Pinot Grigio vs. Pinot Gris

Two names for one of the world's favorite whites


Pinot Grigio is one of the world’s most popular white wines, yet it’s made in many styles and comes from almost all the best wine-producing countries. It seems pretty confusing, finding these wines from all over, some saying Pinot Grigio, others Pinot Gris. What’s a wine lover to do?

Well the simple answer is, it’s sort of simple! Each region has a style, and much like the use of Shiraz and Syrah to indicate which style a wine is made in, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are there to help you understand what’s in the bottle. Well, sort of. Pinot Grigio, which people are probably more familiar with, is the Italian name for this grape, and usually indicates that the wine is made in the style more closely associated with Italian producers. Pinot Gris, on the other hand is the French name, and usually indicates that the style of the wine is similar to that produced in Alsace, France's heart of Pinot Gris production.

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So what’s in a name? Well, to begin, the Pinot Grigio model -- which many people might already be familiar with -- tends to be a lighter-bodied, crisp wine. The style is dictated by the cooler climates from which the wines come in Northern Italy, but some of the character also comes from producing a heck of a lot of wine, so to some, these wines feel and taste a bit diluted. At their best they are dry, crisp, citrusy, and pear-scented wines with refreshing acidity.

Pinot Gris, on the other hand, comes from France, and Alsace in particular, where the wines can be rich and muscular, sometimes with a touch of residual sugar. This style tends to emphasize richness and body over crispness, and delivers lush, layered flavors of honied orchard fruits interwoven with subtle spice tones.

As you can see, there are significant differences between these two styles and, of course, a lot of overlap between them. It’s a generalization, but usually the name will give you an idea of the style. Whole regions -- like Oregon, for example --  have tended to follow one style or another (which in Oregon’s case is the Alsatian model).  Ultimately, there’s only one sure way to determine exactly what’s in the bottle, and that’s to drink it! So without further ado, here's 12 great ways to say Pinot Gigio/Gris!

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  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,989

    Good concept for an article, Greg. How did you choose these particular examples? Were they just samples that happened to have been sent in to Snooth, or...?

    Why do you think the Mondavi was so oaky (if that's what you were alluding to with the 'toasty') and acidic? Is there any excuse for that imbalance from an organization with such storied experience? The St. Michelle Eppan, on the other hand, sounds lovely. Don't think it's in my local liquor store, though... ;-(

    Apr 08, 2010 at 2:36 PM

  • My Friends and I recently discovered something that has the freshness of Pinot Grigio and more natural character and complexity than Pinot Gris with no need for added oak.
    Trousseau Gris

    It now has a facebook page:!/group.php?v=info&ref=ts&gid=180422373986

    Apr 08, 2010 at 3:40 PM

  • Snooth User: NexGenWines
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    212802 28

    One complaint I have about a lot of Pinot Grigio (esp mass-produced big names) is that they always leave me wanting more. They can be boring and underwhelming; light-bodied to the point of being watery.

    Living in Napa, I have tried my fair share of locally produced Pinot Grigio/Gris and would like to add 2 to your list:

    Robert Sinskey ( - Pinot Gris (Carneros)

    Swanson Vineyards ( - Pinot Grigio (Oakville)

    Both are amazing food wines - with strong acidity, but nicely balanced. Not too big or high in alc... These wines will make you smile all summer long!

    Apr 08, 2010 at 4:05 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    I agree about the mass market Pinot Grigios. They are cropped at too high levels and use clones valued for quantity over quality. I've tried both of your suggestions NexGen and agree entirely with you. A very nice pair of Pinots you got there!

    DM, these were samples I had available. Which of course is par for the course here, though a have a half dozen lagrein under my desk that I bought on my dime since I couldn't get the samples and love the wines!

    I bet you can find that St. Michele in California...

    Apr 08, 2010 at 4:24 PM

  • Snooth User: Ms Vino
    448702 48

    If you love Pinot Grigio/Gris, as I do, you must try some from California's Northern Santa Barbara County region. Particularly Lucas & Lewellen, Morovino and Point Concepcion wineries. Beautifully balanced and mostly in the crisper Pinot Grigio model.

    Apr 08, 2010 at 4:32 PM

  • Snooth User: civiletti
    192021 20

    To my taste, NW Oregon and Alsace do best with this grape, as well as the with the similar pinot blanc. I find most Italians too austere and most Californians lacking in delicacy.

    Apr 08, 2010 at 5:09 PM

  • Snooth User: jamessulis
    Hand of Snooth
    426220 1,722


    Thanks for the clarification of the Pinot Gris and the Pinot Grigio.
    Tale has it here in the Portland Oregon and Vancouver, Wa. areas (Cities directly separated by the Great Columbia River) that the difference in names was a legal one in that because it didn't come from Italy it couldn't be called Grigio it had to be shortened to Gris.
    Wait till I tell all my friends, they will be so impressed with my Snooth knowledge.
    I promise to renew and review my buds for tasting some of the stronger bodied ones. Maybe the Gris instead of the Grigios?

