Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
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.