Pinot Grigio vs. Pinot Gris: What’s The Difference?

The world of wine is confusing enough. But one of the compounding factors is that different grapes are sometimes called the same thing in various parts, while the same variety of grape can be called different names in different regions.

One of the best examples of this is Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio, which are, in fact, the same grape variety. So then what exactly is the difference between the two…I mean, apart from the fact that Ramona Singer from The Real Housewives of New York City makes Pinot Grigio? Don’t act like you didn’t know that.

Ramona from Real Housewives makes Pinot Grigio, not Gris.

Ramona from Real Housewives makes Pinot Grigio, not Gris.

The answer is: not much. In France, you’ll find Pinot Gris mostly growing in Alsace, while in Italy, the grape is called Pinot Grigio and is most famously made in the Alto Adige region. (Side note: it’s pronounced “ALL-toe AHD-ee-jay” with the emphasis on the first syllable of Adige.) Gris and Grigio each mean “gray” in their respective language, and that’s thanks to the grape’s pinkish-gray skin tone.

Pinot Gris/Grigio gets its name from the fact that the berries are a gray-ish pink.

Pinot Gris/Grigio gets its name from the fact that the berries are a gray-ish pink.

The real difference, however, is in the style and flavor profile of these wines. Pinot Grigio tends to be lighter, more acidic, with more citrusy flavors. You can either drink it on its own as an aperitif, or pair it with light fish and seafood dishes.

Pinot Gris, on the other hand, tends to be made in a heavier style, with more notes like pear and apple, nectarine, white flowers, honey and even a hint of ginger or spice. I personally like it with Asian food – sushi, Vietnamese with its fresh flavors, and even spicy Thai. Some winemakers harvest their Pinot Gris late and make dessert wines from it.

They're made from the same grape. The difference is the style.

They’re made from the same grape. The difference is the style.

In other parts of the world where neither French nor Italian is the language (such as in Oregon, California and New Zealand, where both styles are popular), you’ll hear winemakers refer to their wine as either Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris depending on the style of wine to which it bears a greater resemblance.

And that’s pretty much the difference. While it’s mostly about the name, it’s those flavor profiles that are the significant factors. Go out this weekend and try some Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris side-by-side and see which one you prefer.

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