Know Your Grape: Pinot Gris

Also known as Pinot Grigio, this versatile grape variety can produce different styles of wine. Pinot Gris has been traditionally grown in North East Italy and the Alsace region of France. But New World Wine Regions like the US, Australia and New Zealand too have taken to growing this grape and giving the wine their own twist.

Since Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the same variety of grape and while you can use them interchangeably, we will explain why it has two names later in the article.

Unlocking the Elegance: Did you know that Pinot Grigio, often praised for its crispness, is actually a mutation of the red Pinot Noir grape?


Pinot Grigio is known for its versatility and can produce multiple styles of wine. The most common style is made from high yields of grapes that are harvested early while the acidity is high. This results in a dry, light-voided wine with high acidity and simple flavours of apple and lime.

For the second style, the winemakers control the yields, delaying the harvest of the grapes. These grapes have a higher level of sugar, lower acidity and more complex flavours. They produce a powerful, full-bodied wine with medium acidity and pronounced flavours of lemon, peach, mango and banana.

Also Read: Everything you need to know about Chardonnay

Wine-Making Techniques

Pinot Grigio is usually fermented in inert vessels to preserve fresh fruit flavours. The lighter Italian style is almost always fermented to dryness, while producers of the riper richer style sometimes interrupt the fermentation by removing the yeasts in order to retain an off-dry level of sweetness.


Minerally and Dry – North East Italy

With few exceptions, the Italian Pinot Grigio is simple, unoaked and light in style. Many of these wines are produced in North-East Italy and are labelled as Veneto IGT (Italian Wine Region). They are inexpensive as they are produced in high volume.

A more complex and fuller-bodied style can be found in Friuli Venezia Giulia, in Northern Italy.

Fruity and Dry – USA, Australia

Winemakers often choose the word “Pinot Gris” to describe a more fruit-driven style of this variety. You can expect flavours of lemon, yellow apple, and white peach with a slightly richer texture.

Besides 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 which converts sharp-tasting acids to smooth-tasting ones via a process called Malolactic Fermentation. With riper fruit aromas we can expect to find this style from wine regions with a warmer climate such as:

USA - Great options include California, Oregon, and Washington State. By the way, Pinot Gris is Oregon’s second-most important wine grape.

Oceania - Both Australia and New Zealand have sizable plantings of Pinot Gris offered in a fruitier style.

Fruity and Sweet – Alsace, France

In Alsace AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, referring to standards set for wines made in France), Pinot Gris is made from late-picked grapes when they are extra ripe. The acidity of these grapes is medium and they have higher sugar levels alongside a fruit complexity. Winemakers set the level of sweetness in the wines from dry to medium sweet. They are typically medium to full-bodied with pronounced flavours of peach, and mango, and can develop notes on honey in the bottle. The best wines come from Grand Cru Vineyards.

Serving Temperature – 7 to 10 degree Celsius.

Glassware – Standard white glass with a rounder base to the bowl

Food pairing

Pinot Gris with its zesty and refreshing acidity pairs really well with fresh vegetables, raw fish and lighter meals. Fish and shellfish are classic pairing partners with Pinot Gris.

Try not to go too spicy with your seasonings unless you have a bottle of Alsace Pinot Gris close by.

Meat Pairings

Fish including Tilapia, Scallops, Sea Bass, Snapper, Mussels, Clams, and Oysters. White meats including Chicken and Turkey.

Cheese Pairings

Look for semi-soft to firm cow’s and sheep’s milk cheeses. Gruyere, Muenster, Grana Padano

If you want to learn more about different grape varieties, then the online Advanced Wine Pro course by Sonal Holland Wine Academy is the right course for you. A top-level and comprehensive wine certification, this course will help you heighten your wine knowledge and build a strong level of confidence for growth in the industry. For details, click here.

Originally published August 14, 2023

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