Pinot Grigio vs. Pinot Gris. They’re the same grape so what’s the difference?

May 23, 2013


Don’t we all just love the confusing labels and varietals? Syrah/Shiraz; Muscat/Muscato; It seems like it never ends sometimes. It’s no wonder wine is so confusing and intimidating to everyone. I feel your pain. I do.

It was only about a month ago that I was half paying attention and grabbed a bottle labeled “Pinot Grigio” without noticing it came from a winery in Napa, and I was stupified when I opened the bottle. It’s not that it wasn’t good, but it wasn’t the Pinot Grigio I had been looking forward too all day. It was heavier, more perfumey and more full. It was more like a Pinot Gris. Not only that but I thought “How is this Pinot Grigio if it’s American? Pinot Grigio is Italian. HUH?”

That experience made me delve into the issue of Pinot Grigio vs. Pinot Gris because here’s what can be confusing – it’s the exact same grape. Pinot Grigio IS the Pinot Gris grape. I had known this all along, but I had never been faced with an American bottle of Pinot Grigio.  Usually any wine that is Pinot Gris is labeled as such with the exception of Italy which calls it “Pinot Grigio”. I looked at it like it was a freak unicorn with two heads. Although these two wines are the exact same grape, they are quite different from one another on many levels.

Pinot Grigio is made from pinto gris grapes grown in Italy and has a very distinctive style; Usually one that is light, crispy and fresh with a vibrant stone finish. It reminds me of biting into a fresh green apple. It is also best served with lighter fare grilled fish, shrimp and salads.

Pinot Gris, on the other hand, is heavier with more richness and hails from France with most of it being produced in Alsace (my absolute fave wine region for Riesling and Gewürztraminer btw). It is best paired with richer foods such as stews, chicken casseroles and hard cheeses.

Although Pinot Gris is grown all over the world today, Italy is the boss of this grape because it is the Italians that made this once not-so-popular grape into a world-wide sensation.

So going back to my original confusion that evening (bringing this back full circle)  – How is an American winery billing a wine as a Pinot Grigio when it’s clearly not Italian? Most likely because it’s the Pinot Grigio style the winemaker was going for – lighter and crispier as opposed to the Pinot Gris style of heavier and richer. And that’s basically it.

If all varietals tasted the same regardless of where they were grown then there would not be hundreds, if not thousands, of taste profiles of wines. The taste starts with the soil and blossoms outward. Although the style was meant to be the Italian Pinot Grigio style, it wasn’t 100% and can never be. The taste of Pinot Grigio even changes depending on what region of Italy it’s made in because of soil and weather differences.

Just like any other wine, finding your personal style is going to be key when purchasing. I personally enjoy Pinot Grigio over Pinot Gris because my white wine style is lighter and stoney with more minerality. And as I discovered this eye-opening evening, I prefer my Pinot Grigio to come directly from Italy.

If you’ve tried both I would love to hear your style and which you prefer! Both are wonderful in their unique way.


Tasty Vino
Welcome to! I'm your hostess for all things wine and everything that pairs with it! Share your appetite with me here as I drink tons of wine, eat food, post photos and vacation around the world! Cheers!


  • Red Wine Diva
    May 31, 2013 6:10 pm

    Pinot Gris/Grigio is my least favorite wine. They ten to be too bitter and too citrusy like a yellow/white grapefruit. Am I just not finding the right ones for my palate? Are there some out there that are not so bitter?

    • Genesis Moss
      May 31, 2013 6:43 pm

      HaHa! Your comment made me smile because a lot of them DO have a tendency to seem bitter because they are high in acid (which I actually like.) LOL. I feel the same way about Chardonnay as you do Pinot Grigio (only for opposite reasons. That buttery, creamy taste makes me cringe. LOL) Have you ever tried “Abbazia di Novacella”? It’s full bodied but still fairly soft. It has a lot of fruity notes too like banana and peaches. If you ever run across it, give it a try. I think it consistently gets high marks from WS and WE too. I stumbled upon on it at my favorite local Italian restaurant.

  • Nyla
    June 5, 2013 6:27 am

    Is there any red wines that you like?

    • Genesis Moss
      June 5, 2013 1:58 pm

      Yes! As a matter of fact, the majority of what I drink is red wine. I tend to like European reds quite a bit, but I love Cabernets and Merlots from Napa and Sonoma. The rest of what I drink are French and italian red wines such as Chianti (Italy), Brunello (Italy and my FAVORITE), Barolo (Italy), Bordeaux (France), and Côte Rotie (France). =)

  • Greg Zyn
    March 18, 2020 10:52 pm

    I don’t really discriminate between pinot noir as I think all of these wines have their own special taste. I am sure that pinot noir would be regarded as the best wine ever.

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