What Is Pinot Grigio Wine?

Madeleine Angevine Grapes

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Pinot grigio (pee-noh gree-jhee-oh) is a white wine that is often light, crisp, and dry with plenty of zippy, mouth-watering acidity. It goes by several different names depending on the country—pinot grigio in Italy, pinot gris in France, grauer burgunder in Germany, and grauburgunder in Austria. Pinot grigio is the second most popular white wine in America, and while it's not always a connoisseur's top pick, it's well-loved by wine drinkers everywhere. Like other white wines, it is relatively low in alcohol.

Fast Facts

  • Regions: Trentino-Alto Adige, Umbria, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli, Lombardy, Alsace, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Oregon, California
  • Origin: Burgundy, France
  • Sweetness: dry to medium dry
  • Color: Pale gold
  • ABV: 11.5-13.5%

Pinot Grigio vs Pinot Gris

While you will come across white wine bottles labeled pinot grigio and pinot gris, they are actually the same type of wine made from the same grapes. There are minor style differences between the names based on their region. Wines marked pinot grigio are typically Italian or made in an Italian style—dry, crisp, and light-bodied with citrus aromas. Wines marked pinot gris are French or made in a French style, and often come from Alsace. Alsace-style pinot gris can be richer, more full-bodied, and sometimes sweet. 

Taste and Flavor Profile

Pinot grigio is a dry, light-bodied wine with aromas of lemon-lime, pear, and stone fruit like peach and apricot. You may also notice scents of almond, baking spices, or honeysuckle. Flavors can range from melon to green apple, and some even offer a subtle tropical or citrus fruit. Often, there is honey, raw almond, or mineral aspects as well. Medium to high acidity keeps the refreshing wine from being too sweet. Pinot grigio often has a very smooth and almost silk-like texture that leaves an impression on the palate.

Pinot grigio is low in tannins and tends toward a leaner body style in Italy. However, the same grape in France (especially Alsace), Germany, Oregon, and other New World areas often lean a bit fuller-bodied and richer than their Italian cousins.

How to Taste Wine

To ensure you have the best experience, follow a few steps when tasting wine:

  1. Look: Look at the wine through the glass, examining the color and opacity.
  2. Smell: Swirl your glass for 10-15 seconds and take a quick whiff. Then stick your nose into the wine glass for a deep inhale, noting your first impressions of the wine. What does it smell like?
  3. Taste: Take a small sip and let it roll around your mouth. Note the sugar, acidity, tannins, and alcohol content, then move on to tasting notes (fruit, spice, saline) and finally the finish.

Grapes and Wine Regions

Pinot grigio is made using a white wine grape of the same name. The prolific grape is a descendant of the pinot noir grape and has an unusual, grayish-purple hue. The vine is early to bud and early to ripen, making it best for cool climates. Depending on the region and style, it is harvested from early September to October.

The characteristics of pinot grigio wine can vary greatly depending on where it is grown, when it is harvested, and how it is produced. Italian-style pinot grigio tends to be harvested earlier, maintaining some freshness and acidity, with mass-produced, cheap wines harvesting especially early. Some American and Australian pinot grigios are harvested a bit later and produced to accentuate fruit-forward, slightly richer flavors. Pinot gris from the Alsace can be harvested even later, making a rich, full-bodied, sweet wine.

Food Pairings

Pinot grigio pairs extremely well with seafood like shellfish, sushi, and ceviche. The white wine also tastes delicious with light pasta dishes and cheeses like gruyere and manchego. Try serving it with fresh salads like a wheat berry salad with pears or a crunchy, creamy salad like fennel-avocado salad. Since the wine is fairly acidic, it is recommended to avoid pairing it with foods that have high acid contents, like citrus fruits or tomato-based recipes.

Serve pinot grigio well-chilled in a white wine glass. If you're planning to serve it in the next few days, simply store it in the refrigerator.

Key Producers, Brands, and Buying Tips

Since pinot grigio is one of the most popular white wines in America, you'll find a variety of options in supermarkets, wine shops, and liquor stores. Bottles are available in a range of prices, from very cheap, mass-produced wines, to lovingly made batches by small wineries. You'll find plenty of great options at the $15 and up range. If you can't find a good Italian pinot grigio, pick up a dry sauvignon blanc.

There are countless wineries making pinot grigio around the world. These winemakers produce reliably high-quality pinot grigios year after year:

  • Santa Margherita
  • Alois Lageder
  • Hugel
  • Cantina Terlano
  • Chehalem
  • Domaine Zind Hunbrecht
  • Elena Walch
  • Eyrie Vineyards
  • Peter Lehmann
  • Tiefenbrunner