Complete Guide to Pinot Grigio Wine | Wine 101
Pinot Grigio is as interesting as it is delicious. Not only is it a red grape that mostly makes white wine, but it is often mistaken for Italian despite being born in Burgundy, France. Talk about being misunderstood!
In any case, Pinot Grigio is the world's second most popular white wine behind Chardonnay, and it's a personal favorite of ours.
What makes Pinot Grigio so good? The delicately balanced peach, pear, apple, and citrus notes, for starters. But it is also incredibly light and refreshing, making it a great pairing with meaty fish, poultry, pasta, and risotto.
This complete guide to Pinot Grigio wine covers the grape's origin, tasting notes, how to serve it, and a few great expressions we recommend trying.
Characteristics of Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio is a dry (sometimes off-dry), light to medium-bodied white wine with medium to high acidity, depending on where it is produced. It has a very pale-yellow to light gold hue, with warm climate varieties slightly more yellow.
Italian Pinot Grigio is the pure expression of the wine with crisp pear, green apple, and stone fruit flavors and aromas. Pinot Gris from Alsace, France, is peachy, with a larger dose of floral notes and minerality.
Pinot Grigio from warmer regions can take on a honeyed quality, with Californian Pinot Gris known for its sweet, honeyed flavors. Oregon Pinot Grigio has less honey and a slightly creamy quality.
The most striking thing about Pinot Grigio is its balanced profile, with no one or two dominant flavors or aromas. It has a somewhat floral bouquet, but the most noticeable aromas are citrus, apple, and pear.
You can expect an ABV between 11.5 and 13.5%, with most light Pinot Grigio coming from the Italian regions of Veneto and Lombardy. However, whichever bottle you pick up, you can expect to taste minimal alcohol.
Pinot Grigio Tasting Notes
The typical Pinot Grigio has white peach, citrus, and pear notes, each perfectly balanced with a light to medium body for a refreshing tipple. However, this wine has much more than a handful of flavors and aromas.
Fine Pinot Grigio – from renowned wineries – has an elegant complexity, with lime, lemon, nectarine, apple, and stone fruit notes. Pinot Grigio has subtle slate notes in warm climates, giving it a lush minerality.
We can't think of a more refreshing white wine on a hot summer's day, especially when you opt for a bottle from Northern Italy.
Italian Pinot Grigio is the best of the bunch, in our opinion. It's big on peach, pear, and citrus flavors, with undertones of flowers and almonds.
Since Pinot Grigio is almost always aged in stainless steel, it is a pure wine with no added flavors. Some of the finest wines are aged ten to fifteen years, with Alsace variants known for extended aging and bolder flavors.
How is Pinot Grigio Served?
Pinot Grigio is best right out of the chiller at a temperature between 45–55°F (7-12°C) – this low-temperature range preserves the wine's delicate, fruity flavors.
The colder you go with Pinot Grigio, the less alcohol you can taste. If you like white wine to have very little alcohol taste, chill it down to 45°F and keep it on ice.
You don't need to decant Pinot Grigio before serving, but letting it sit in the glass for two minutes before sipping will bring out the citrusy notes. A standard wine glass works fine, or you can serve it in an oversized wine glass.
The Pinot Gris Grape
Pinot Gris, also known as Pinot Grigio or Grauburgunder, is a red-skinned grape thought to be a mutant clone of the Pinot Noir grape.
DNA evidence shows that Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir grapes are strikingly similar at a genetic level. This, combined with their similar leaves and bark, means they are related and could be the result of crossbreeding centuries ago.
The grape originates from Burgundy, France, although 'Pinot Grigio' of Italy is a more popular wine than Pinot Gris of France. Initially known as Alsace Tokay d'Alsace, it was renamed Pinot Gris in 2007.
The Oxford Companion to Wine says the grape reached Italy in the 19th century, and it has flourished there since. It is one of Italy's favorite white wines, with much of Northern Italy dedicated to its production.
Pinot Gris can produce white, red, and rosé wine, depending on the process used to extract the grape juice. White Pinot Gris is produced with fast pressing, where the red grape skins are removed immediately.
Notable Regions for Pinot Grigio
Italy is the world's leading producer of Pinot Grigio, and it is widely grown across Italy's northernmost regions, including Veneto, Lombardy, Friuli, Trentino, and Alto Adige. Look for DOC varieties as a mark of prestige.
