Wine: Gris or Grigio? Know your Pinot

When we seek crisp, lively white wines to go with light summer meals, we often turn to pinot grigio and pinot gris.

These are simple wines, made for easy sipping, not serious contemplation. They’re best served cool, to emphasize their crispness, and within a year or two of being made, to catch their freshness.

They’re usually inexpensive. When they’re good, they’re fruity and fun. And even when they’re not perfectly made, they’re seldom worse than lean, tart and inoffensive.

They’re soaring in popularity. California pinot grigio, for example, quadrupled its vine acreage from 2001 to 2012, according to the California Grape Acreage Report.

A small problem: They can be hard to figure out unless you keep a couple of things in mind. 

First, pinot grigio and pinot gris are the same grape. Still, they can make quite different wines.

Pinot grigio comes mostly from cool northern Italy, and makes a lean, crisp, light-bodied wine with aromas and flavors of citrus and minerals.

Pinot gris, especially from France’s Alsace region, is richer, lusher, often lightly sweet, with flavors of melons and tropical fruit.

Producers in California, New Zealand and beyond usually signal which style they’re going for depending on what name they choose.

Pinot grigio goes well with seafood and simple chicken dishes, chips and dip, cheese and crackers, and other light dishes. Pinot gris is more full-bodied, so it goes with pasta with creamy sauces and heartier fish and chicken dishes.

Just don’t let them confuse you.

Fred’s Wine List

Highly recommended


  • 2013 Nobilissima Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie, IGT, Italy (85 percent pinot grigio, 10 percent garganega, 5 percent moscato): light and crisp, with floral aromas and tropical fruit flavors; $14.
  • 2013 Kim Crawford Pinot Gris, Marlborough, New Zealand: aromas of ripe apples and honey, intense flavors of tropical fruit and spice; $17.
  • 2013 J Vineyards Pinot Gris, California: lush and fruity, with aromas and flavors of tropical fruits and citrus; $16.




  • 2013 MacMurray Ranch Estate Vineyards Pinot Gris, Russian River Valley, Calif.: aromas and flavors of ripe peaches, pears and apples, rich and full-bodied; $20.
  • 2012 Da Luca Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie, IGT, Italy: light, crisp and lean, with aromas and flavors of ripe apples, lemons and spice; $13.
  • 2012 Marco Felluga Pinot Grigio “Mongris,” Friuli, Italy: floral aromas, rich and full-bodied, with golden apple flavors; $18.