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Pinot grigio is perhaps best known as the standard-bearer white wine of Italy. And they do make some pretty fantastic pinot grigio. But this cherished grape variety is also a bit of a chameleon—going by other names in other places around the world like malvoisie and pinot gris. But to say pinot gris and pinot grigio are identical wines would be misleading.
According to winemaker Peter Zemmer, not all pinot grigio is the same. “In Alto Adige, pinot grigio flourishes under outstanding cool climatic conditions with big temperature differences between day and night,” he says, describing these conditions, in addition to good sunshine and ventilation, as “favorable for the variety.
The French and the Oregonians call it pinot gris, and in their hands, it tends to yield a slightly more vivid yellow color, spicier texture, and fuller-bodied wine. On the other hand, the Italians were the ones to popularize pinot grigio’s lighter, straw-colored, crisp, and citrus-driven style. With this in mind, the 2018 Four Graces Pinot Gris is our top choice.
The differences are subtle, and either way, these wines are one variety with many different expressions. To help you find the one for you, we’ve put together this list that gives you the best pinot grigios to drink right now, even if they go by another name.
Best Overall: 2018 Four Graces Pinot Gris
Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon | ABV: 13.5% | Tasting Notes: Peach, Pear, Apple, Butter
From Oregon’s Willamette Valley comes this prize bottle from Four Graces. Winemaker Tim Jones runs the show there, a born-and-bred Pacific Northwesterner who works the land he knows so well to make some of the best pinot gris around.
There are aromas of pineapple, grapefruit and honey, with buttery notes of peach, pear and apple on the palate. This bottle is beautifully dry and crisp with good acidity.
“Pinot grigio is a wine that can be enjoyed together with many different dishes such as fish, vegetable-based main courses, and white meats. This is the perfect wine for any fine dining experience.” — Peter Zemmer, winemaker
Best Organic: Erste + Neue Pinot Grigio
Region: Alto Adige, Italy | ABV: 13.5% | Tasting Notes: Lemon, Lime, Green apple skin
Meaning “First + New,” Erste + Neue is a revolutionary co-op focused on organic farming and high-quality winemaking, based in the small town of Caldaro just south of Bolzano. The company dates back over 120 years, and today, works with hundreds of local farmers to create their consistently tasty wines. Their pinot grigio is as classic as it gets: fermentation and aging are done in stainless steel to maintain the juice’s natural freshness. On the palate, flavors of lemon, lime, and green apple skin lead to a zesty finish.
Best California: 2018 Swanson Pinot Grigio
Region: Sonoma County, California | ABV: 14% | Tasting Notes: Granny Smith apple, Jasmine, Lemon
2018 was an ideal year for growing pinot grigio grapes, and the folks at Swanson Vineyards are crafty winemakers. Situated in a fair, mild climate atop drained limestone soils in the San Benito AVA, nestled between the Gabilan Mountains range and Diablo Mountain, this California terroir allows for just the right conditions to make a wine that’s an aromatic feast for the nose.
Served at this feast: Guava fruit, pear, jasmine and lemon, followed by palate notes of Granny Smith apple and juicy acidity. This wine is a natural pair with seafood, especially clams.
Best Oregon: 2018 Panther Creek Pinot Gris
Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon | ABV: 13.5% | Tasting Notes: Pear, Melon, Orange marmalade
Panther Creek was founded in 1986 by wine luminary Ken Wright who perfected the art of richly textured, deeply-flavorful Oregon pinot noir. Today, not much has changed, and their pinot noir is still top-notch. Lucky for us, so is their crisp, refreshing pinot gris, another treat from the Willamette Valley.
With the color of a golden sunrise, this bottle has notes of green apple, pear, melon, citrus and orange marmalade. This is sturdily balanced and dry with a light touch of sweet honey on the finish.
Read Next: Best Oregon Wines
“Many people are familiar with classic Italian pinot grigio, but there are other regions producing spectacular expressions of the grape variety. For something more fruit-forward, try pinot gris from Oregon’s Willamette Valley.” — Seth Dunagan, wine director at Helen
Best Alsatian: Domaine Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris
Region: Alsace, France | ABV: 14% | Tasting Notes: Stone fruit, Apricot, Honey, Sweet spice
For something with bright acidity and complex aromas, Dunagan recommends checking out France’s Alsace region.
