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.
Want to know more about Pinot?Whatever your Pinot preference, Snooth has the info you need. Don't miss our round-up of 8 New Zealand Pinot Noir producers to watch, our recommendations for Pacific Northwest Pinot, or our feature on California Pinot Grigio. 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!
Grigio or Gris: What’s in a name?
2007 St. Michelle Eppan Pinot Grigio Anger 13.5% SudtirolThis is lovely with warm notes of slightly spicy warm pear and slightly golden rasiny fruit. There are nice backing notes of dried flowers and woodsy forest floral notes that add real complexity to the nose. This is excellent in the mouth, with a fine spine of acidity over which is draped a lush, sweet blanket of airy succulent pear, toasted nut, and lemon curd fruit. This really has lovely richness, but remains energetic in the mouth with cleansing acids on the finish and long flavors of fruit and spicy lingering on the finale. 92pts
2007 Adelsheim Pinot Gris 13.6% Willamette ValleyWhat a wonderful nose with layered notes of apple butter, hazelnuts, sandy soil, and subtle spice, with a suggestion of vanilla and touch of raspberry. Restrained and light on the palate, with complex flavors that have some power behind them but aren’t really fruit-driven. There are nice earth and underlying spice tones, over which are layered dried fruits with zesty acidity, refreshing the mouth. The finish shows crisp white orchard fruits with great length and energy. A lovely, expressive wine. 91pts
2006 Belle Pente Pinot Gris 14.6% Willamette ValleyWildly aromatic from the get-go, this packs in rich honeycomb, game, pear, mint, dried peach, spice, flint, and worn-wood tones in a nose that shows some heat, but gains lift from the high alcohol. On entry this is really powerful, with notes of baking spices and mace up front, followed by very ripe pear and peach fruit. The alcohol is obvious, if well-integrated, and gives this an impression of sweetness which helps to power the earthy, honeycomb laced finish to a lingering, spicy, polleny fiish. This is definitely not for everyone: It’s a big, gangly wine, but the flavors are compelling. This would rock with a roast goose. 90pts
2007 Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio 12.5% Dolomiti IGTThis is quite aromatic in a narrow range of herbal and citrus tones, with some apple tones and plenty of dusty minerality. In the mouth it is fairly large, a real Chardonnay-drinker’s Pinot Grigio with a round, lush feel and slightly spicy, ever-so-leafy apple fruit tones. While rich, this retains excellent focus and gains nice edges of citrus that helps frame the core of orchard fruits. It finishes a touch short, though. 89pts
2008 Maso Canali Pinot Grigio 13% TrentinoThis shows good tension on the nose with notes of fresh pear, a hint of strawberry, some chalky earth notes, and very tight white floral tones. On entry it is very focused and precise with a small footprint in the mouth. The wine is lightly styled but fairly aromatic, giving off inner-mouth perfumes of crisp white fruit, chalk, and woodsy floral tones. There’s plenty of acidity but it’s very well-integrated, and the wine has enough flesh to conceal it without showing any fat. A nicely styled wine, elegant and with good cut and a long, subtle quartzy finish. 89pts
2008 Robert Oatley Pinot Grigio 13.5% South AustraliaWow, this is intense and fruity on the nose with tropical aromas of pineapple and a hint of passionfruit floating over crisp green apple. It smells a little candy-like and has a bit of an acid tone to it. On entry, it’s rich and packed with fruit, showing a hint of residual sweetness that balances out on the mid-palate. It’s a fruity style and well done as such, but the acidity is a bit assertive, and while it does help to give the mid-palate balance, it gives the finish a bit of an odd note, turning it a bit metallic. 87pts
2008 MacMurray Ranch Pinot Gris 13.9% Sonoma CoastThis is really perfumed on the nose with fat, ripe orchard fruits backed up with a touch of wood spice that gives this an aromatic roundness. Soft and rich on entry with powerful spiced apple flavors and hints of peach and orange that drive across the palate gaining spice and even a touch of herb on the mid-palate and onto the medium length finish. This is a pretty big wine and shows a touch of heat and some heaviness in the mouth but offers solid value. 87pts
2007 Elk Cove Pinot Gris 13% Willamette ValleyThis is full of pressed-flower notes, apple seeds, and pollen on the nose helping to frame the very crisp white fruit notes with a fine verdant freshness. On entry this is rich and round with pronounced acidity popping on the mid-palate. The flavors are somewhat low intensity with more of the apple seed and pollen tones found on the nose, followed by notes of dried fruit. The scale of this wine is modest, what is here is very nice, but a little more flesh might not be a bad thing. A touch underwhelming today. 87pts
2007 Shoestring Pinot Grigio 13.4% Santa Ynez ValleyThis smells very pumpkiny, like carving one for Halloween, with notes of fresh honey and blanched almonds adding some more festive tones. In the mouth this is slippery smooth, with excellent acids that keep the rich fruit lively and help add some cut to the dried peach, candied yam, and spice tones on the mid-palate. The finish is very long, with subtle complexity; the flavors are a bit unusual here, though the texture is seductive. 87pts
2008 Bazzini Pinot Grigio 12% Provincia di PaviaBright on the nose with notes of sweet fruit and sharp acids, subtle with a touch of smoke and chemical salt. A bit of residual sweetness adds some fullness on the palate and is balanced by bright acidity, giving the yellow apple fruit here a nice richness. There’s a touch of mineral bitterness on the mid-palate and nice sweet fruit and floral tones on the finish, which has good length. This is simple, but fresh and accessible while not losing the refreshing character of the grape. Overall, it’s well done and a good value. 85pts
NV Drama Queen Middle Sister Pinot Grigio 12.5% CaliforniaVery citrussy on the nose with distinct notes of lime, dusty earth, a touch of rubber boot and diesel, and a hint of dried basil. On the palate this is broad and soft with barely adequate acidity. It does have subtle fruit flavors of key lime pie and green apple fruit, but is pretty simple overall. The finish shows a nice sweet edge to the fruit, without the wine actually being sweet, along with good floral tones. While this is simple, it should have broad appeal. 84pts
2008 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Grigio 13.5% CaliforniaPretty aromatics are a touch toasty with nice almond-shell tones backing up apple blossom, lime, pear, and a touch musky papaya fruit. This is lean on entry with snappy acids that overpower the mid-palate just a touch. There are nice notes of crisp apple and again slightly exotic musky papaya fruit on the mid-palate, with a touch of bitter minerality on the backend that becomes more aggressive and chemical-like on the finish. This is a lean style of Pinot Grigio where the acid is a bit too prominent. 83pts
Gris v. Grigio: Two to Try2007 Adelsheim Pinot Gris
This really shares some character with other Pinot Gris, particularly the earthy, subtly spicy tones that accent the fruit, but at the same time it’s light and refreshing and an ideal Pinot Gris for Spring sipping.
2007 Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio
This is rich and round, and while it’s not the most expressive Pinot Grigio we tried, it is the most fun to drink. With its lush texture, layered fruits, and modest price, this is one to buy by the case.