Pinot Grigio is often (and rightly) a much-maligned grape, with the cheaper examples suitable only for chucking in ice and soda to make a spritzer. Pinot Gris, however, is well-respected and made in some of the top white wine producing regions around. But it’s the same grape! So what gives?
Family Matters – Pinot Grigio/Gris and Pinot Noir
Pinot Grigio/Gris grapes are a close cousin of Pinot Noir. Not so much a close cousin as they’re a colour mutation. The grapes themselves – as we show in the video – are much closer to red than they are to a white wine grape. With a hint of grey, hence “gris”. So their wines often have a slightly pinkish hue to them, or should, unless they’ve been battered about to homogenise them for cheap mass-market appeal.
A good Pinot Grigio/Gris should also have some of the red fruit characteristics of Pinot Noir and thus be quite different to other common white grapes like Sauvignon Blanc. They should be far from the watered-down, washed-out blandness of much wines marketed as Pinot Grigio. A Pinot Gris is a much richer, more flavourful, more fruity proposition.
What’s the difference between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris?
This used to be simple. Grigio is the Italian name (just like Pinot Nero is Italian for Pinot Noir). Gris is the French name. So if you saw Grigio, it would be Italian, probably on the lightweight side. If you saw Gris, it would be French, from Alsace, and much richer.
Nowadays, with so many bottles coming from the New World, the producers have a choice between Grigio versus Gris. It’s basically a matter of branding. Fortunately, they’ve chosen a broadly similar distinction as the Italian versus French style. So if you see Grigio on a label, it usually means it’s simpler, lighter and usually cheaper. If you see Gris, it means the producer is deliberately trying to position it away from mainstream Grigio styles. So Gris means more complex, richer and usually more expensive.
Review of Freeman’s Bay from Aldi
This one is interesting as it’s a Pinot Gris from New Zealand but it’s only around £6. So is it a Gris style for Grigio money? In a word, yes. This is a cracker for the price. Slightly off-dry (but not sweet in any meaningful way), it’s fruity but with depth.
We give this a 7 rating on our WES scale. For the price, it’s a no-brainer. If you’d normally pick up a Pinot Grigio, give this one a try, and see if you like the style. It’s definitely more “Gris” than “Grigio”.
If you’re in the mood for a curry or something spicy, and don’t fancy a beer, then this would go well with anything like that. Thai food especially.
Give it a try and let us know what you think in the comments. Especially if you’re a Grigio fan trying Gris for the first time. Even though it’s “the same”.
Available from Aldi.