Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio: What’s The Difference?

Eoghan Neburagho-Gregg
5 min readNov 11, 2020

Have you ever found yourself feeling stupid or misinformed for not knowing the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio? Should you prefer Pinot Gris over Pinot Grigio, or does that even matter?

Well, you are not alone. Every wine drinker has asked themselves the same question for years now.

Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are both the same white wine grape variety with a grey-bronze/pink skin. The grape comes from France originally where it’s most cultivated in Alsace, known most commonly only as ‘Pinot Gris’.

Although originating in France, the variety has been brought into light by the Italians where it’s known as ‘Pinot Grigio’.

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The Same Grapes, Different Wines

Yes, both Pinot Gris wine and Pinot Grigio wine come from the same grapes, on the same vine, from the same vineyard.

I know, it’s somewhat confusing.

The reasons for there being such a difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio stems down (pun intended) to the region in which the grapes were grown, which then has a big influence on the winemaking process further down the line.

Pinot Gris

Traditionally grown in wetter climate regions such as Alsace, Oregon and parts of New Zealand as well as South Africa, like Stellenbosch as you see above! In this kind of winemaking region, they tend to leave their Pinot Gris grapes on the vines for longer than your typical Pinot Grigio from Italy.

Leaving the Pinot Gris grapes on the vines for longer can cause them to continue ripening, and as a result, sugar levels also continue to rise. Riper, juicier grapes also contribute to a more pronounced bronze/pink skin-colour which collectively give the Pinot Gris greater cellaring and ageing potential.

Most Pinot Gris winemakers tend to leave the fermenting juice in contact with the skins for just a brief amount of time I.e 2 days-1 week to give the Pinot Gris that famous rosé-like appearance.

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Pinot Grigio

Most commonly grown and made in Italy, where the climate can be a lot hotter. This means that winemakers with a Pinot Grigio-style-wine in mind can pick their grapes off the vines a lot earlier than the Pinot Gris due to the heat from the sun ripening the grapes a lot quicker!

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Pinot Grigios are mostly quite young and tend to be light-bodied, crisp and acidic to say the least. Traditionally winemakers filter this style as best as they can to give it that yellow, ‘clean’ appearance. This method is unlike the Pinot Gris winemaking method which is favoured mostly by natural winemakers who shune the idea of mass filtration or fining.

One of the best ways to ensure you drink delicious and interesting Pinot Grigio is to simply avoid budget bottles – Vinepair Staff

Pinot Grigio’s Fame and It’s Downsides

There’s no denying how famous and popular the Pinot Grigio style wine has gotten over the last twenty years. It seems to be everywhere you look; in the supermarket, at a fancy AND not-so-fancy restaurant, it’s got to the point where your local corner shop is selling Pinot Grigio, and for just 5.99 too!

In 2002, more than six million cases were sold in the US accounting for twelve per cent of all imported wines in the country. More than seven thousand acres of Pinot Grigio was planted in California in 2004, an increase of twenty percent from the year before.

The stats back it up, Pinot Grigio is a popular style wine.

Yet so many wine professionals whether it’s importers, young advocates or sommeliers have little time for a Pinot Grigio wine…why hate one of the most popular white wines in the world?

For a series of reasons really, but the main problem is mass production in unethical environments/conditions. Too many different industries have tried to monetize the popular Pinot Grigio style, and have shamefully set the bar very low for the standard of a typical bottle of Pinot Grigio.

The big corporations ruined it…gain.

“We now see far too many high volume, industrially made, diluted, bland but easily gluggable Pinot Grigio wines” the

Pinot Gris Now Has All The Potential

For me right now, Pinot Gris has all the potential to go on and become the better of the two styles.

There is so much more life and expression to the Gris over the Grigio, the overall taste profile is a lot more fruity – think apricots, nectarines and sometimes even honey-like!

The Pinot Gris is dryer and way more structures than it’s stablemate, not to mention it’s light, a copper-coloured tone which stands out and looks more appetizing. When referring to the tastes and flavours of a Pinot Gris, Decanter put it beautifully -

A sort of halfway house between the more neutral flavoured Pinot Blanc and the overtly spicy and fragrant Gewurtztraminr with a smokiness, delicate spice and an occasionally oily character.

Now if that does not have your mouth watering as mine is whilst a write this, then maybe you should stick to the ol’ basic, citrusy, pale-looking Pinot Grigio instead.

So, choosing between the two different types simply boils down to a matter of flavour and experience. With a fruitier, more present appearance the Pinot Gris can be uplifting, fun and great for drinking alongside most dishes, or better yet, after a meal! It’s versatile and has a lot more to give than most other white wines.

Whereas the Pinot Grigio is a lot lighter in appearance, somewhat of a mellow yellow kind of colour. It’s taste profile mainly sticks to the citrusy fruits such as lemons and grapefruits. Pinot Grigio is a great wine to enjoy (if you find a good one that’s produced in an ethical manner) before a meal as an aperitif or especially next to a fresh and light starter salad.

It’s important to know the difference between the two because your choice of wine usually amplifies whatever moment you are experiencing.

With the right Pinot by your side, you will be sure to have the best experience.