Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape variety, being a white mutation of the Pinot Noir grape. In France, it is called Pinot Gris where its home is in the mountainous region of Alsace, while in Italy it is called Pinot Grigio where it is cultivated in the northern regions of Fruili and Veneto.
Wines labelled Pinot Gris are likely to be richer, viscous and fuller bodied styles, while those labelled Pinot Grigio are more austere, higher in acidity and medium to full bodied. Even more so than Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris requires a cool climate and a long growing season in order to maintain its slightly low acidity.
Pinot Gris is grown in most types of well drained soils. In Australia the grape was pioneered in the Mornington Peninsular, Victoria in the 1980’s. Today, due to its increasing popularity, it is grown in most wine regions across the country.
About the Variety
Wines made from Pinot Gris vary greatly and are dependent on the region and the wine making style they are from. In general Pinot Gris wines are more full-bodied, richer, spicier and more viscous in texture. They also tend to have greater cellaring and aging potential. In contrast Pinot Grigio wines are typically lighter-bodied, crisp, fresh, with vibrant stone fruit and floral aromas and a touch of spice.
The Mornington Peninsular is one place that exhibits the best of the two styles. Its cool, maritime climate and clay-based soils on which the grape thrives, gives the wines the focus and zippy acidity associated with Pinot Grigio, along with the texture and flavour found in Pinot Gris.
The grape grows best in cool climates and matures relatively early with high sugar levels. This can lead to either a sweeter wine, or, if fermented to dryness, a wine high in alcohol. The grapes grow in small clusters and may have a variety of colours in the vine. The clusters can range from bluish grey to light pinkish brown.
In Australia there are several cool climate regions where Pinot Gris and Grigio are grown. The prominent regions are found in Victoria including the Mornington Peninsular, the Yarra Valley, Grampians and the King Valley where its cool alpine climate and Italian community produce some excellent Pinot Grigio’s.
Elsewhere, the Adelaide Hills, Eden Valley and Great Southern region in Western Australia produce quality Pinot Gris and Grigio.
Other up and coming regions include Orange, Mudgee, Tumbarumba and the Canberra District in NSW as well as the cool climate of Tasmania which has an affinity with producing ‘Alsatian’ style whites.
Producers in the Hunter Valley and McLaren Vale/Fleurieu Peninsula wine regions produce more medium-bodied Pinot Gris and Grigio.
In matching with food, Pinot Gris and Grigio work differently.
Pinot Grigio, being lighter, is best suited to enjoying with lighter Mediterranean style dishes such as light seafood, antipasto plates, cold meats and simple pasta dishes.
In contrast, the richness of many Pinot Gris styles enables them to work with heavier dishes such as veal, rabbit, roast pork, chicken casseroles as well as hard cheeses.