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Pinot Gris wine guide

Aromatic wines are white wines where the flavour and aromas of the wine is that of the grape. 

What type of wine is Pinot Gris?

Pinot Gris is an aromatic white wine with a medium body and juicy, stone fruit flavours. Pinot Gris can range from light and zesty to rich and spicy, and is a lovely crowd pleaser at any BBQ or dinner party.

What is the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio?

Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio both use the same grape varietal, so what’s different is how the wine is made rather than what it’s made of. 

Pinot Gris originates from the Alsace region of France and is made in the French style. Pinot Gris tends to be aromatic and sweet, low in acidity but higher in alcohol.

Pinot Grigio has its roots in Italy’s Lombardy region and is made according to the Italian style. Compared to Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio has a lighter body, is crisper and more clean with vibrant citrus flavours.

Because the pinot gris grape is a very old varietal that originated in France, when speaking generally about the wine it’s more common to refer to Pinot Gris instead of Pinot Grigio.

Where is Pinot Gris grown?

Pinot Gris is actually thought to be a mutated version of the Pinot Noir grape. Much like Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris originated in France's Burgundy region, where it quickly became prized as a grape capable of producing perfumed, rich wines with mouth-filling flavour.

The ‘noir’ in Pinot Noir means ‘black,’ because of the rich, dark colouring of the grapes. ‘Gris’ is French for ‘grey,’ because unlike other white grapes that have green skins, Pinot Gris skins are a shade of greyish blue. ‘Pinot’ comes from the French word for ‘pinecone’ which describes the shape of a bunch of grapes.

From France it spread to Italy, becoming Pinot Grigio, but Pinot Gris kept it’s French name as it spread around Europe and the new world. 

Today, it’s common to find Pinot Gris from Germany, Australia, Argentina and the United States.

New Zealand Pinot Grigio

In New Zealand, Pinot Gris has had a stunning rise in popularity, becoming our third most popular wine.

It is grown right across New Zealand, with South Island regions generally producing wines with a higher acidity and more pronounced aromatics, while the warmer North Island produces Pinot Gris with riper flavours and a more oily mouthfeel.

Typically, New Zealand varieties of Pinot Gris are closer to the French style than their slightly drier Italian Pinot Grigio cousins

Typical aromas and flavours of New Zealand Pinot Gris are apple, pears, honeysuckle and spice and in warmer areas, stone fruit, especially apricot. The range of climates and styles between New Zealand’s wine growing regions means locally made Pinot Gris can give you a fantastic choice of styles and flavours.

 

What does Pinot Gris taste like?

Most of New Zealand’s Pinot Gris is produced in Marlborough. The cooler climate at the top of the South Island produces a more aromatic wine, with distinctive flavours of peach, red apple and cinnamon.

Next is Hawke’s Bay, where the warmer climate creates more ripe, rich, concentrated flavours, but in a wide variety of styles.

Gisborne is New Zealand’s third largest Pinot Gris producing region. The long sunshine hours create a full bodied Pinot Gris, with flavours of peach, pear, golden apples and complex spices.

Finally, the cooler climates of North Canterbury produce a more aromatic Pinot Gris. Expect to find pear, stone fruit, and a slightly grassy aroma, as well as a burst of spices like ginger and cinnamon.

 

 

Is Pinot Grigio dry or sweet?

Generally speaking, Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio can be classified as a semi-sweet wine, but on the spectrum of wine sweetness it tends to be drier than Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier or Gewürztraminer.

Pinot Grigio tends to be drier than Pinot Gris, but the beauty of this wine varietal lies in its diversity. Pinot Gris tends to be sweeter than Pinot Grigio. Within New Zealand, Pinot Gris grown in warmer climates or the North Island tend to be sweeter than varieties produced in the South Island’s cooler climates.

Oaked and unoaked Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris was introduced relatively recently to New Zealand, so it’s still building its reputation. One critique of early New Zealand Pinot Grigio releases was that it tasted ‘simple’ compared it’s more complex and full-bodied French and Italian cousins. 

To round out the flavours and add complexity to our local Pinot Gris, some New Zealand winemakers have introduced oak barrel aging, which is commonly used to produce Italian Pinot Grigio.

Regular Chardonnay drinkers will be familiar with the influence oak aging can have on wine. A New Zealand Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio that has ‘oaked’ or ‘oak aged’ on the barrel will have a creamier, more buttery texture, will be less acidic, and have flavours of vanilla and coconut that you won’t find in an unoaked variety.

 

Pinot Gris compared to other wines

 

Chardonnay vs Pinot Grigio

Amongst wine connoisseurs, Chardonnay is generally considered a more complex wine with deeper flavours compared to Pinot Gris. 

An oaked Chardonnay and an oaked Pinot Grigio will have a lot in common, including aromas and flavours of vanilla, as well as a creamy, buttery mouthfeel.