In Rheinhessen, Pinot Gris grows alongside Germany's favorite grape, Riesling. German Pinot Gris is renowned for its citrusy, tart profile and minerality. You can expect stone/slate and earthy notes with a dose of grapefruit.
Austria's cool climate produces crisp, tart Pinot Grigio wines. It mainly grows in the regions of Steiermark, Burgenland, and Niederösterreich, with Steiermark producing twice as much as the other two regions combined.
Pinot Grigio is widely grown in the cool and warmer regions of California, Oregon, and Washington State. It is the second most popular white wine in the United States, behind the seemingly unmovable Chardonnay.
In France, Pinot Grigio is called Pinot Gris. It mainly grows in the Alsace wine region, where it was once known as 'Tokay d'Alsace, but the region of Burgundy also has small vine patches alongside the region's favorite white grape, Chardonnay.
Pinot Grigio Food Pairings
Pinot Grigio's delicate flavors make it a match for light bites and fresh flavors – think risottos, pasta, salads, sandwiches, and olive oils. It doesn't work well with creamy sauces, vinaigrettes, or powerful herbs.
Our favorite food pairing for Pinot Grigio is meaty fish like monkfish, halibut, swordfish, and black sea bass. The citrusy flavors and medium acidity complement meaty fish beautifully with a side of fresh greens.
Poultry and pork also complement Pinot Grigio, providing they are kept light – avoid garlic, rosemary, and other assertive seasonings.
If you want to pair Pinot Grigio with sweet bites and desserts, think fresh fruit, Tanghulu (candied fruit), and citrusy desserts like key lime pie.
3 Wonderful Pinot Grigio Wines to Try
1. Under $15 - Acrobat Pinot Gris 2021
Acrobat Pinot Gris 2021 is a beautifully crisp and aromatic Pinot Gris from Oregon. Notes of pear, melon, apple, and peach dominate the nose and palate, with undertones of citrus and grapefruit giving it a spritely personality.
This wine is dry with moderate acidity, making it an excellent pairing for cheese, cured meats, grilled fish, and bread. The Acrobat winery was founded in 1991 by the King family, which owns one of Oregon's largest wineries, King Estate.
2. Under $30 - Kofererhof Pinot Grigio Valle Isarco 2021
Produced in the coveted wine region of Südtirol (Alto Adige), Kofererhof Pinot Grigio Valle Isarco provides the apple, mineral, and lemon hit we love from dry Pinot Grigio. It's rich and playful, with hints of acacia flowers and apricot.
It's lightly oaked with a medium body, giving it excellent depth. We love it with soft cheese, halibut, cod, and avocado toast. The Köfererhof winery dates to the year 976 and is one of the oldest wineries in Italy.
3. Under $100 - Domaine Weinbach Cuvee Sainte Catherine Pinot Gris 2020
Fancy something special? Domaine Weinbach Cuvee Sainte Catherine ticks the box. This dry, medium-bodied wine has mild acidity and perfectly balanced peach, apricot, apple, and honey flavors, with a hint of stone and smoke on the finish.
Orange zest and grapefruit notes give this wine a fruity personality. Domaine Weinbach is a prestige winemaker in Alsace, France, with a history stretching to 1612, when Capuchin monks founded it as a closed wine estate.
3 Fun Facts About Pinot Grigio
Let's end with some fun Pinot Grigio trivia to impress your friends with.
1. Pinot Grigio isn't made from white wine grapes
Pinot Grigio is a white wine, but the grapes aren't white. Pinot Grigio/Gris grapes are pink, bordering on red. This one grape can make red, rosé, and white wine.
For white wine, the grape juice is extracted without disturbing the skin. For red/pink wine, the skins of the grapes are left to impart their color into the juice.
2. Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the same
Pinot Grigio hails from Italy, while Pinot Gris comes from France. While there are regional differences in taste and profile after vinification, the grapes are the same.
The cool climate of Alsace, France, produces a fuller and sweeter wine, while Italian Pinot Grigio from Veneto, Lombardy, and Friuli is lighter-bodied.
3. Pinot Grigio makes incredible sparkling wines
While Pinot Grigio is primarily a white wine, it also produces impressive sparkling wines that rival Prosecco and Champagne.
Sparkling Pinot Grigio sits between Prosecco and Champagne, with medium bubbles and bold, citrusy flavors. The finest sparkling varieties come from France, Italy, and the USA.