Enjoying a nice and tasty glass of white wine, like a Pinot, is an excellent choice. But there are two: Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris. If you know more about wine, you will most likely know that these two are close to being the same.
Though very comparable, there are some differences between these two wines, making them popular in their own right.
Let’s look at the essential differences between Pinot Grigio vs Pinot Gris, so you know what foods you can pair with each Pinot.
Pinot Grigio vs Pinot Gris
Even though these wines come from the same grape, there are distinct differences between Pinot Gris vs Pinot Grigio. The latter is a lighter and fresher wine, while its peer has a spicier taste and is more full-bodied.
Though the Italians have mastered Pinot Grigio, the wine grape originated in France like its counterpart. The vintner culture has changed over the centuries, and Pinot Grigio appears closer to organic than Pinot Gris.
Pinot Gris also has notes of tropical fruit, citrus, and stone fruit. Using riper grapes makes the wine less acidic. Most of the Gris is dry, though a small amount from its prized region is sweet. Yet, there are floral aromas like honeysuckle and a saline-like minerality. It has a higher alcohol content than the Grigio.
Pinot Grigio is also dry with pear, stone fruit, and citrus aromas. Some notice fragrances of almonds, honeysuckle, and baking spices. Flavors will range from green apple to melon while offering subtle citrus fruit and tropical, and even a touch of honey.
Gris has a complex generosity yet has a more decisive touch of sweetness, whereas Grigio has a less sweet taste than the other white wine because of its high acidity. The final decision on the sweetness of the wines depends on the winemaker.
How are They Made?
Traditionally, the regions where Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris grow influence their texture. In the heartland of northern Italy, the grapes grow in steep mountainous regions.
The steep terroir ensures the Pinot Grigio has high acidic levels, giving the wine a distinct taste. Even though the grapes are red, the wine is white. The winemakers remove the skin and stems, leaving a lovely pale golden color.
Pinot Gris grows across the border in France in the Alsace region. Thanks to the grapes being riper, the wine has a fuller-bodied structure.
The greyish-blue and light purple grape still turns out white after the fermentation process despite its color. Hence, gris, when translated from French, means grey for Pinot Gris because the white wine has a slight grey hue.
What are They Made of?
Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris also vary when made in the New World. Though their cultivation remains the same, American Pinot Grigio has an exaggerated fruit palate and boasts a lower acidity level than the Old World.
France Pinot Gris grapes are fleshier, so they often experience botrytis. A noble rot or fungus decays the wine grapes, leaving a faint honey undertone at the finishing of the wine.
On the other hand, Italian winemakers use 100 percent dry grapes, creating a high acidity with a trace of bitter almonds when you sip the Pinot Grigio.
How are They Similar?
To grasp how similar these two wines are is like splitting hairs. Gris is the French word for grey, and grigio is the Italian word for grey.
If you talk with wine drinkers, you may find them using both names interchangeably. And the grapes are the same, but their regions and winemaking cause Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris to differ slightly.
Some believe that both Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris grapes came from the Pinot Noir varietal, which explains the unique color of the grapes. Unlike other white wine grapes, these are darker. The grapes vary from pink-red to blue-grey, and growers find clusters with multiple colors.
The only accurate way you can find the differences in these wines is by defining them by their terroir. Depending on the region, both wines vary from very sweet to bone dry. That means you need to read the label or know the area to determine whether the wine is sweet, semi-sweet, dry, or semi-dry.
For example, the Italian Pinot Grigio of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia area is on the dry side thanks to the growers harvesting them early when the wine grape holds a higher acidity level.
Pinot Gris produced in Central and Eastern Europe is also dry, which also occurs in the wines in the foothills of Switzerland, Slovenia, and Austria. It also forms wines from Croatia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
Price, Size, Color, Alcohol Percentage Comparison
Defining the differences between Pinot Grigio vs. Pinot Gris is not easy. But let’s give it a try anyway.
- Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris derive from the same grape but in different regions, influencing their texture, flavor, and alcohol percentage.
- Pinot Grigio is the Italian rendition of the grape, while Pinot Gris is the French version of the same grape.
- Both are white grapes with different tones of color, such as Grigio is a pale, golden color and Gris is a pink or purple-greyish color.
- Pinot Gris grows well in the Alsace region of France. Pinot Grigio thrives in northeastern Italy.
- Gris is a richer, plumper version of the grape, offering spice and honey notes. Grigio is light, clean, crisp, and refreshing.
- Some winemakers make Pinot Gris sweet like a dessert wine, called Vendange Tardive or “late harvest.” The Alsace grapes remain on the vines for gradual dehydration before harvest.
