Pinot Grigio/Gris

Pee-noh gree-jo / grease

Parents & Origin: White wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera
Grape: Normally has a grayish-blue color, representing its name, but the grapes can have a brownish pink to black and even white appearance
Flavors: Lime, Green Apple, Lemon, Meyer Lemon, Pear, White Nectarine, White Peach
Notable Regions: Italy, California, Oregon, and Germany
Sweetness: Dry
Body: Medium
Tannins: None
Acidity: Medium-High to High
ABV: 12.5-13.5%

The History of Pinot Grigio

The Pinot Grigio grape is traced back to the Middle Ages, where it was known as Fromenteau. Pinot Grigio as well as its sister grape, Pinot Noir, spread from Burgundy to Switzerland in 1300 and soon after developed the name Szürkebarát. After many years in 1711, the grape had become wild and rediscovered in Germany by Johann Seger Rulan. He made these vines into the modern Pinot Grigio, at that time named Ruländer. Popularity of the wine dropped off in the 18th and 19th centuries due to poor crop seasons, but reinvigorated in popularity in 2005.

Interesting Fact: The Pinot Grigio grape was a favorite of the Emperor Charles IV, who had vine cuttings imported to Hungary by Cistercian monks: the brothers planted these vines bordering Lake Balaton in 1375. These monks are why the grape was named Szürkebarát meaning "grey monk” in the 1300s.

Pinot Grigio vs. Pinot Gris

A common misconception about Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris is that the only difference between the two is one if from Italy and the other is from France. This is NOT true! Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are identical in the sense that they are made from the same grape, but there is a big difference in the style of wine produced. Pinot Gris is typically from the Alsace region of France is and sweeter (more on this later) while a Pinot Grigio from Italy will be lighter and more crisp. Wines outside of these specific areas choose to use Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris purely for stylistic reasons (as with naming a wine Syrah or Shiraz when it doesn't come from France or Australia) so they generally pick the name that fits the style they are looking for!

Pinot Grigio Food Pairings

Given the high level of acidity and lack of tannins and sweetness traditionally in Pinot Grigio, it is best enjoyed with food! And by food, we mean tangy herbs.

The Best Pinot Grigio Food Pairings

Pinot Grigio has a zesty, feisty, and refreshing personality. Its acidity alone will make you excited to experiment with food pairings. Commonly referred to as a "high-acid white", the best combinations are fresh vegetables, raw fish and lighter meals. Sea-dwellers and shellfish are classic pairing partners with Pinot Grigio. 

Bottles from the US and Australia, or Pinot Grigio with a higher alcohol content and body, can face heavier and richer meals. If you are in a seafood mood, try tilapia, scallops, sea bass, perch, sole, haddock, trout, cod, redfish, halibut, snapper, mussels, clams, or oysters. If land-based is more your speed, the best combinations are chicken and turkey. Use shallot, garlic and ginger as a flavor base. 

Common spices to try are white pepper, coriander, fennel, turmeric, saffron, ginger, cinnamon, clove, and allspice. If you are preparing a charcuterie board, make sure to include semi-soft to firm cheeses like gruyere, muenster, and grana padano. 

As far as vegetables go, the fresher the better! Cucumber, yellow squash, celery, onion, parsnip, jicama, kale, green apple, green melon, white beans, cauliflower, and broccoli will do.

Food Pairings to Avoid with Pinot Grigio

Avoid overly spicy foods with a common Pinot Grigio. Instead of intense spices go with more fresh herbs such as parsley, mint, tarragon, thyme, fennel, chives. You also want to try avoiding Pinot Grigio with very soft cheeses such as buffalo mozzarella, camembert, brie, and ricotta. Since Pinot Grigio is such a zesty wine with bold character, do not pair it with foods possessing lots of preservatives or heavily processed. A fresh wine needs to be with fresh food!

Pinot Grigio Tasting Notes

Pinot Grigio offers a refreshing sparkle of acidity in comparison to other whites. There’s also a surprising weighted feeling in the middle of your tongue with each sip! The primary fruit flavors in every bottle are lime, lemon, pear, white nectarine and apple. But, each Pinot Grigio ranges between faint honeyed notes, floral aromas like honeysuckle, and a saline-like minerality. Italian Pinot Grigio, the most popular and often found Pinot Grigio of those produced, is the driest, strongest acid, and possesses a bitter almond note. Pinot Grigio from the US, the next most popular, is a little more tame with less acidity and more exaggerated fruit flavors. Last and not least is the French Pinot Grigio, typically only found as a Pinot Gris, which is more fleshy and more unctuous with faint honey notes from botrytis.

Alsace Pinot Gris

Pinot Grigio from Alsace is a very rare wine that stands apart from every other bottle. For starters, Alsace Pinot Gris is more sweet than any other. They are only made with 100% Pinot Gris grapes and taste especially complex. There are special spice notes of cinnamon, honey, clove, meyer lemon and ginger. But the most fascinating part of these wines is the tingling aftertaste. To turn an Alsace into a dessert wine, there are the “Vendages Tardives” bottles that are a sweeter late harvest in Alsace.

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Our Selection of Pinot Grigio

  • California: 2017 Spencer Family Vineyards Pinot Grigio - Crisp from the first sip, this stunningly refreshing white wine melds tropical fruit notes of melon, tangerine, and orange blossom with delicate orchard fruit flavors such as peach and pear.
  • Italy: 2018 Villa Amoroso Pinot Grigio D.O.C. - Villa Amoroso Pinot Grigio joins us from Northern Italy’s Delle Venezie region, where the cool climate creates delicate and fresh white wines. This crisp Pinot Grigio refreshes with flavors of citrus zest, apples, pears and nectarines, accompanied by mild notes of almond and ginger. Drink it ice cold.
  • Italy: 2017 Due Mari Pinot Grigio I.G.T. - This crisp and zesty Sicilian white is straw yellow with eye-catching green reflections. The aromas are harmonious, with a tantalizing bouquet of apple, peach, and hawthorn. Serve it ice cold with light meals, especially risotto.
  • Italy: 2017 Cala De' Poeti Pinot Grigio I.G.T. - From Terre Siciliane, 2017 Cala de' Poeti Pinto Grigio is a quintessentially crisp and zesty Italian white. It’s an attractive straw yellow with greenish reflections in the glass, offering a fresh and harmonious bouquet with notes of apple, peach, and hawthorn. Highlight this tasty Italian wine’s refreshing nature by serving it ice cold with white meats, fish, and our favorite: risotto with artichokes.

Pinot Grigio in a Nutshell

Ever since the Middle Ages, the Pinot Grigio/Gris grape has been a prized grape that produces the most lusciously fresh white. Winemakers and wine connoisseurs alike praise the crisp acidity only found in a Pinot Grigio. The sister grape to Pinot Noir brings either faint honeyed notes, floral aromas like honeysuckle, or a saline-like minerality that satisfies every palate. The best food pairings lie in sea creatures or firm cheese. It is no surprise that a bottle from the US or Italy will excite you every time.

Ready to learn more? Don't forget to check out our other wine guides:

Learn About Rosé Wine
Learn About Chardonnay Wine