Pinot Gris vs Grigio: What’s the difference?
Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape variety, so what's the
difference? We talk to some passionate Pinot G winemakers to find out.
While it's fast becoming one of Australia's most popular varieties, PinotGris/Grigio still presents a point of confusion for many wine-lovers.
Made from one variety, a member of the Pinot Noir family, this grape has
two different names thanks to the two countries in which it is most
commonly grown: France and Italy.
Gris is French for "grey" and in France it finds its home in the Alsace
region. French Pinot Gris is generally known for being a rich, full-bodied
white with a lovely silky texture.
Grigio is the Italian for "grey" and in contrast to the French, Italian
Grigio has made a name for being a light, crisp wine ideal for early
drinking and is most famously known in the regions of Veneto and Friuli.
Across the two styles, the common aroma and flavour descriptors include
apple, pear, strawberry, honey, hay, brioche and bread.
The variety was first introduced to the Hunter Valley with the James Busby
collection of 1832, however it wasn't until the 1990s that the variety
started to really emerge. This was thanks to a winemaking couple who made
their home on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula in 1988: Kathleen Quealy and
Having been introduced to Pinot Gris at college, Kathleen felt intuitively
that they had come to the perfect region for producing the variety. They
released their first commercial Pinot Gris in 1993, have had huge success
since, and are now seen as setting the benchmark for Australian
interpretations of the variety.
Following in their footsteps is their son, Tom, a winemaker at Quealy wines
who has inherited his parents' passion for Pinot G. What's more, he's been
to the homes of both the Gris and Grigio styles.
"I have worked vintages at Domain Paul Blanck in Alsace, where Pinot Gris
is 1 of 4 premium varieties", he explains. "Their vineyards define the
quality and the personality of each of their wines. They revel in the power
and voluptuousness of these wines, from bone dry with the generous dollop
of extract in the middle palate, to off dry with enough flavour and
structure to make the wine balanced and suitable with a main course. They
are able to make and market their even richer sweeter late harvest styles.
The wines are beautiful to drink, slightly drying out with a few years
bottle age, and suit their dishes of duck and pork.
"I have also worked and spent time in Friuli. Their lighter soils and their
food culture define their Pinot Grigio style: crunchy pear, dry and
textured. The winemaking art of blending abounds. There are field blends
and regional blends of many white varieties, with Pinot Grigio a central
Back home, Tom explains the Mornington Peninsula's superior suitability for
Pinot G down to a combination of regional factors. "It's the climate -
cool, maritime, Indian summers. It's the cloud cover and sea breezes. The
Red Hill and Main Ridge flank creates intimate valleys of rich volcanic
soils that hold onto the rainfall. The dryland farming keeps each berry and
bunch tiny and concentrated. Then there's a winemaking fraternity reared on
Pinot Noir and now applying these skills to their love child Pinot Gris."
Adelaide Hills excellence
Another standout Aussie Pinot G producer is Wicks Estate in the Adelaide Hills, where, Tim Wicks, explains, "The cool evenings promote great acid
retention in the fruit, along with a gradual flavour ripeness without
excess phenolic development. This allows the variety to retain a charming
aromatic lift which combines beautifully with the subtle textural
At Wicks Estate, they make a Gris rather than a Grigio, but as Tim
describes, it may be akin to the Gris style, but it maintains a hint of the
Grigio aromatics and racier acid lines. This is reflective of the
Gris-Grigio overlap that Tim sees as common in Australia.
"We have countless fantastic wines that tend towards either the richer Gris
characters or lighter aromatic Grigio characteristics. There are also wines
that exhibit traits of both, take our Wicks Estate Pinot Gris, for example.
We like the sharpened focus and aromatic style of the Grigio, but tend to
lean towards the textural qualities of Gris on the palate. The styles have
their own identity, however, we have diverse terroir and climate in
Australia that can lend itself to a hybrid style."
The proof is in the tasting
At the end of the day, whether you go for a richer Gris or a zestier Grigio, or a mix of both, only your palate can decide. To help you choose,
we've got an extensive range from the Mornington Peninsula, Adelaide Hills
and beyond to