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.

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% Sudtirol

This 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 Valley

What 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 Valley

Wildly 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 IGT

This 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% Trentino

This 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 Australia

Wow, 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 Coast

This 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 Valley

This 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 Valley

This 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 Pavia

Bright 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% California

Very 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% California

Pretty 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 Try

2007 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.


Mentioned in this article

Comments

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 7,050

    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:

    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php...!/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 (http://www.robertsinskey.com) - Pinot Gris (Carneros)

    Swanson Vineyards (http://www.swansonvineyards.com) - 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 202,539

    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 1,475

    Gregory,

    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?

    Lefty,
    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 7,050

    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 202,539

    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 http://schiller-wine.blogspot.com/2... 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 202,539

    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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