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Dear Dr. Vinny,
What’s the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio?
—Stan, Auburn, Ala.
Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are two different names for the same white wine grape. But even though they technically refer to the same grape (or the wines made from that grape), the different terms can be reflective of the region in which the grape is grown, or of the style of wine typically associated with those regions (just like Syrah is also known as Shiraz in some parts of the world). No matter where it’s grown, the underlying primary elements of Pinot Gris/Grigio are citrus flavors and bright acidity.
Pinot Gris is the name for this grape in its native France, where it thrives in the Alsace region. Alsatian Pinot Gris tend to be on the richer, plumper side of the PG spectrum, showing off honey and spice notes. Pinot Gris can also be made into sweet, dessert-style wines in Alsace, known as Vendanges Tardives, which are made from late-harvested grapes.
Pinot Grigio is the Italian name for this grape, and the light, crisp, clean and refreshing Pinot Grigios from northeastern Italy are the best-known versions of this wine here in the United States. Winemakers outside of France and Italy will typically pick the version of the name that invokes the style of their wine.
Whatever you call it, it's hugely popular. According to Wine Spectator sister publication Impact Databank, it’s the second-most-consumed white wine in the U.S., behind Chardonnay and ahead of Moscato and Sauvignon Blanc. Not only that, Italian Pinot Grigios are the most-imported wines by volume, a position held since 2002.
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