Pinot Noir Versus Pinot Grigio: What's The Difference?

While there are many pinot varietals in the wine segment, two of them have seemingly stayed steady at the top of the list: Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio. The two share part of a name, and you might think that's where the similarities end. However, here's a shocker for you: Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir are color mutations of the same grape, so they do have something in common (per Wine Folly). But of course there are differences too, some of which are obvious (one is red and one is white), and others that are more subtle. 

Pinot Noir, says Wine Folly, is the 10th most commonly grown grape in the world. Stunning pinot noirs come from all over the planet, including Oregon, Chile, and Germany. It's a red wine that is on the lighter side of the red spectrum, low in acidity and tannins. It's fruit-forward (notes of cherry and raspberry complemented by earthy-oak flavors) and usually a ruby-red, bright color. Pinot Noir, though, is a wine that can be very distinct depending on the region it's from. So while you may not be able to tell the difference that easily, a sommelier may know the origin on just a sip.

What Is Pinot Grigio?

Pinot Grigio, on the other hand, is a wine of the white varietal of the same grape. The grape, which is an ashy-purple in color, comes from the Alsace region of France, notes VinePair. Citrusy and with a bit of a bite, Pinot Grigio tends to be more mass produced than its other pinot counterparts, as the sipper is popular with wine drinkers, especially those who are just starting to step into the wine game. But there is something very special about Pinot Grigio. Unlike other grapes, this one tends to be very reactive to the environment, or "terroir," in which it is grown. Meaning, even if it's mass produced, there is something crafted and special about every bottle. 

There are also three types of Pinot Grigio, says VinePair, so get ready to have your mind blown. Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc are also Pinot Grigios. And Wine Folly says there is a Pinot Grigio for everyone since there are three main flavor profiles — minerally and dry; fruity and dry; and fruity and sweet.

What should I eat with my Pinot Noir?

Pairing wine with meals can seem daunting, but it's pretty easy when you follow a few rules. "What grows together, goes together," is a rule of thumb that always seems to work in a bind (per The Black Label). For example: An Italian wine would pair well with an Italian-influenced meal, no worrying required. But when planning something to eat around your Pinot Noir, it pays to think broadly. Wine Folly notes that because of the light body, you can definitely eat a variety of foods with the blend. 

Going with a classic wine and cheese pairing? Wine Folly suggests to sip your red with comté or goat cheese and crackers. Food + Wine explains that depending on the fruit level of the wine, it can pair well with anything from salmon (fish and red? Who knew?) to more gamey meats, like duck. Or, go out-of-the-box completely and pair your Pinot Noir with white pizza. 

What should I eat with my Pinot Grigio?

So, now that you know how to pair your Pinot Noir with food, it's time to get the skinny on Pinot Grigio. As you might guess based on its stunning golden hue, Pinot Grigio complements lighter dishes like fish and chicken (per Wine Folly). Some of the foods that Food + Wine say to pair with Pinot Grigio include creole shrimp with garlic and lemon; a cucumber and grapefruit crab salad; and grilled halibut. 

And while it may sound strange, VinePair actually recommends pairing Pinot Grigio (or Pinot Gris!) with mozzarella cheese. The acid in the wine brings out all of the soft flavors in the cheese. Otherwise, semi-soft cheeses from the Alsace region would also make great food pairings alongside a bright, fresh glass of Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris according to Wine Folly. This varietal also pairs wonderfully with the basics, too — a roast chicken or turkey with all of the fixings will make your taste buds sing.