Established in 1959, Domaine Zind Humbrecht represents the coming together of two wine-growing families located in the heart of France's Alsace region. The estate has long been certified organic (1998) and biodynamic (2002), and since 2002, Olivier Humbrecht has been president of the Biodyvin group.
Fruit for their pinot gris comes from some of the estate’s top growing sites in Herrenweg. Fermentation is done with natural yeasts, followed by eight months of sur-lie aging in 40-year-old French barrels. The resulting wine is rich, complex, and marked by a touch of sweetness. Flavors of ripe stone fruit, apricot, honey, and sweet spice lead to a velvety, palate-coating finish. Pair with all things spicy, especially Asian takeout favorites.
Best Italian: Pighin Pinot Grigio
Region: Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy | ABV: 13.5% | Tasting Notes: Underripe banana, White peach, Lemongrass
You can’t have a reputable list of top pinot grigios without including a slew of Italian concoctions. First off, there’s this lovely bottle from Pighin, made in the storied northern Friuli part of the country, which is a region famous for its white wines. Combine the Friulian terroir with the expert winemakers at Pighin, and you end up with this knock-out wine.
Get in a good whiff of that sweet citrus and floral aroma before you sip. Flavors of underripe banana, Bosc pear, white peach, apple and lemongrass give way to a long, tangy finish.
Runner-up Best Italian: Scarpetta Pinot Grigio
Region: Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Stone fruit, Citrus, Crushed rocks
Don’t be shocked that the runner-up Best Italian on this list comes from the same Friuli region you just read about. There are so many excellent pinot grigios from that part of the world, but it takes an extra special wine to stand out among them. Scarpetta is a love letter to the region from the creative minds of ex-French Laundry chef Lachlan Patterson and Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey.
Clean and vivid with pronounced wet rock minerality, stone fruit and citrus take the wheel with this wine, while earth and straw take the backseat. A fair way to honor Italian tradition is to make this wine a part of your nice Italian meal.
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Best Australian: 2017 Vinaceous Sirenya Pinot Grigio
Region: Adelaide Hills, Australia | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Poached pear, Citrus, White flower petals
Great quality and great value conspire to deliver this refreshing pinot grigio from two longtime Aussie winemakers—Gavin Berry and Michael Kerrigan. The Sirenya is sourced from the Mygunya Vineyard in the cool Adelaide Hills region in South Australia.
This is bright, zippy, with ample minerality. Tangy citrus fruit is layered with poached pear, giving way to a dazzling white floral finish.
Good to know:
When pairing food with pinot grigio, Dunagan recommends starting with light dishes, though equally advises to not fear shaking it up a bit. “Poached white fish and green vegetables are a great place to start when it comes to pinot grigio/pinot gris. Keep it light, but don’t be afraid to experiment!” he exclaims.
Best Under $20: Villa Sandi Pinot Grigio
Region: Veneto, Italy | ABV: 12% | Tasting Notes: Pear, Lime, Gooseberry, Acacia
As we do with pasta and tarantella music, we are to trust the Italians to make quality pinot grigio. Though best known for their prosecco, Villa Sandi also knows how to pack a punch with their still pinot grigio, romancing the grape by aging only in stainless steel and delivering a low-alcohol rendition that makes it easy to enjoy a couple of bottles without paying for it the next morning.
This has a pale yellow color like a just-packed bail of barnyard hay. It is fruity and grassy with notes of pear, apple, lime, gooseberry and acacia. This wine has a hearty structure with a warm, spicy finish.
Best Under $15: Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio
Region: Alto Adige, Italy | ABV: 12% | Tasting Notes: Pear, Peach skin, White flowers
Originally founded as a wine merchant in 1823 by Johann Lageder, Alois Lageder is one of the most respected estates in Alto Adige of the present day. The company shifted to winemaking back in 1934, and today, it is represented by sixth-generation winemaker Alois Clemens Lageder. All farming is done organically and biodynamically, proving that well-made wines can still be purchased at very affordable prices. Their pinot grigio grows in sites dominated by Mediterranean influences and is rooted in chalky soils with high levels of sand and gravel, which are ideal for cultivating the grape. Flavors of pear, peach skin, and white flowers dominate this tasty, easy-drinking wine.
