Pinot Grigio vs Riesling

Sweet white wines are wonderful additions to hot summer days or at the end of a hearty meal. Unlike more tart varietals like sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio and riesling are widely considered easy-drinking wines.

With a higher sugar count and lower tannins, pinot grigio and riesling are as easy to drink as they are to find. They still boast a few differences, however, which can be a deal breaker.

Do you have a major sweet tooth or do you prefer your drinks to be more balanced? These questions and more are what we’re going to explore with our guide below.

Keep reading to learn about the history of these dulcet white wines, ideal food pairings, and their price ranges!

The History of Pinot Grigio vs Riesling

history of pinot grigio and riesling
Image: A_Peach

Both of these wines have been around for quite some time. Pinot grigio’s earliest known recording is in the 13th century, while riesling has been making waves since the 15th century.

Pinot grigio is a white wine grape planted throughout the world, often seen as a little confusing due to all its different titles. This grape is believed to have mutated from the pinot noir grape, changing its names depending on where it’s grown.

Pinot grigio is grown in Italy, while pinot gris is grown in France. Due to the complexities of terroir, this single grape can boast a wealth of characteristics influenced by soil, climate, and harvesting technique.

Riesling is a German white wine grape, that originated in the Rhine region several centuries ago. It’s one of the staple wines of Germany, best suited to the country’s consistently cool and stable climate.

That said, you can still find riesling grown in warmer climates. Due to riesling’s higher sugar count, this wine is often associated with dessert or special occasions.

The Qualities of Pinot Grigio

qualities of pinot grigio
Image: Timothy Valentine

We’ve covered pinot grigio/gris on this site multiple times before and for good reason. This white wine is quite popular in the West and is growing in popularity for casual drinkers and passionate fans alike!

Wine growers love this grape for its responsiveness to warm climates, cold climates, and high altitudes. Wine drinkers enjoy pinot grigio for the low price point and delicious range of flavors. One way or another, this grape is making everybody happy!

Pinot grigio is not well-suited to aging due to its low tannin count and relatively lower acidity than sauvignon blanc or riesling. We recommend buying a bottle no more than a few years old and drinking it as soon as possible.

Is Pinot Grigio Sweet or Sour?

Pinot grigio hovers between semi-sweet and semi-sour. Thanks to a high level of acidity, it circumvents a high level of sweetness in favor of a balanced approach.

It’s less tart than sauvignon blanc, but is zestier than riesling or chardonnay.

The Qualities of Riesling

qualities of riesling
Image: richardhe51067

Riesling is another white wine you’ll see quite a bit while browsing the wine rack. This German white wine grape has been steadily growing in popularity over the past several decades, appealing for its literally sweet nature.

Riesling flavor notes have a few similarities to pinot grigio, leaning toward soft fruits like apples, peaches, and pears. Where riesling differs is an even higher sugar count, boasting deeply honeyed characteristics that almost taste candied.

Despite a lower tannin count, this white wine grape still has high levels of acidity, granting it aging potential not found in a pinot grigio.

Riesling aged in oak has the ability to take on notes of baking spices, smoke, and even a faintly petrol-like aroma.

Is Riesling Wine Sweet or Dry?

While riesling can be a touch dry, it leans toward the sweeter end of the equation. It’s important to note that dry refers to both texture and flavor notes.

The wine has less sweet flavors and leans toward tart or savory is sometimes called dry. Similarly, the wine that leaves a ‘drying’ effect on the tongue earns the same title.

You Should Drink Pinot Grigio If…

drink pinot grigio

Wondering which wine will suit your palate best? Pinot grigio is a solid starting point for just about any wine drinker due to its inherently balanced flavor profile and low cost.

You Crave Tanginess and Zest to Your Wine

With a propensity for acidic fruit notes and a semi-dry approach, pinot grigio is the epitome of zestiness. While riesling may be too sweet for some, pinot grigio gives you a little bit of everything.

Flavor notes you should expect in your glass of pinot grigio include:

  • Yellow pear
  • Green apple
  • Lemon
  • Apricot
  • Melon

You Like Your Wine Sweet, But Not Too Sweet

This point is probably the biggest dealbreaker for pinot grigio vs riesling. Pinot grigio is semi-sweet, hearkening to tangy fruit without necessarily being sugary. Riesling can be so sweet as to seem cloying.

If your sweet tooth isn’t all that big, pinot grigio is your best bet.

You Enjoy a Broad Variety of Food Pairings

Riesling’s intensely sweet approach makes it more dominant in food pairings. Pinot grigio’s level flavor notes and aroma broaden its food pairings, which is a boon if you’re a passionate foodie or home chef.

You Should Drink Riesling If…

drink riesling
Image: Torsten Maue

Now for the wine drinkers who could use a little extra sugar! Riesling is the quintessential dessert wine, beloved for its high sugar content and vibrant acidity.

You Prefer Softer, Yellower Fruit Flavors

Riesling vs pinot grigio is more mellow, leaning away from tart acidity in favor of softer and sweeter fruit flavors. While it can still be a touch dry, its mouthfeel leans toward rounder and medium-bodied.

Flavor notes you should expect with your glass of riesling include:

  • Ripe apples
  • Peach
  • Pears
  • Apricots
  • Honey

You Want to Age Your Wine

Despite riesling’s low tannin count, this wine still boasts a high level of acidity. Acids act as a natural preservative to protect wine’s flavor while allowing for subtle changes over time.

A riesling is considered aged if it has five years behind it (though some wineries may keep their bottles cellared for up to two decades). If you want to keep your bottle for a special occasion, skip the pinot grigio and go for the German vintage.

You Like to Drink Wine For Dessert

Is dessert your favorite part of any meal? Riesling is widely considered to be a dessert wine and for good reason: it’s like sipping candy.

What is Pinot Grigio Price Ranges?

Pinot grigio isn’t a wine built for aging, so you won’t have to worry about a high price range. A popular aspect of this wine is the reduced pressure: you don’t have to break the bank to get a quality bottle.

The lowest end of pinot grigio prices ranges from $5 to $10, while the highest bottles rarely go beyond $40.

What is Riesling Price Ranges?

Since riesling has a little more aging potential behind it, its price ranges have more variety. Depending on your tastes, you may want a fresh bottle or one that’s been cellared.

Affordable riesling will run you an average of $10 to $15 per bottle. If you want to try riesling that’s older or has been stored in oak, expect to pay between $50 to $115.

Wine Breakdown Pinot Grigio Riesling
Origin Italy Germany
ABV 12% 12%
Flavor Notes Yellow apple, pear, lemon zest, honeysuckle, melon Ripe apple, pear, peach, honey, smoke
Aroma Flowers, honey, saline Honey, petrol
Mouthfeel Light to medium-bodied, semi-dry Round, medium-bodied
Food Pairings Pasta salad, white cheese, chicken-based dishes Pork, goose, cheese-based pasta dishes

Curious to learn more about the differences between white wines? We have a piece breaking down pinot grigio vs chardonnay here!

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