Do you ever wonder why some wine bottles say Pinot Grigio and others Pinot Gris? Is there a difference? And should you prefer one to the other?

pinot grigio vs pinot gris

What’s the difference between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris?

Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are in fact the exact same grape variety. It is a white grape, with a greyish/brownish pink skin (hence the name gris, or gray, in French).

The grape originated in France (it’s from the Burgundian Pinot family), and is known as Pinot Gris in France, where it is most cultivated in Alsace. Across the border in Italy it is known as Pinot Grigio. While French in origin, it is really the Italians that we have to thank for bringing such huge global recognition and fame to the variety.

The grape is the same, but the wines are different.

While they are the same grape, the two names have come to infer two different styles of wine.

  • Immensely popular, the Italian style Pinot Grigio wines are typically lighter-bodied, crisp, fresh, with vibrant stone fruit and floral aromas and a touch of spice.
  • In contrast, Alsace Pinot Gris wines are more full-bodied, richer, spicier, and more viscous in texture. They also tend to have greater cellaring and ageing potential.

In Alsace, Pinot Gris also manifests itself in late harvest botrytis styles such as Vendages Tardives (VT) and the intensely rich, sweet and rare Sélection de Grains Noble (SGN).

Are the two wines just from France and Italy?

Today Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio grapes are planted all over the world in almost every wine-growing region. For the most part these countries are making the more fashionable Pinot Grigio style, which is typically easy-drinking and destined for early consumption. That said, there are also regions that focus more on the Pinot Gris style.

Various producers throughout New South Wales are producing good examples, including the Hunter Valley, the cool climate, high altitude vineyards of Orange and Mudgee, which has a solid history of producing wines with Italian varietals.

What to look for in Pinot Grigio & Pinot Gris

Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris flavours and aromas include fruit rinds, orange peel, and pear skins. Other characteristics include deep, dark colours and low acidity.

The palate is aromatic, crisp and long with a lingering spiciness and clean refreshing finish. A light to medium bodied wine, a crisp and refreshing drop.

What are the best things to eat with these wines?

At the table these wines work differently as well. Pinot Grigio, being lighter is better suited to enjoying as an apéritif or with lighter dishes such grilled prawns, fish or light appetisers.

In contrast, the richness of many Pinot Gris styles enables them to work with heartier fare, such as a veal chop, rabbit stew, roast port, chicken casseroles as well as hard cheeses.

This is an edited version of a story that first appeared on The Kitchn.