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The 3 Types of Pinot Grigio

June 18, 2014 Blog » Learn About Wine » The 3 Types of Pinot Grigio
Articles, Favorite, Intermediate, Light-Bodied White Wine, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Wine Types

You’ll never think of Pinot Grigio the same again.

Pinot Grigio is not just the zippy mouth-moisturizer you might have assumed. There are actually 3 main types that have some notable differences between them. Let’s take a closer look at the ‘gray’ grape, Pinot Gris.

The 3 Main Types of Pinot Grigio

  • Minerally & Dry
  • Fruity & Dry
  • Fruity & Sweet (Alsacian)

3 Styles of Pinot Grigio white wine glass

TIP: Pinot Gris & Pinot Grigio are interchangeable. However, it’s useful to know that Pinot Gris implies a fruity ‘French’ style and Pinot Grigio to suggest a drier ‘Italian’ style.

Minerally & Dry Pinot Grigio

This style is most famous from the northern parts of Italy and traverses the foothills of the Alps nearly all the way from Italy through Austria and even Romania, Slovenia and Hungary. The mountains are a powerful force on the agriculture, insuring that the grapes keep their high acidity. Expect exceptionally dry whites that pair perfectly with mussels, french fries and hot summer days. This style is the quintessential ‘Pinot Grigio,’ loved for its simplicity, ‘lack of fruit’ and sometimes saline quality.

Seek Out The Style:

Regions with cooler climate tend to produce wines in this style including:

  • Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
  • Veneto and Lombardy, Italy
  • Austria
  • Hungary
  • Slovenia
  • Romania
  • Pfalz, Rheinhessen and Rheingau in Germany
  • Okanagan, Canada

What to look for on the label:

  • Produced in stainless steel tanks
  • No oak aging or ‘malolactic fermentation’
  • Lower alcohol levels (10-12.5% ABV)

Fruity & Dry Pinot Gris

Winemakers often choose the word Pinot Gris to describe this fruit-driven style of Pinot Gris. You’ll be able to pick out lemon, yellow apple and white peach among the flavors that you smell. This presence of more fruit in the aroma tells us that these wines grew in a more sun-friendly climate. Besides just the fruity aromas, the wines have less intense acidity and more of an ‘oily’ textured mouthfeel. This is because winemakers often add a special bacteria after the alcohol fermentation that ‘eats’ sharp acids and ‘poops out’ smooth acids. This process is called Malolactic Fermentataion — where Malic acid is the harsh acid and lactic acid is the smooth oily one.

Seek Out The Style:

Several of the countries that make this style are New World wine regions:

  • Fruili-Venezia Guilia, Sicily, Abruzzo and Tuscany in Italy
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Chile
  • California
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Argentina

What to look for on the label:

  • Produced in stainless steel tanks or ‘neutral’ barrels
  • Aged on the ‘lees’
  • Some malolactic fermentation


WHAT IS MALOLACTIC? It’s a process that happens after the alcoholic fermentation (often when the wine is put in barrels) where a special bacteria named Oenococcus oeni (heh: ‘Oh No Cock Us!’) eats sharp malic acid and poops out smooth lactic acid. Malolactic Fermentation (MLF) is what makes some wine taste creamy and oily in the mid-palate.

Fruity & Sweet Pinot Grigio

Perhaps the only place in the world that makes a quality sweeter-style Pinot Gris is Alsace, France. For centuries Alsace attempted to recreate the intensely sweet white wine called Tokaji (‘toe-kye’) drunk by kings in Transylvania and the Ottoman empire (now Hungary). In fact, up until 2007, Alsace could use the words ‘Tokay d’Alsace’ on their bottles of Pinot Gris!

Today, Alsace is one of the only regions in the world making a sweet style of Pinot Gris. With flavors of sweet lemon candy, honeycomb and honey crisp apples, winemakers apply very advanced winemaking techniques to increase the mouthfeel texture and use late harvest and noble rot grapes to maximize the flavor potential.

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Seek Out This Style:
  • LESS SWEET: ‘Pinot Gris’ and a Grand Cru Pinot Gris
  • VERY SWEET: Vendage Tardives (‘late harvest’) and Sélection de Grains Nobles (‘our best ever!’)

Find out more about Alsace


Oregon Pinot Gris Rose ramato

An never before seen enigma: a ‘Ramato’ style Pinot Gris from Oregon.

BONUS: A Rosé Pinot Grigio called Ramato

It might surprise you to know that there is also a rosé Pinot Grigio that uses the pale purple skins of the grape to stain the wine a pale copper hue. Producers typically macerate the juice in the skins, –just like rosé– for about 24 for 36 hours. Ramato wines can be found in Friuli, Italy. Depending on the producer in Friuli it may offer up nuances of white raspberry, leather, sour cherry and either a meaty note or a dried cranberry sweetness on the finish.

Also, there are a few wineries still experimenting with Pinot Grigio and barrel-aging, often using chesnut barrels which is what is common along the Friuli and Slovenian border.

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By Madeline Puckette
I'm a certified sommelier and creator of the NYT Bestseller, Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine. Find me out there in the wine world @WineFolly