- Bulk versions of Pinot Grigio come from grapes harvested very early, which preserves the high acidity at the sacrifice of flavor.
- Pinot Gris usually has a low acidity with stone fruit highlighted with spices and floral notes.
- Italian Pinot Grigio has an ABV of 12.5 to 13.5, whereas French Pinot Gris has an ABV of 11.5 to 13.5.
- According to the Wine Spectator, the price range for a Pinot Gris is $6.00 to $914.00, with the best value for the money around $17.00 for 2021 Tohu Wines Pinot Gris, New Zealand.
- The price range for a Pinot Grigio is $4.00 to $194.00, with the best value around $24.00 for 2020 La Roncaia Pinot Grigio, Italy.
No matter how much research or tastings you do of Pinot Grigio vs. Pinot Gris, you’ll often find yourself interchanging them because they come from the same grape. Perhaps the most notable difference is their food pairings. Let’s look and see if there are any similarities in this area.
How to Drink Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris
It’s best to serve Pinot Grigio chilled, between 45° and 49° Fahrenheit. The lighter wine goes down nicely cold, thanks to maintaining the Grigio’s acidity and freshness. As far as pairings go, it’s delightful with seafood dishes, grilled white fish, clams, prawns, and mussels.
Even have a glass of Pinot Grigio with a seafood salad. Yummy! Some pair the white wine with popular Italian dishes like risotto and pasta. Nothing like biting into a fresh tomato or cream-based sauce, followed by a sip of chilled Grigio.
Chill the Pinot Gris at 48° Fahrenheit, never too cold or too warm, because you don’t want to overshadow the delicious flavors of the wine.
The sweeter the Pinot Gris, the more likely, the older vintage pairs well with chestnuts, flatbread with onion, and bacon. The fresh, crisp style of Gris in the New World gives a versatile flair to wine pairing.
Consider biting into chicken, seafood, and rustic vegetables, then sip some Pinot Gris. Or, Duck and lamb are also a good match. The acidity compliments soft cheeses, like Roquefort and chevre, and mesmerizes your taste buds with cream-based dishes and a chilled Pinot Gris.
Let’s head to the Iberian Peninsula along the Atlantic Coast of Spain and Portugal. Here, Albarino grapes deliver a white wine with flavors of stone fruits and traditional citrus, refreshingly acidic. The white also has a delicious saline quality.
Vinho Verde is a Portugal classic that blends white wines from indigenous grapes like Albarino, adding slight carbonation. But don’t let the bubbles throw you off. It’s a refreshing choice on a summer day.
You should sip Vinho Verde while it’s young, not aged. Hence it means “green wine” or “young wine.”
West of the renowned white wine appellation is still within the Lorie Valley near Nantes. You’ll discover the crisp, lush wines from Muscadet, a French wine.
Taste the light-bodied notes of tree and citrus fruits with high acidity. Muscadet also carries a minerality with a hint of nutty or yeasty notes, thanks to the traditional sur lie — aging in dead yeast cells for a couple of months.
A sweeter offering is Moschofilero, more aromatic than Pinot Gris. This Greek wine is a blessing from the Gods. The white wine comes from the Peloponnese peninsula, where the winemakers create another excellent option for a high-acid, light-bodied, refreshing wine.
It holds a pink-grey skin like the Pinot Gris, giving the wine a dainty color. The wine has floral notes and a lift of exotic spices.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which came first, Pinot Grigio vs Pinot Gris?
Pinot Grigio originated in Italy, but its birthplace is France, known as Pinot Gris. Though the wine came from Alsace, genetic testing says Burgundy.
The wine grape arrived in Switzerland in the 1300s. Here the Emperor called it his favorite. Then, the French grape headed to northern Italy, where it became Pinot Grigio.
In Italy, the wine grape, now called Pinot Grigio, grew in popularity over the centuries. The grape found a foothold in other regions of northern Italy, eastward in Veneto, Lombardy, Friuli, Alto Adige, and Trentino.
Which is stronger, Pinot Grigio vs Pinot Gris?
Alcohol-wise, Pinot Grigio is stronger, but that depends on what you like or don’t like about a wine. If high acidity is stronger for you, then the bulk production of Pinot Grigio is stronger.
The sweetest wine is Pinot Gris, thanks to the grapes remaining on the vines longer to dehydrate.
Which wine is the most popular, Pinot Gris vs Pinot Grigio?
Let’s not forget these two wines are interchangeable. Gris wine is more expensive than Grigio wine, but the Wine Spectator says Pinot Grigio wins the popularity contest in the US.
Pinot Gris from the Alsace region shares its popularity in France. So, you’ll have to decide on this one.