    The Great Pacific Northwest

    Apr 08, 2010 at 6:59 PM

  • Snooth User: civiletti
    192021 20

    It's true, Lefty, that Oregon made wine must not be called pinot grigio when sold in Oregon. Otherwise, in the US, the names are pretty much interchangeable. They may reflect the vinter's style, or they may reflect the marketer's strategy.

    Not to bash CA, I did have some very nice Sterling pinot gris a few years ago. It reminded me very much of a good Willamette gris.

    Apr 08, 2010 at 7:21 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,989

    While I'm in CA at the moment, I doubt I'll be able to justify to myself hunting for European wines here to take back to Japan, Greg. ;-) Any Cali pinot gris/grigio/blanc that you weren't able to include above but would recommend I give a try while here?

    And I see you dodged the Mondavi question... ;-)

    Apr 08, 2010 at 8:12 PM

  • My favorite Pinot Grigio is from Mendoza made by Viniterra and also from Mendoza I like Fracois Lurton Pinot Gris.

    Apr 08, 2010 at 9:54 PM

  • Snooth User: BG422
    343567 19

    Of the wines you cite, Greg, I have only tasted the St. Michael-Eppan, and it's a very nice wine -- Italian in style but bringing a lot more to the glass than typcial Italian Pinot Grigios. I have half a dozen bottles sitting in the cooler. I have always preferred the Alsatian style, however, and so I tend to drink a lot more Oregon Pinot Gris than Italian, because, in general, it is decidedly more Alsatian in style. I did taste one Italian Pinot that I thought was really great and that was the Livio Felluga 2008 Collio PG. Well worth the Santa Margherita money it costs, and a lot better.

    Apr 08, 2010 at 10:30 PM

  • Snooth User: JMoriarty
    425278 3

    Good article.. and if you haven't already, the same with the Shiraz and Syrah to indicate style would be great for me too... Thank you!

    Apr 09, 2010 at 12:58 AM

  • Snooth User: lbaykal
    436521 8

    Greg, thanks for the detailed analysis. I would like to read a comment on a French Pinot Gris, as well, and see how they rate.

    Apr 09, 2010 at 4:47 AM

  • I highly recommend Alto Adige Pinot Grigio from Lageder and Tiefenbrunner vintage after vintage. Have had excellent from Franz Haas as eill. Indeed, I have yet to have a dull one from this region of Italy. Always aromatic and interesting

    Apr 09, 2010 at 4:49 AM

  • Not being a big fan of Grigio, I'll have to second Fanucchis' Trousseau Gris. Love it! He's put a lot of heart into it and it holds up to many summer meals while still being a great summer sip.

    Apr 09, 2010 at 9:27 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    He all, I will follow up with a Syrah - Shiraz review, great idea.

    As far as giving an easy primer on French Pinot Gris, which really is a primer on Alsatian Pinot Gris, that is easier said than done but I will work on it.

    The Pinot Grigio from the Alto Adige are some of the best around, no doubt. Drinking them on-site makes them even a little better!

    Apr 09, 2010 at 10:12 AM

  • Snooth User: vinolover7
    133386 23

    Great information. I've got to admit it's easy to keep a Pinot Grigio on hand for company as a "fail safe" wine. Some of them are so vapid it's hard to believe they could offend anyone.

    Apr 15, 2010 at 10:54 AM

  • Snooth User: txYankee
    517791 11

    Just found a Pinot Gris from Kings Estate (Oregon) that was wonderful! I highly recommend it.

    Jun 28, 2010 at 9:30 PM

  • Snooth User: joanyblue
    543994 6

    I tried the Chateau St. Michelle 2008 Columbia Valley Pinot Gris. I was surprised how good it was. Much more complex than a typical Pinot Grigio.

    Aug 05, 2010 at 8:26 PM

  • recently June 3, 2011 gave a "friend" a Pinot Grigio 2007. He told me that white wines over 2 years old were terrible and had lost their taste and if that were the best I could do to forget it. I admit to no knowledge of wine but thought that this statement was a little off base.

    Any help available out there?

    Jun 09, 2011 at 12:08 AM

  • Ole Rupert Your friend would be generally right but there are many exceptions
    Fine semillons and rieslings, top white bordeaux and burgundies age well
    Without further info about the exact wine, eg alcoholic strength colour (lightness), price, region or vineyard, it is impossible to say.
    There are pinots from Alsace and Italy that would be fine from 2007 and I suspect some in California too.
    Your friend was either plain rude or a limited knowledge wine snob. He should have opened it with you to test his theory before mouthing off!
    He is the poorer, because he will not be trying old graves, meursault, condrieu, puligny montrachet etc, or if he does, he will be drinking them before they are ready!
    So stay the wiser of the two of you, by keeping an open mind!

    Aug 10, 2011 at 5:09 AM

  • There is at least one more name for this grape variety: Grauburgunder I grew up with Grauburgunder in Germany

    Aug 11, 2011 at 11:17 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    So true! In fact I've just received a sample of Neumeister's Grauburgunder from Austria this morning!

    Aug 11, 2011 at 11:25 AM

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