Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
I am trying to convince a friend that the only difference between a Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris is not simply because one is Italian and the other French. I believe a big difference is also the way the wine is made. I believe I am correct, but have not been able to locate information backing my beliefs. Have I been tragically misled?
—Kevin N., Detroit
No, you're on the right track. This is a case where a single varietal is going by two names, so 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 spectrum of styles that can be made from this grape. Pinot Gris from the Alsace region of France is typically rich and often sweet, with rich, spicy tropical fruit aromas. Pinot Grigio in northeastern Italy shows a lighter, crisp, clean and vibrant expression of the grape, with citrus flavors. Outside of these specific areas, the name vintners will use on the label is mostly a stylistic decision (as with naming a wine Syrah or Shiraz when it comes from neither France nor Australia), so they will usually select the name that best fits the style they're going for, Alsatian or Italian.
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