Are Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio the same grape?
Let’s be honest; how many times have you wandered uncertain in front of those two names? How clear is the difference between them to you?
Today we will try to shed a light on this subject, saying straight away that Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are exactly the same grape variety. Surprised?!
How are they grown?
Well, this is one of the vines that originated as a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir, native of the border area between France (where it is known as Pinot Gris) and Germany (where it is called Rulander). It arrived in Italy (where it is translated as Pinot Grigio) in the XIX century and found a suitable habitat in the North Eastern regions of Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli.
Generally speaking, this grape variety is quite difficult to grow; it likes cold climates and ideal soil to work well. When the pedoclimatic conditions are satisfied, it has a good vigor and gives fairly discreet and constant yields. It is not a white grape as you might be inclined to think; it is indeed mostly vinified in white (without skin contact) but its skin is gray-reddish or coppery when it reaches full ripeness.
Do pinot gris and pinot grigio taste different?
Nonetheless, despite being the same grape variety, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio wines often show very different characters as the result of the influence of terroir and vinification techniques.
French Pinot Gris, especially those coming from the Alsace region (often late harvested) can produce both sweet and dry full-bodied wines with a golden straw-yellow color. They have intense notes of exotic fruits and spicy aromas. They are robust with a good freshness and acidity, a characteristic that make the also suitable for ageing.
These wines are excellent food companions with the dry ones matching elegantly white meat and spicy food, and the sweet ones pairing deliciously desserts such as apricot tarts. If unsure, try Wine Picker, an electronic sommelier to learn pairing food with wine like a pro.
Italy, on the other hand, rarely manages to fulfill the potential of this grape variety as production is mostly addressed on high yields rather than quality. In fact, the Italian Pinot Grigio market remains strongly connected to exports, especially to the US.
Thus, with the due exceptions, Italian Pinot Grigios are often much lighter and less intense wines, sometimes to the point of being dull. The best examples, though, have citrusy and stone fruits, a vibrant crispness and a light body, that makes them perfect as aperitif or with shellfish.
Pinot Gris worldwide
Pinot Gris is produced in many other countries all over the world, including Canada, US and New Zealand with different styles and results. The name used on the bottle will always be the original French name. Although, occasionally, some winemakers name their wines in relation to the style they want to propose, so that, if the wine is more French style they’ll call it Pinot Gris and vice-versa.
Whatever is your preferred style, we hope we helped you in your choice. Cheers!