How to Choose: Pinot Gris vs Pinot Noir

This article will see how Pinot Gris vs Pinot Noir stack up directly compared, and how to find the best variety of each. Read here!

By Lucie Robson
Mar 18, 2022
tagAlt.pinot gris  pinot noir


Pinot Gris vs Pinot Noir

What's the difference between Pinot Gris vs Pinot Noir?


On the surface, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir have little in common. The stand-out difference is the former is a white wine and the latter, red. Pinot Gris also appears at a range of price points while Pinot Noir is never at the inexpensive end of the scale. 


They have a great deal in common though. Each is an iconic grape from France that’s renowned in important wine regions around the world. Pinot Gris is actually a mutation of Pinot Noir, and they have many similar characteristics in the vineyard. 

Finally, each of these varieties does well in northern Italy where fine styles appear, and both are excellent food wines. Let’s find out more!

Grapes Pinot Gris


What is Pinot Gris?

Pinot Gris’ home is in Burgundy, France. It’s also an important varietal in Germany where it goes by the name of Grauburgunder. The Italian name for this white grape is Pinot Grigio.


In Italy, the cooler northern areas of Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto, and Lombardy are most suitable for cultivating this grape and have built global reputations for their distinctiveness. For example, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is renowned for top-quality Pinot Gris while the Veneto is a source of neutral, reliable easy-drinking styles.


Pinot Gris is one of the chief grapes in France’s Alsace wine region and Oregon the US also has a high reputation for wines from this cultivar.


Main characteristics of Pinot Gris

  • Pinot Gris has pinkish-grey skin. 
  • It makes pale yellow wines.
  • It sometimes produces rosé styles.
  • It’s light-bodied.
  • It displays lemon, lime, pear, apple, stone fruit, and florals.
  • Pinot Gris also has ginger, spice, honeyed floral tones, bitter almond, and mineral salinity. 
  • Fine Italian Pinot Gris has bright acidity. 
  • High-volume Italian Pinot Gris can be off-dry. 
  • The alcohol level is 11.5% to 13.5%.

Examples of Pinot Gris

  • Pinot Gris, Abbazia di Novacella 2019 , Alto Adige, Italy
  • Signature Collection Pinot Gris, Alessandro Berselli, 2020, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
  • Pinot Gris delle Venezie, Piccini, 2020, Veneto, Italy
Pinot Noir Grapes


What's Pinot Noir?

Pinot Noir is a very old variety that thrives in cool climates and is very difficult to cultivate. In spite of this, vintners around the globe are eager to produce wines from this grape because of its freshness and complexity. 


Pinot Noir styles vary according to site and can range from delicate and fruity to gamey, concentrated, and earthy. In contrast to Pinot Gris, it doesn’t suit high volume production as in hot areas it becomes jammy and loses its elegance.


Grand Cru Pinot Noir  from Burgundy is some of the rarest and most expensive in the world and this variety is never a particularly cheap wine whether from Europe, New Zealand, or the US. 


In Italy, Pinot Noir appears in sparkling Franciacorta wines (made with the same grapes and method as Champagne) and in varietal wines from Veneto and the cooler climes of Tuscany.


Main characteristics of Pinot Noir

  • Pinot Noir is light to medium ruby.
  • Its signature flavors are sour red cherry and sweet spice. 
  • Mature  Pinot Noir displays game, forest floor, and mushroom notes.
  • It’s dry with medium tannins, medium to full body, and medium to high alcohol.
  •  Pinot Noir is famous for its high acidity.
  • Wines from sunny areas like New Zealand and California are more concentrated fruit and have higher alcohol.
  • Alcohol ranges from 11.5% to 13.5%.

Examples of Pinot Noir

  • Pinot Nero “Ludwig” 2018, Elene Walch, Alto Adige, Veneto, Italy 
  • Pinot Nero “Case Via” 2016, Fontodi, Tuscany, Italy 
  • Franciacorta “Pas Dosè Riserva” 2008, Mosnel, Lombardy, Italy
Vineyard Carcassonne France


Pinot Gris vs Pinot Noir: Origin

What is the origin of Pinot Gris?


Pinot Gris displays such a unique character it’s hard to believe it’s one of many mutations from Pinot Noir. Ampelographers have also discovered that this cultivar is connected to Chardonnay, that other iconic Burgundy varietal.


Researchers think it arrived in northern Italy from Switzerland where it was much-loved among the nobility. This part of Italy has long been a benchmark for Pinot Gris with premium and early drinking styles crafted.  Around the globe, vignerons make fine examples of Pinot Gris across Europe and the New World.

