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What’s in a name? Pinot Gris vs Pinot Grigio

by Anna Thorp, Restaurant & Wine Business Assistant / Siren

If you take a stroll past the Mudbrick Cellar Door, past the lavender and the lemon grove to our vines; you will come across our Pinot Gris… Or is it Pinot Grigio? Anna explains below…

pinot gris grapes
Pic: Mudbrick Pinot Gris grapes by Robin Kristner

Firstly, it’s the same grape variety! Pinot Gris is the French name for the grape and Pinot Grigio is Italian (gris and grigio are the French and Italian words for grey, respectively, due to the grey/pink-ish hue of the grape skins when fully ripe). It is grown in over 20 countries with global plantings of around 15,000 hectares. However, the French and Italian wines can be very different in style.

• Pinot Gris is prolifically grown in the French region of Alsace where the wines are typically off-dry (a little sweeter), with a fuller-bodied texture (think rich and viscous), ripe fruit flavours and a hint of ginger and honey. They are often a little higher in alcohol due to the higher sugar levels in the grapes when harvesting.

• Pinot Grigio is grown in the northern alpine regions of Italy which generally produces lighter-bodied styles that are dry (little or no residual sugar) and with good acidity from early harvesting resulting in a fresh, zesty, racy style.

Winemakers will usually choose to label their wines Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio to denote whether their wine is more similar in style to the French or the Italian version. In New Zealand, it is planted throughout all wine regions from the north of North Island to the south of South Island and we typically see more Pinot Gris styles of wine. Although some winemakers are now diverting to lighter Pinot Grigio styles as a point of difference, especially in those cooler climates which allows more natural acidity and lower alcohol.

Both fantastic in their own right and both very-well suited to food (as all wines are…)! Pair your richer, fuller-bodied styles of Pinot Gris with creamy cheeses, pâtés or even some pork dishes. Try your fresher, mouth-watering styles of Pinot Grigio with seafood; think oysters, mussels and fish dishes with creamy sauces.

At Mudbrick, we celebrate both New Zealand styles of Pinot Gris with our Reserve Pinot Gris grown on Waiheke Island and our Mudbrick Pinot Gris grown in Marlborough. Which is your favourite?