Also known as Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio is a dark grape variety used to make white wine and is most commonly found in France and Italy. Originating in France, is now grown all over the world, from the United States to New Zealand and is one of the darkest skinned grapes to produce white wine. It is considered an “fast and easy” wine, which can be bottled and placed on the market within 4-12 weeks after fermentation.
The wines made from Pinot Grigio are very different from each other and depend on the region and the style of wine making. Alsace Pinot Grigio (French) is a medium bodied wine with a rich bouquet and something floral. Compared to other Pinot Grigio varieties, these tend to be spicy. While most Pinot Grigio is intended for early consumption, Alsace Pinot Gris can age well, German Pinot Gris is more saturated with a balance of acidity and light sweetness. Oregon has a medium build wine with a rose-yellow-copper color and aromas of pear, apple and/or melon. In California, Pinot gris is lighter, with a fresh and refreshing flavor, with some notes of pepper and rocket. The Pinot grigio style in Italy is a light, often thin, light colored wine, with flavors that can sometimes be crispy and sour.
Whilst Pinot Gris & Pinot Grigio are interchangeable, it’s good to know that Pinot Gris typically gives a fruity ‘French’ style and Pinot Grigio is more commonly known by the drier “Italian” flavor.
Where is Pinot Grigio grown?
Pinot Gris is one of the darkest grape varieties producing white wine, surpassing the Gewurztraminer in the redness of the berries. The grapes can range from blue-grey to brownish pink, sometimes in the same bunch, resulting in a very deep golden wine, even copper. It is relatively mild, rarely has a very pronounced acidity, can also be relatively high in alcohol (depending on the maturity of the grapes when harvested), and can also be pure blood with a rather pungent taste (although in a much less specific way than Gewürztraminer). It almost always has a much higher character and weight than the lighter Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc (Pinot Bianco or Weissburgunder). Its leaves are almost identical to those of Pinot Noir.
Of course, in French Alsace, where this variety is its home, it is much more revered than Pinot Blanc, and together with Riesling and Gewurztraminer it is considered one of the “noble” white grape varieties of the region. Its ability to achieve high levels of alcohol makes it a candidate for the region’s most respected wines, the Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles categories, with its usual price premiums and often levels of botanical wine and residual sugar. In Alsace, this is highly regarded as a wine full enough but not too tasty to be served with food that most of us would combine with red wine. You can certainly handle foie gras, a dish that uses Asian spices and a bit of sweetness, and I even liked it with venison.
Abroad, in Germany, particularly in Baden, it has the same role as Graubürgünder, where it is an important variety, especially appreciated as a partner of the new season asparagus every spring. Grauburgünder tends to be lower in alcohol and often a little higher in acidity than Pinot Gris from Alsace – and not worse for him. However, more and more producers like Bercher, Dr Heger and Salwey reduce yields, harvest grapes in spices and even age some wines in small oak barrels to produce much more concentrated, more Burgundian versions of Grauburgunder. Grauburgunder on a German wine label tends to intentionally mean a sweeter wine, often made from concentrated grapes to some extent with botrite.
The typical Italian version of this grape is quite different – in fact, for many years it was extremely difficult to see any connection between the ocean of the incomparable Pinot Grigio, erupted by producers in Veneto, Friuli and, to a lesser extent, Lombardy, Trentino Alto Adige and Emilia Romagna – and their counterparts in Alsace and Germany. It is still easy to find Italian wines under the Pinot Grigio brand, which have been so carelessly made from grapes harvested so early that they have a rather low acidity and not so many others. But there are also examples, particularly from Friuli, the Collio white wine, which is amazingly fruity, with a real fruit and flowering flavour, while maintaining sufficient acidity (sometimes a certain salinity, and often a little carbon dioxide) to keep them alive. In Lombardy, Pinot Grigio is sometimes mixed with Pinot Bianco, much wider, planted by the region’s sparkling wine producers.
This grape appears everywhere. It has been authorized for centuries in Burgundy, where it is known as Pinot Béuro, and can be found in some of the ancient Pinot Noir vineyards. In fact, in many red vineyards in Burgundy it is allowed to be called by the laws of contrast, while Henri Gouges de Nuits Saint Georges makes a pure blood white wine at its base. In the Loire it is often called Malvoisium, as in Switzerland, where, especially in Valais, it can produce soft and perfumed white wines with more body than most. It is this ability to achieve relatively high levels of alcohol that contributes to the brilliance of its reputation in Luxembourg.
It is grown throughout Eastern Europe, particularly in Austria (where it can produce very rich wines), Slovenia, Romania, Slovakia, Russia, Moldova and Hungary, where it is memorably called Szürkebarát. (Elsewhere, it tends to travel according to some local Pinot Gris adaptations).
