Almost every day in the restaurant someone asks me about the difference between pinot gris and pinot grigio.
If you are in France you call it Pinot Gris and if you are in Italy you call it Pinot Grigio. If you are in Australia you can call it both. Hence, the confusion. The styles are made from exactly the same grape, just like Shiraz and Syrah. However, while the grapes are the same, their styles differ significantly.
The Italian style Pinot Grigio is typically lighter bodied, crisp and fresh, with vibrant stone fruit and floral aromas with a touch of spice. The grapes are picked earlier in the harvest season than their French counterparts.
The French style Pinot Gris is typically fuller bodied, richer, spicier, and more viscous in texture. The grapes are left on the vine until later in the harvest season, so they also tend to have greater cellaring and ageing potential.
These grape varieties are both thought to be a mutant of the pinot noir grape. Both the grapes and leaves look exactly the same. Another interesting fact about this variety is that the grapes are red in colour. Skin contact, which gives wine its red colour (all juice produced from red or white grapes is white) does not occur during the pressing process. You will find some pinot gris that are slightly pink. This occurs if the wine has come into contact with the skin of the grape and left for a short time to add colour and tannin.
Whilst Pinot Gris and Grigio are quite new to the Australian wine scene, they are being embraced by sommeliers because of their food friendly qualities. Pinot Grigio, being lighter is better suited to enjoying as an apéritif or with lighter dishes such prawns, fish or appetizers. In contrast, the richness of many Pinot Gris styles enables them to work well with heartier dishes such as a veal, rabbit, pork and hard cheeses.
The two styles work differently (but beautifully in their own way) with food, making them the perfect choice for a night out, no matter what you might feel like eating.
Try our 42 Degrees South Pinot Grigio from Tasmania with our Saute Calamari and the Mt Diffuculty Pinot Gris with our Blanquette de Veau.