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Best for Sangria: 2019 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio Alto Adige
Region: Alto Adige, Italy | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Yellow apple, Pear, Almond paste
If you have a craving for a white wine sangria, your best bet is the Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio sourced from the vineyards of Northern Italy’s Alto Adige region. This Italian jewel is beloved by Americans and this is the perfect wine to sip on while you whip up that white sangria made with…this wine!
This wine boasts an enchanting citrus musk that is spearheaded by lemon and grapefruit. It is bolstered by yellow apple and pear flavors, with light touches of almond paste, and is dry as a bone in the Sahara. The versatile flavors make this wine stand on its own and also pair well with floating chunks of fruit.
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Best Skin Contact / Ramato: Venica & Venica Jesera Pinot Grigio 2019
Region: Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy | ABV: 13.5% | Tasting Notes: Underripe banana, Citrus, Ginger, Jasmine
This copper-hued pinot grigio from Collio is produced using minimal amounts of skin contact, a long-standing tradition in the vinification of the grape within the Friuli region (called Ramato). Now headed by Giampaolo Venica, this highly regarded estate continues to craft regionally-inspired wines from organically-farmed fruit.
This Ramato style pinot grigio shows flavors of dried apricots, underripe banana, citrus, ginger, and jasmine lead to a juicy, floral-tinged finish. We recommend serving this wine chilled and pairing it with a variety of Mediterranean-inspired appetizers, including hummus, pickled vegetables, fresh seafood, and more.
When it comes to pinot grigio/pinot gris, there really isn't a one-size-fits-all model. Wines made from pinot grigio come in a variety of colors and styles, and a specific wine’s final flavor profile will be heavily dependent on the producer who crafts it and the region in which the wine is made. If you prefer your wines dry and with a bit of skin contact, seek out Ramato style bottlings (view at Wine.com) from northern Italy. For those looking for something rich, spicy, and with a tinge of sweetness, Alsace (view at Total Wine) is your best bet. For an easy-drinking, dry expression, look to the wines of Alto Adige (view at Drizly) – though be sure to do your producer research in advance!
What to Look For
Dunagan notes that when searching for a high-quality pinot grigio/pinot gris, seeking out a good producer is a great place to start. “Do some research on who is making the wine. Is it a label that you see on the middle shelf in every grocery store, or is the label from a small family-owned operation with limited production? Search for the latter,” he advises, noting that smaller producers will generally put more of an emphasis on quality and attention to detail, as well as are more likely to farm with organic/sustainable/biodynamic practices. “These wines are labors of love and should not be overlooked,” he affirms.
Where does the pinot grigio grape come from?
Although more synonymous with Italy in the present day, pinot grigio (gris) actually finds its origins in France’s Burgundy region.
Why is pinot grigio so popular?
Pinot grigio’s crisp, easy-drinking nature—and often very affordable price points—are two of the main reasons why wines produced from this grape are likely so popular. Consumer recognition and an easy-to-pronounce name also help!
Is pinot grigio always dry?
Not always. Although most bottles of wine produced from pinot grigio/pinot gris are dry, there are a handful of off-dry and sweet expressions available on the market. Many of these wines come from France’s Alsace region and will often say Late Harvest (or vendanges tardives) on the label.
Is pinot grigio drier than chardonnay?
Not necessarily. Dry wines literally mean that there is no presence of residual sugar, and in both pinot grigio and chardonnay’s cases, the majority of bottlings on the market are vinified and sold bone dry. However, off-dry and sweet expressions of both grapes exist too, albeit in much smaller quantities.
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Vicki Denig is a wine, spirits, and travel journalist who splits her time between New York and Paris. Her work regularly appears in major industry publications. She is the content creator and social media manager for a list of prestigious clients, including Sopexa, Paris Wine Company, Becky Wasserman, Volcanic Selections, Le Du’s Wines, Windmill Wine & Spirits and Corkbuzz. She is a Certified Specialist of Wine.
Jonathan Cristaldi has written about wine and spirits for over a decade. He regularly tastes wines from around the globe, and personally tasted every wine in this roundup, except for the Ormes de Pez and Unico. Cristaldi was named a "Wine Prophet" by Time Out New York for his witty and often avant-garde approach to wine education.