What is the origin of Pinot Noir?

As a very old variety, Pinot Noir has over 40 mutations! With such a long history, its origins are impossible to pinpoint but can partly be traced to the middle ages when monks in France developed agricultural practices including that of winemaking. 


Oregon in the US and the cooler spots in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Chile are known for fine Pinot Noir production. Unsurprisingly, the more temperate regions of northern Italy are also home to quality varietal Pinot Noir and Lombardy is the center of Franciacorta production.

Wine Glasess


Pinot Gris vs Pinot Noir: Grapes

What grapes are used for Pinot Gris?

Pinot Gris is one of the more famous mutations of its legendary parent Pinot Noir. Each is thin skinned and shares characteristics like early budding and ripening. 


In the best areas, Pinot Gris makes fruity wines that vary in richness and delicacy depending on the terroir and elevation. The type of Pinot Gris berry also has a bearing on wine quality. 


In the relatively high-altitude Alto Adige and more moderate climate of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, grapes are similar to the fruit found in France and Germany and result in wines with more intensity. The berries from the Veneto plains are larger with less intense flavors resulting in more neutral wines.


What grapes are used for Pinot Noir?

Pinot Noir is an early budder and ripener that needs cool climates to flourish. It’s susceptible to frost and damp which has led growers to develop a range of seasonal protection techniques among the vines. The dedication to and admiration of this tricky grape is proof of its finesse and premium quality. 


Pinot Noir is not a blending grape and does not appear as a high-production wine since it’s so challenging to grow.

Pinot Noir


Pinot Gris vs Pinot Noir: Tasting Notes

What are the tasting notes of Pinot Grigio?


With its citrus, stone, and orchard fruit plus ginger, spice, and firm acidity, this wine is a versatile white for food pairing. A high-production Veneto Pinot Gris is typically dry or off-dry and displays delicate citrus and stone fruit as well as a powerful wash of acidity. Friuli-Venezia Giulia in the northeast turns out Pinot Gris with complex layers of minerality, peach, lemon, and lime with notes of ginger, and florals. 



What are the tasting notes of Pinot noir?

Whether a light, tart wine from Italy or an intense style from Burgundy or New Zealand’s Central Otago, Pinot Noir boasts bright acidity, making it ideal for fatty meat and vegetarian dishes. Available in a range of sweetness levels, Franciacorta also has a welcome place at the dinner table from appetizers to creamy desserts.


Wellington Beef


Pinot Gris vs Pinot Noir: Food Pairing

What food goes well with Pinot Gris?

Both a delicate Veneto style and a rich, complex wine from Friuli-Venezia Giulia go well with a range of foods. The key to successful pairing is to pay attention to sweetness levels and go for dishes that highlight fruitiness and florals.


  • Appetizers: Shrimp or oyster starters, mozzarella and tomato, crudités, pitta bread and hummus, and even potato chips (the salt enhances the wine’s fruitiness). 
  • Entrées: Lightly herby chicken, sushi, artichoke salad with fennel and asparagus, fried fish (the acidity cuts through the fat), seafood salad, pasta with light creamy sauces. 
  • Off-dry Pinot Gris goes well with slightly spicy Asian dishes because the sugar and chili heat balance one another. 
  • Dessert: White and dark chocolate, fruit platters, crème brulee.
  • Cheese: Gruyère, Brie, Mozzarella.


What food goes well with Pinot Noir?

Varietal Pinot Noir is a great wine to match regional food so, if you get the chance to try it with dishes from Alto Adige or Tuscany, go for it. The main points to remember when pairing Pinot Noir is to avoid anything spicy as this will dull its body and be adventurous with fatty foods as its acidity is the perfect complement to this component. 


  • Appetisers: Shrimp cocktail, pâtés, charcuterie, cheese and breadcrumb-stuffed mushrooms. 
  • Entrées: French game dishes with light creamy sauces, Beef Wellington, mushroom risotto, lobster, Coq au vin, salmon and tuna, grilled asparagus and spring greens, roasted chicken, pasta, beef bourguignon. 
  • Dessert: Dark chocolate mousse, dark chocolate-covered strawberries/ cherries. 
  • Cheese: Goat’s cheese, brie, gorgonzola, mild blue cheeses, smoked cheeses.   


This sparkling wine made of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Meunier is available in dry to sweet styles. Brut is excellent as an aperitif while the sweeter styles pair well with light, slightly spicy food and tempura veggies. Match light, creamy desserts like meringue, crème brulee, and pannacotta to perfection with a demi-sec!


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