While typical Chardonnay flavours and aromas are cut grass, apple, vanilla and pineapple, Pinot Gris tends to be lighter, sweeter and more aromatic. 

Sauvignon Blanc vs Pinot Grigio

The biggest difference between Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris is the aroma. Sauvignon Blanc’s grassy, lime and gooseberry aromas jump out of the glass to meet you, while in comparison Pinot Gris tends to be more subdued.

In a pinch, Sauvignon Blanc is probably slightly more sweet than Pinot Gris, but a lot of that comes down to production. It’s easy to find highly acidic and very sweet varieties of both wines. As a general rule, Pinot Grigio is a slightly more crisp and dry palette cleanser, but it’s easy to find exceptions to that rule.

Pinot Grigio vs Pinot Noir

While the major difference is in the colour, with Pinot Noir being red and Pinot Gris being white, both can be refreshing and approachable wines.

Compared to heavier red wines like Merlot or Syrah, Pinot Noir is much lighter, both in colour and flavour, and doesn’t have the acidity or tannins. Pinot Gris can have slightly more sweetness and acidity, as well as citrus flavours you’re unlikely to find in Pinot Noir.

Pinot Grigio vs Riesling

Like Pinot Gris, Riesling can be quite aromatic and fruity. Within New Zealand varieties of both, you’ll find a range of aromas and flavours including apple, rose petals, citrus and stone fruit flavours like peach, lemon and lime. 

While Pinot Gris shares some of Riesling’s sweetness, it has much less acidity and is more likely to be barrel aged. That wood contact lends Pinot Gris a creamier mouthfeel, plus flavours of vanilla and honeysuckle.

Moscato vs Pinot Grigio

If you’re already a fan of Moscato, there’s a good chance you’ll also love Pinot Grigio. Both wines are very aromatic, quite sweet and have a clean finish. 

Still Moscato can be slightly drier than Pinot Grigio, but the fruity flavours and aromas can trick your mind into thinking it tastes sweeter than it actually is. 

The biggest difference between Moscato and Pinot Gris is in the alcohol content. While Pinot Gris falls into the medium category with an alcohol by volume (ABV) content of between 11 and 13 percent, Moscato is much lighter at 5 to 7 percent ABV.

Celebrating with bubbles? You can find sparkling varieties of Pinot Grigio and Moscato. 

You can read more about New Zealand wine varietals here.

 

Best New Zealand Pinot Gris

 


Giesen Estate Pinot Gris 2019

A riper style with stone fruit flavours and wonderful richness. It has both flavour persistence and mouthfeel texture, a very polished wine.


Vidal Reserve Hawkes Bay Pinot Gris 2019

A fine and delicate but juicy palate, with aromas and flavours of pear drops and fresh Du Comice pear, concentrated and balanced with bright acidity.


Wither Hills Marlborough Pinot Gris 2019

Classic floral notes with quince and pear, the palate has crisply balanced acid. It’s clean and juicy with varietal purity.


Rocky Point Pinot Gris 2020

Pale and superbly made with an intriguing spice line through the palate. Dry with bracing acidity and medium weight. A lovely texture and long finish.


Roaring Meg Pinot Gris 2019

With all the wonderful foods to explore from Central Otago, this is the perfect accompaniment. Flavours that remind you of a juicy ripe peach served with honeydew melon. Juicy acidity with a rich line of spice running through the palate, creating a beguiling smoky texture and a persistent finish.

Pinot Gris nutrition per 150ml glass (1 serving)

 

If you’re looking to make a health conscious decision before buying your next bottle of Pinot Gris, check the nutritional guide on the label. Of course, the alcohol content, sugar levels and calories will vary from bottle to bottle. This is only a rough guide around what you can expect.

Calories

The number of calories in each glass of wine is closely linked to the amount of alcohol, or ABV. Within a 150ml glass of Pinot Gris, you could expect anywhere between 90 to 140 calories.

Carbohydrates

Unfortunately, there’s no getting around the fact that wine contains carbs. Carbs in wine usually comes from the natural sugars in the grapes that are left over after the fermentation process. 

Pinot Gris is not a very sweet wine, so the amount of carbohydrates in a 150ml glass is around 3 to 5 grams.

Alcohol

While some of the calories in wine will come from the residual sugars, most of it comes from the alcohol content. Most New Zealand Pinot Gris will be between 11 to 14 percent ABV.

Sugar

Pinot Gris usually falls into the semi-sweet or off-dry wine category. Dry wines have less sugar, while sparkling and dessert wines typically have a lot more. 

A semi-sweet Pinot Gris can have anywhere from 1.5 to 3.5 grams of sugar per 150ml glass.

 

Storing Pinot Gris

 

Wine bottles

Pinot Gris can be cellared for between one to four years. An aromatic white wine like Pinot Gris can’t be aged as long as wines with a fuller-body and higher alcohol content. 

