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Pinot Grigio vs Pinot Gris: Is there a difference?

This is another case of the same grape variety travelling under different guises, but you can find a variety styles to explore all over the world.

Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio refer to the same grape variety, known today for producing white wines of varying flavour and intensity.

Pinot Grigio’s heartland lies in northern Italy, while Pinot Gris has a particular stronghold in Alsace, eastern France.

You’ll find this grape making excellent wines around the world, however, from parts of New Zealand and Australia to Michigan and Oregon in the US.

How does Pinot Grigio / Pinot Gris taste?

Characteristics in different styles might include orchard fruits, like apples and pears, as well as delicate floral aromas, spices, honey and a touch of citrus.

Some wines might show greater minerality, but others might have more weight and texture on the palate; their richness held in balance by refreshing acidity.

Italian Pinot Grigio is sometimes associated with a fresher, crisper style. As Chris Wilson says in this article, the mountainous parts of northern Italy are more associated with characters of peach, white flowers and citrus.

Alsace Pinot Gris is perhaps better known for richness with added spice, as well as wines that stray into off-dry and full-on sweet wine territory.

However, this division in styles is too simplistic in reality, not least because you’ll find Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris being made in many other parts of the wine world.

Following a trip to Friuli in 2015, Decanter’s Stephen Brook wrote that the variety that is ‘difficult to pin down’.

In northern Italy, though, there’s a ‘big gap in quality between the average supermarket Pinot Grigio and the full-bodied wines from the best corners of Friuli’, he wrote.

Alto Adige is also known for Pinot Grigio with complexity and depth.

Speaking about Friuli specifically, Brook did note that ‘Alsatian versions can also show musky aromas that you rarely find in Friuli, where the dominant aromas are pear and apple, though often with stone fruits or citrus to the fore as well’.

For drinkers, however, it’s difficult to pinpoint the style of the wine just by looking at the grape name used on the label, said David Way, wine qualifications developer at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.

If unsure, probably the best thing to do is to ‘ask somebody to tell you what style it is’, he said.

That could be your local wine shop or the original producer should you get the opportunity.

‘The key thing to learn is that there’s more than one style,’ said Way.

Also known as…Grauburgunder

In Germany, the variety can go by yet more different names. The Wines of Germany trade body says this can be used to indicate style.

‘Grauburgunder denotes the sleeker, drier style, which harmonises with many types of food, while the richer, fuller-bodied and more fragrant version is called Ruländer,’ its website says.

Pinot Grigio ramato

Another general stylistic variation found in Italy and elsewhere, too, is known as ‘ramato’, an Italian term used to denote a copper-like hue in the wine than can be derived from the grape variety’s skins.

This ‘Pinot Grigio Ramato’ from Germany’s Pfalz region has candied strawberry, bruised apple and sweet spices on the nose, wrote Decanter’s Sylvia Wu in 2020.

Is Pinot Gris a dry white wine?

Yes it can be, but not always. You can find plenty of bone-dry examples, yet you’ll also come across deliciously rich off-dry styles.

There are late-harvest sweet wines that have been visited by noble rot, too, such as this Zind-Humbrecht, Clos St-Urbain Pinot Gris SGN 1989.

See also: Best Pinot Grigio – 20 under £20

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