History of Pinot Grigio
The wine was born in Burgundy, but arrived in Switzerland in the 1300s, where it was considered a favorite emperor. From here the grapes came to northern Italy, and the true story of Pinot Grigio was born.
Pinot Grigio has been known since the Middle Ages in the Burgundy region, where it was probably called Fromento. It spread from Burgundy with Pinot Noir, arriving in Switzerland around 1300. The grapes were allegedly the favourites of Emperor Charles IV, who brought the stakes of Cistercian monks to Hungary: the brothers planted vineyards on the slopes of Badaczoni, on the edge of Lake Balaton, in 1375. Shortly after, the vine was given the name Szürkebarát, which means “grey monk”. In 1711, a German merchant named Johann Seger Ruland (re) discovered wild grapes in the fields of the Palatinate. The subsequent wine, which he produced, became known as “Ruländer”, and later the vine was found as “Pinot gris”.
Until the 18th and 19th centuries, grapes were a popular plant in Burgundy and Champagne, but low yields and unreliable harvests caused the grapes to fall out of sight in these areas. The same fate almost occurred in Germany, but at the beginning of the 20th century the winegrowers managed to develop clonal varieties that would provide a more consistent and reliable harvest.
Researchers at the University of California at Davis have determined that Pinot gris has a DNA profile that is surprisingly similar to Pinot noir and that the color difference is the result of a genetic mutation that occurred many centuries ago. The leaves and vines are so similar that coloring is the only aspect that distinguishes them.
The Santa Margherita wine group, a wine producer from northern Italy, was the first company in the world in 1961 to vinify pink Pinot Grigio grapes as a white wine .
By 2005 Pinot gris was increasingly popular in the market, especially in its incarnation of Pinot grigio and similar varietal wines from the New World.
In Italy Pinot gris became Pinot Grigio, and the wine was very successful in the regions of northeast Italy: Lombardy, Veneto, Friuli, Trentino and Alto Adige. Since its foundation in northern Italy, the wine has become the most popular white wine in all of Italy, and then the most popular imported white wine in the USA.
Over 15,000 hectares of pinot grigio are grown around the world.
Argentina – San Juan and Mendoza Australia – Tasmania, Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills, Orange, New South Wales, Mornington Peninsula. 2,836 hectares (as of 2008). Austria – 300 hectares or 0.6% of the total wine growing area. Canada – British Columbia, Ontario Chile – Casablanca, Chile Czech Republic – Bohemia, Moravia France – Burgundy, Loire, Alsace. 2,582 hectares (as of 2007). Germany – Baden, Palatinate. 5,042 hectares or 4.9% of the wine growing area (as of 31 July 2008). Hungary – Badacsony, Mátraalja Italy – Roverè della Luna, Trentino Luxembourg
Moldova New Zealand (including Waiheke Island) – 1,383 hectares (as of 2008). In 2007, the area was only 1,146 hectares. Romania – Constanța County, Jidvei South Africa Slovakia – about 285 hectares Slovenia – Primorska, Podravje Switzerland – Valais. About 214 hectares (as of 2007). Turkey – Thrace Region, Kırklareli, Arcadia Vineyards Ukraine – Crimea United States – Oregon, California, New Mexico, Idaho, Michigan, Arizona, Virginia, New Jersey, Washington, and New York
What is the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio?
Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are in fact the same variety. They are white grapes, with a greyish-brownish pink skin (hence the name of the brown, or grey, in French).
This grape comes from France (it belongs to the Pinot Burgundy family), and is known in France as Pinot Gris, where it is grown in Alsace. It is known abroad in Italy as the Pinot Grigio. Although Pinot Grigio is of French origin, it is in fact the Italians who should be grateful for bringing this variety such international recognition and fame.
Although it is the same grape, these two names have come to the conclusion that there are two different styles of wine.
Extraordinarily popular, Italian Pinot Grigio wines are generally light, crisp, fresh, with bright stone fruit and floral aromas and a blend of spices.
In contrast, Alsace Pinot Grigio wines are richer, spicier, with a more viscous texture. In addition, they tend to have a greater potential for burial and ageing.
What to look for in a good Pinot Grigio
Personally, we find these qualities most common in Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige, in northern Italy, where the wines show great purity and a delicate taste with great intensity and depth of taste. As for the style of Pinot Gris, become a true passionate fan of Alsace. Alsace Pinot Gris wines show incredible richness, sky width, earth minerality and terroir. If you want to drink something from the United States, another option is Oregon Pinot Gris, which in many ways combines the richness and texture of the Alsatian style with the brightest fruity notes of the Italian style.
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