Pinot gris or pinot grigio – two sides of the same coin

Scott Greenberg,

WASHINGTON – Last week we talked about the allure and versatility of pinot blanc wines.

I received an interesting email from a reader asking me if pinot gris and pinot grigio were wines made from the same grape, and if either of them are related to pinot blanc.

A perfectly legitimate question.

As it turns out, pinot grigio and pinot gris are actually the same white wine grape, just with two different names. And while pinot gris/grigio is not technically related to pinot blanc, it is thought to be a mutation of the pinot noir grape just as pinot blanc is – so I guess they share a distant parent.

When pinot gris is fully ripened it makes a golden yellow to blush colored wine. It is very popular in Alsace, France where it is sought after for both its bright, clean flavors as well as the dessert wines made from late harvest grapes, called Vendange Tardive.

The confusion over the name is a result of where the grapes are grown. For example, in Italy and California, wines produced from the grape are called pinot grigio, however, in France, Canada and Oregon it’s referred to as pinot gris. The main difference in the style is a result of the climates the grapes are grown in and how the wines are produced. In Italy, pinot grigio tends to be dry, with a citrus-centric core and a minerally finish. In France, the wines lean more towards stone fruits and white flowers. Both styles are found throughout the grape-growing world, so it’s just a matter of finding the variety that appeals to your palate. Retail prices are approximate.

In 1870, Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino had a dream of starting a winery dedicated to making the best wines possible from Tuscan grapes. Today, the Folonari family runs the winery and their 2009 Ruffino Lumina Pinot Grigio from Venezia, Italy steals the show with an aromatic nose of orange blossom, grapefruit and pineapple. Crisp notes of nectarine, peach and lemon/lime fill the mouth while bracing acidity keeps the finish fresh and lively. $10

For six centuries, the Albrecht family has been making wine in Alsace, so they know a thing or two about pinot gris. Their 2010 Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris Cuv

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