The difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio

Vineyard with Lush, Ripe Wine Grapes on the Vine Ready for Harvest.1

What is the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio? I think I should start a side project and ask for $1 for every time I get asked this question.  Wine certainly has its points of confusion, and this question seems to be a popular one.

the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio
Grapes

Now when I talk about the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio and start off by mentioning to people that it is the same grape variety; it is often met with disbelief!  Well, why do the two taste different then? We will get to that in a couple of minutes

So here is what we know about this Grape and the similarities. Firstly, it is thought to be a mutant clone of the well know Pinot Noir grape – both the grape and foliage of the vine look the same. Now, this next piece of information could surprise you, even more, the grapes that produce Pinot Gris and Grigio are red in colour.  Skin contact through the winemaking process is where colour is extracted and these wines don’t have any of that.

History:

Dating back the 1300’s hundreds in a well know area of France called Burgundy is the believed birthplace, it was also known and Fromenteau.  Although the variety did not thrive in this region, it spread its wings and can now be found thriving in numerous places around the world.

Pinot Grigio:

Normally from Italy is when it is referred to as Pinot Grigio. However, if you like this style of wine, you will know that you have bought it from other places before, most likely Australia if you are in Australia.

Pinot Grigio thrives in the North East corner of Italy and if you have an Italian Pinot Grigio chances are this is where it was harvested.

The colour of Pinot Grigio tends to be a bit lighter, and we will cover off some more stylistic differences soon enough.

Pinot Gris:

French, New Zealand, Australian anywhere outside of Italy the wine is referred to as Pinot Gris. Some thriving regions include New Zealand, Alsace in France and Germany.

Pinot Gris tend to be more straw/gold in colour and some of these wines have incredible ageability

We have already covered off on some similarities, and there are a few others that you should know of also; both wines a produced in the same crush and rush way, rarely will winemakers use oak through the process.  Acidity levels in both styles are almost inseparable as are the pH levels.  Nosing these wines side by side you would not be out of line by using the same descriptors such as pear, apples, poached fruit, floral, leafy greens as both can exhibit along the same line.  Both are predominantly produced with early consumption in mind.

With all these similarities it begs the question; What is the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio?

the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio
Glass of happiness

Brace yourself; Pinot Grigio tends to be a leaner style of wine, a little less complex (insert controversy here), consistently a drier style of wine and the colour of the wine also remains quite consistent with its straw tone. Personally, I describe Pinot Grigio as more masculine.

Pinot Gris, on the other hand, has more complexity to it, there are subtle spices that also shine through on the nose, and the viscosity of the wine in the mouth tends to be more pronounced, they also tend to be a little higher on the alcohol too.

Now, the one big thing that differentiates Pinot Gris from Pinot Grigio is the residual sugar levels in the wine.

Where it gets complicated for the buyer; the Pinot Grigio style remains pretty consistent with the amount of residual sugar, in most cases, you can only get this information off a tasting note and let me assure you that not all tasting notes even provide this information!  Pinot Grigio is normally around the 4-5 grams per litre mark.

The Pinot Gris style, well this one jumps around.  Researching tasting notes it was evident that Pinot Gris is not consistent with residual sugars levels at all.  We found them as low as 0.7 and as high as 12 grams per litre on various wines that we researched.

You will no doubt enjoy some more than others – finding out which one suits you best is all part of the fun, but knowing how much residual sugar that is in the wine could be key to discovering your favourite.

Summary:

So the main differences between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are:

  • Residual Sugar levels – Pinot Gris varies, Pinot Grigio remains more consistent
  • Alcohol levels in Pinot Gris styles tends to be slightly higher on average
  • Stylistic differences as mentioned above

Then there are winemaking techniques, and that can include a whole raft of factors there. At the end of the day, the winemaker is trying to produce the best possible when she or he can!

Looking for a Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio – Start Here

Enjoy your new found knowledge with a glass of wine tonight

Cheers

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