What's the Difference Between Pinot Gris and Grigio?

Two wines, one grape – welcome to the world of gris and grigio. 

We're often asked to explain the difference between these two wines, so here it is: different wines, same grape. It's a little confusing, but the difference comes down to style, which tends to be reflective of each wine's spiritual home; France for gris, Italy for grigio.

Traditional characteristics of pinot gris and grigio

There's no doubt that pinot gris/grigio is a versatile grape. And while we can point to a few traditional characteristics of each – and have done so below – it's worth noting that 'New World' winemakers in Australia, New Zealand and America aren't bound to rules or regional styles. That said, here's what you might traditionally expect from each:

Pinot grigio

Pinot grigio originally hails from Italy's Veneto region and is known for its simplicity. If you're after a wine that's crisp, dry and zesty, you can't go wrong with a pinot grigio. You can generally expect flavours of lemon and lime, making it the perfect wine for warmer weather, especially when paired with seafood and salads.

Pinot gris

The most famous region for pinot gris has traditionally been Alsace, in the north-east of France. Here, grapes tend to be picked late in the season, meaning the acidity is lower, sugar is higher and flavours are more complex, resulting in a fuller-bodied wine. You start to see more stone fruit flavours, like nectarine and peach, and even notes of honey.

Modern examples of gris and grigio

Though France and Italy are responsible for fantastic pinot gris and grigio respectively, some of the most exciting wines are now coming from countries like Australia and New Zealand, where the names pinot gris and pinot grigio can be used interchangeably to reflect a style. 

Grigio typically points to a wine that's higher in acidity and lighter-bodied, while gris will have a bit more complexity and body to it. You'll find these wines being made in cool-climate regions like Tasmania, Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Valley, not to mention the King Valley, which is where The Flying Winemaker produces its own pinot grigio. There's a big Italian influence in Victoria's alpine region, which is why we craft our grigio true to its Italian heritage; crispy, crunchy, bright and refreshing.

If you're hoping to take your love of gris/grigio to another level, it's well worth keeping an eye out for gris 'on skins', which is the latest trend in the gris/grigio world. It's essentially a pinot gris/grigio that is made like a pinot noir, being left to ferment with grape skins to produce a more complex and full-bodied wine. These tend to be quite textural and closer to a red than a white, meaning you really can find a gris/grigio for any occasion. All you have to do is find your favourite style, and we happen to know a great wine to begin with.

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