Similar but not the same, two wines from one grape with a changing name.
Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio come from the same grape. The grape has a skin that is white, sometimes with a grayish, brownish, or pink hue. This grape is named for its color, gris and grigio, which both translate to “gray” in their respective languages. Pinot Gris (French) originated in Burgundy and is now commonly grown in the Alsace region of France. Not far away, the Italian version of this gray grape is called Pinot Grigio. France and Italy are not the only countries that produce Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio. You can find these varietals all over the world; however, oftentimes the Pinot Grigio style is more common.
A tale of two wines.
Arguably the best Pinot Grigio can be found in the Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto, and Lombardy regions of Italy. These regions maintain a cooler climate, which allows for Pinot Grigio to develop its distinct dry mineral flavors. The mountains in these regions are responsible for the recognizable acidity in these wines.
Pinot Gris is popularly grown in the Alsace region of France. Alsace is one of the few regions in the world that still produces the sweet style of Pinot Gris wines. Alsace is located along the Rhine river, in close proximity to Germany. Being so close to Germany, Alsace is also popular for producing wines like Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Though the Alsace styles of these varietals are a bit drier than an Alsace Pinot Gris, all wines from the region are known for being aromatic and flavorful.
A grape by any other name would not taste as sweet.
The differing lexicon of these two varietals does not simply indicate a difference in origin, but also their discrepancies in flavor. Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are known for having different taste profiles, even though they are made from identical grapes.
Italian Pinot Grigios are known for being lighter in body and possessing more mineral undertones. Grigios normally have notes of citrus and saline, along with bright fruit and floral flavors. Meanwhile, French Pinot Gris commonly has a fuller body and flavors that are richer, spicier and more complex.
Pinot Grigio wines are best consumed when young. They’re very easy to drink and their crisp, fresh flavors make them perfect for pairing with food (especially lighter fish dishes that are often overpowered by other wines). Oppositely, Pinot Gris grapes have the ability to age very well, and they manifest richer flavors the longer they’re cellared. Their robustness makes them the ideal white to drink alongside heavier dishes, including those that are instinctively paired with red wines. Pinot Gris is decadent when served with gamey meats like veal or rabbit, or with poultry dishes like chicken stew or turkey casserole.
If these Pinots were sibs, Grigio would be the fresh, welcoming sister. She’s friendly, approachable and gets along with most. Gris is more like the evil twin. Still a gorgeous grape, but a bit surprising and slightly more complex.
Grigi-OMG this is confusing.
We know, we know. The contrasts between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio can be a bit overwhelming. And though a layman may not be familiar with the differences, we think that it’s useful for everyone to know that the two grapes are pretty distinct. How embarrassing it would be to have a guest ask for a Pinot Gris, only to mistakenly hand them a Grigio! (A true friend won’t care. All wine is fine).
After this crash course, hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two. If anything, at least you (pi)not there’s a difference. Cheers!