Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio)
Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the same grape made in radically different styles
Pinot Gris (also commonly known by its Italian name: Pinot Grigio) is a rose-colored grape used to make white wine. It is a versatile grape and can be used to make dry or sweet wines. Pinot Gris grows all over the world and thrives in some unlikely places.
The first point of discussion with Pinot Gris is the name: are Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris different grapes? The answer is no, they are the same grape, but they do denote different styles of wine. The Pinot Gris style hails from Alsace in the far eastern part of France, although you will find winemakers from Australia and the Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington) making wines in a similar style. The wines are known for being full-bodied with medium to low acidity. They have a distinct sweetness and lots of fruit flavor. Notes of mango and melon are common, and in sweeter examples, there are notes of honey, figs, and hazelnut.
Pinot Grigio originally comes from Italy, and the best come from Alto Adige, but this style of bright, zippy white wine is now made all over the world. The key is picking the Pinot Grigio grapes slightly early to maintain high acidity, low sugar, and keep some of the fruit flavors in check. Pinot Grigio is a refreshing wine that is easy to drink.
IN THIS ARTICLE:
History of Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio)
Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) (pee-no gree-gee-oh or pee-no gree) has been grown since the Middle Ages when it came over the Alps from Switzerland to eastern France.
For centuries it was grown in the storied vineyards of Burgundy and Champagne, but its inability to adapt to poor weather has seen it slowly replaced over time. In France, it found its stride in Alsace and the grapes have evolved to exhibit slightly different characteristics than traditional Pinot Gris grapes. In this part of France it is sometimes referred to as Pinot Gris d'Alsace.
In the 1700s the grape was found growing wild in a German field by a merchant named Johann Ruland who popularized the grape in the country under the name Ruländer.
An interesting note to all modern Pinot Grigio drinkers is that it wasn't until the 1960s that an Italian winery, Santa Margherita in Alto Adige, used the pink grape to make a white wine. The style caught on and made its way down from the mountains around Trentino to Friuli, the Veneto, Lombardy, and beyond.
Recently scientists have mapped the DNA of the Pinot Grigio grape and found that its genetic structure is the same as Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. It was only a twist of genetic fate that gave us this beautiful rose-colored grape variety.
What does Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) taste like?
Pinot Gris wine has a beautiful bouquet and flavor profile. Wines made in the Alsatian (Gris) style are stronger and exhibit more floral aromas like honeysuckle or orange blossoms, stone fruit, and even melon and mango.
Italian Pinot Grigio (and wine made in that style) is still fruity, but the flavors are more muted. This dry white wine exhibits flavors closer to green apple, citrus, and can even be a bit effervescent with a spritz-like quality.
Sometimes Pinot Gris is used to round out the flavors of a red wine, like a Pinot Noir.
Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) Characteristics
Pinot Gris grapes grow best in cool climates. It has thin skin, and can produce large amounts of natural sugar. This means that the resulting wines are either left with residual sweetness or high alcohol. It is also very partial to warm volcanic soils, and wines grown in this soil type often clearly express the terroir of the vineyard sites.
Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) Nutritional Facts
The nutritional value in Pinot Gris varies greatly depending on two main factors: alcohol and sugar. The more sugar present in a wine, the more carbohydrates.
The alcohol in Pinot Gris can vary greatly depending on how ripe the grapes were when harvested if the winemaker added extra sugar, and how long it was allowed to ferment. Pinot Gris can contain higher than average levels of alcohol, but much depends on regional styles.
When comparing Pinot Grigio vs. Pinot Gris, you will often find that Pinot Grigio is lower in sugar but higher in alcohol, and Pinot Gris is higher in sugar and lower in alcohol.
How to Serve and Store Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio)
Pinot Gris is meant to be enjoyed young and fresh. It is known for its short maturation process and can even be found available to drink one month after fermentation.
Serving Pinot Gris can be done simply. The wine should be chilled, and then opened. If you want to experience the wine through multiple stages we recommend popping your wine in the refrigerator an hour or two before serving and allowing it to warm as you drink it. That being said this is all personal preference. Enjoy your wine how you like it.
Once your wine is cooled it is time to open the bottle. You will need a traditional corkscrew, but there are good examples of Pinot Grigio that use a screwcap.
If you are storing Pinot Gris, it should be in a cool place that does not receive direct sunlight, and preferably in a wine refrigerator or cellar. 55 degrees Fahrenheit is the median temperature wine should be stored if you wish to age the bottles. What matters most is consistency. Do not store your Pinot Gris in a place that receives direct sunlight, heat, or too much humidity and remember to enjoy it while it's fresh.
What to Pair with Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio)
Pairing wine has some general rules, but we think the most important rule is to drink Pinot Gris with the food you like. Pinot Grigio is a good choice for enjoying on its own as an aperitif before dinner, but if you are pairing we would recommend drinking it with fresh seafood. Lightly fried fritto misto is a classic coastal Italian pairing, while New World examples are often enjoyed with Salmon.
Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) Wine regions around the world
Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) is truly an international grape and grows all over the winemaking world. The styles vary greatly by region and by producer. Here is a brief overview of where it is growing, and broad tasting notes associated with each region.
In France, the varietal came into its own in Alsace where it is known as one of the "Noble Grapes" of Alsace alongside Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat. The Alsatian style is known for being sweeter, more floral, and more fruity that the dry Italian Pinot Grigio. Most Pinot Gris wines are imitating this Alsatian style.
Originating in Alto Adige before moving to Lombardy, the Veneto, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italian Pinot Grigio is a dry white wine that is light and easy to drink. It is the model for many Pinot Grigio copy-cats the world over.
Ruländer style Pinot Grigio is grown across Europe but good examples can be found in Germany, Austria, and even sweet examples in Romania
Good Pinot Grigio is made throughout the United States, but is typically found growing in California, Oregon, and Washington. California Pinot Grigio is typically fruitier than Italian Pinot Grigio. Recently, there have even been some decent examples coming from Ohio of all places!
Pinot Grigio found its way to Australia with James Busby in the 1800s, and most Australian examples today are made in the crisp Italian style.
New Zealand is a very exciting region for the grape with massive growth in the last decade providing complex and fun examples.