losing flavor a few years after the vintage date.

Expect pinot grigio price ranges to go as low as $8 and no higher than $40.

What is Pinot Noir Price Ranges?

Pinot noir is one of the most consumed wine grapes in the world alongside chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. It also responds well to aging due to a more robust level of tannins and acidity.

Affordable pinot noir hovers in the $10 to $15 range, while the pricier end can hit upwards of $450. Factors that contribute to pricing are winery reputation, origin, and aging (if any).

Wine Breakdown Pinot Grigio Pinot Noir
Origin Italy France
ABV 12% 12%
Flavor Notes Yellow apple, pear, lemon zest, honeysuckle, melon Cherries, raspberries, strawberries
Aroma Flowers, honey, saline Cherries, roses, vanilla
Mouthfeel Light to medium-bodied, semi-dry Smooth, light, and dry
Pairings Pasta salad, white cheese, chicken-based dishes Beef, mushrooms, barbecue, pizza, tomato sauce-based dishes

Starting to get more comfortable with wine terminology? We’ve also looked at the differences between chardonnay vs pinot grigio here!

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