An Introduction to Pinot Grigio

Karen Frazier
Wine dripping from bottle into glass

Pinot Grigio (pee noh GREE joe), also called Pinot Gris (peeh noh gree), is a white wine with light, fruity flavors. You'll find Pinot Grigio wines from Italy and the United States, and Pinot Gris wines from France and other parts of the world. It's a light, delicious, accessible white wine that pairs perfectly with a number of foods.

Other Names for Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio is the Italian name for the grape and the wines it produces. You may also find the term on other wines from around the world containing the same grape. Other countries also call Pinot Grigio by other names:

  • Pinot Gris (France and other countries)
  • Grauburgunder (Austria)
  • Ruländer (Germany)

Pinot Grigio Grapes

The grapes used in Pinot Grigio wines are a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape. Although the grapes produce light white wines, their skins may have colors ranging from slight blush pink, to deep bluish-gray, to brown tinted. Since the wines made from the grapes are not left in contact with the stems and the skins, the resulting wine is a pale golden color.

Ripe pinot gris grapes ready for harvest

Flavors in Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio is usually made into a medium-bodied, high acidity dry white wine. Flavors in the wine are dependent on where it is grown and how it is produced. You'll find three common styles of Pinot Grigio.

French Style

Wines made with the Pinot Grigio grape in the French style are often labeled as Pinot Gris. These wines are fruity and dry with medium acidity. Common flavors include:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Citrus peel

Italian Style

Italian style Pinot Grigio is dry with minimal fruit and plenty of mineral flavors including:

  • Citrus
  • Saline
  • Mineral characteristics
  • Clean
  • Acidic
  • Citrus notes

Sweet Alsatian

Although Alsace is located in France, it sits near Switzerland and Germany, and often this French region makes its wines closer to German style than French style. This is true of Pinot Gris produced here, which is sweet and fruit driven. These sweet white wines will have some of the following flavors:

  • Lemon drops
  • Candied citrus peel
  • Honey
  • Apple

Some of the sweet Alsatian Pinot Gris wines have also been infected by botrytis (noble rot), which adds concentrated flavors of beeswax or ginger.

Other Styles

You may also find Pinot Grigio made into a few surprising styles:

How To Serve Pinot Grigio

Like many white wines, it is best to drink Pinot Grigio when it's young, which means about two years within its vintage. French and Italian styles should be served at a temperature around 48˚F, warmer than the temperature of the average refrigerator, which ranges between 30 and 36 degrees. Remove the wine half an hour or up to an hour before you intend to serve it, or chill it over ice. For sweet Alsatian Pinot Grigio wines, serve it at a temperature of around 45˚F.

Food Pairing

Because it is crisp and refreshing, this wine is an ideal choice for warm weather, and especially to take on picnics. It pairs well with light dishes such as chicken and seafood, but the acid helps to balance rich sauces and slightly spicy foods. For this reason, you should avoid serving it with acidic dishes, such as tomato sauce or citrus. Some foods that pair well with Pinot Grigio:

  • Fish
  • Scallops
  • Goat cheese
  • Fettuccine Alfredo
  • Shrimp scampi
  • Chicken
Friends toasting wine glasses patio table

5 Pinot Grigio Wines to Try

Pinot Grigio is easy to find, affordable, and easy to drink. Try any of the following wines.

French Style: Ostertag Fronholz Pinot Gris

The Ostertag Fronholz Pinot Gris is a dry Pinot Gris from Alsace, France. It costs around $57 per bottle, and the 2016 vintage was named a Wine Enthusiast Cellar Selection receiving a 94 point rating. Expect flavors of lemon and pear in a crisp, dry wine.

Sweet Alsatian: Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Alsace Clos Jebsal Sélection de Grains Nobles

The Zind-Humbrecht Clos Jebsal Sélection de Grains Nobles is a classic example of a sweet Pinot Gris from Alsace. Wine Spectator rated the 2016 vintage 95 points, calling its flavors of orange confit and saffron "mouthwatering." It will cost in excess of $100 per bottle.

Rosé: Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato

This Rosé of Pinot Grigio comes from Friuli-Venezia region in Italy. It only costs around $16, and Wine Enthuisast rated the 2016 vintage 89 points. It's a great way to try Pinot Grigio in rosé form.

Italian Pinot Grigio: Jermann Pinot Grigio

The Jermann Pinot Grigio from Friuli has floral aromas with melon flavors and crisp acidity. It costs an affordable $25 per bottle, and Wine Enthusiast awarded the 2017 vintage a 91 point rating.

Austrian: Neumeister Grauburgunder Steirische Klassik

The Neumeister Grauburgunder Steirische Klassik is an example of how Austria works with the Pinot Grigio grape. You'll find it for about $15 per bottle, and Wine Enthusiast calls the 2016 vintage "fresh" and "refreshing" awarding it a 90-point rating.

Getting to Know Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio is a food friendly wine that comes in a variety of styles ranging from bone dry to dessert-sweet. The versatility of the grape and the many ways it expresses in wines ensures that you're sure to find a Pinot Grigio to suit your tastes.

An Introduction to Pinot Grigio