As a general rule, a light, aromatic Pinot Gris may only be aged for one to two years, while an oaked Pinot Grigio might be able to last for three to four.

If the bottle is sealed with a cork, remember to store it on its side. If the wine stays in contact with the cork, it stops the cork from drying out and letting air into the bottle, which is what can make a wine go bad.

If your Pinot Gris is in a bottle with a screw top, it doesn’t matter whether you store it on its side or not.

One thing all aging wines have in common is that they don’t like sunlight or large temperature fluctuations. A dark, climate controlled environment between 12०C and 18०C is ideal.

Unfortunately, the only way to tell if your Pinot Gris has ‘gone off’ is to open up the bottle. 

Once you have opened up your bottle of Pinot Gris, you should consume it within five days. Once the bottle is opened and the Pinot Gris has been exposed to the air, you can’t put the top back on and recellar it. 

If you’re wondering whether or not your Pinot Gris has gone off, trust your eyes and your nose. Pour it into a wine glass and look for changes in colour. Unoaked Pinot Gris is usually pale in colour. If it’s turned a darker yellow, it may have gone off. Also, if you’re picking up a funky, musty aroma, trust your nose and don’t take a sip.

You can read more about cellaring wine here.

Serving Pinot Gris

 

Have you ever bought a bottle of wine directly from a vineyard or while on holiday and swear that it tastes different after you’ve brought it home? It’s amazing how much of an impact both temperature and the glassware you’re using can impact the flavour of your wine.

Serving temperature

As an aromatic white wine, Pinot Gris should be chilled, but not too cold. Around 7०C is ideal for most Pinot Gris. Much colder than 7०C, and you will lose some of the flavour and aroma. 

Glassware

A traditional white wine glass is wider than a champagne flute but narrower than a large red wine glass. When taking a sip of Pinot Gris from a narrow white wine glass, the wine goes to the centre of your mouth and away from the sides, which are the areas where you taste acidity. 

The tapering around the rim of the glass also holds in those delicious Pinot Gris aromas, helping you pick up more of the flavour.

You can read more about wine glasses and serving wine here.

Pinot Gris pairing

 


Pinot Grigio cheese pairing

When creating a cheese platter to accompany your bottle of Pinot Grigio, pairing mild soft cheeses will help enhance their earthy, mineral flavours. 

Think brie, camembert, or mozzarella with tomatoes and a little drizzle of olive oil. Delicious!


Pinot Grigio with dessert

Because Pinot Grigio is a drier white wine, an overly sweet dessert will dominate on your palette. Instead of ice cream and chocolate cake, try a pavlova, creme brulee custard, or fruit filled crepes. 


Pinot Grigio with lamb

For most lamb dishes, you’ll want a low or mildly acidic wine so the acidity doesn’t clash with the richness of the lamb. Try a Pinot Noir for a tender young lamb, or a Syrah if you’re grilling lamb chops on the BBQ.

If all you have in the fridge is a bottle of Pinot Gris and you’re wondering what to serve for dinner, you would probably be better off going with chicken over lamb.


Pinot Grigio with seafood

New Zealand Pinot Gris is made for seafood. In particular, sushi. There’s something about the way the crisp acidity of a delicious Pinot Gris pairs with the spice and sweetness of salmon sushi or a tuna roll.

Pinot Grigio for cooking

Pinot Gris is ideal for adding to your cooking. Compared with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, Pinot Gris is the most ‘neutral’ and least likely to add flavours that will overpower your dish.

Pinot Grigio is perfect for a cream sauce, or adding to a seafood chowder as it’s acidity can help cut through some of those richer flavours. 

If you have left an open bottle of Pinot Gris in your fridge for longer than one week, it should still be good for use in cooking for another seven days. 

You can read more about pairing wine and food here.

Find your next favourite wine at New World

Now you can tell your Pinot Gris from your Pinot Grigio, you can find your next delicious bottle at your local New World, or you can order online!

Want to know more about the exciting wines being made right here in New Zealand? You can read more of our informative wine guides here.

 

Jim Harre - about the author

After studying viticulture and winemaking at Hawkes Bay’s Eastern Institute of Technology, Jim worked several vintages, both in New Zealand and Internationally as a winemaker. 

Identified as having a very good palate for quality assessment of wine, Jim has been a major part of New Zealand’s Wine Judging competitions for over 25 years. Now a well respected International Judge, he works as a Chair of Judges in Wine Competitions in USA, Japan, China, Australia and, of course, New Zealand. 

He is also regarded as a world authority on the effect of how wine perception changes in aircraft, a panel chair at the world’s largest competition; the International Wine Challenge, held each year in London; as well as Wine Consultant to Air New Zealand.

It is Jim’s love of education and teaching people about wine that makes him one of New Zealand’s most recognised Wine professionals.