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Are Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris varietals related?

If you said ‘yes’, you’d be right! The Pinot Noir varietal is a well-known Burgundian grape, but what is lesser-known is that Pinot Noir is one of the ancient grape varietals theorized to be only one or two generations away from its native, wild ancestor. Over the centuries natural mutations of the vine lead to the Pinot Gris (also known as Pinot Grigio), Pinot Blanc and Meunier varietals.

You may see the term Gris or Grigio on different wine labels, but at the end of the day Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio refer to the same grape variety. It’s hard to know for sure which mutation came first, but through DNA testing it is proven that the three are direct descendants. You'll see both names gracing the labels of many wines featured in our 6 wine of the month clubs!

a post labelling pinot grapes in a vineyard

What are the Similarities and Differences Between Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris?

First of all, they share part of their name, Pinot, which means resembling a pine cone. The varietals were given this name due to the way the grapes grow in pine cone-shaped clusters. The latter of their names refers to the color of the grapes.

Pinot Noir is a rather dark skinned grape, whereas Pinot Gris is often a mix of bronze and pink grapes within the same bunch. Pinot Gris is a mutation of Pinot Noir in which it lacks the pigment producing the lighter grapes, and fruitier wines.

However, the juices of both Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are clear, but Pinot Noir is allowed to remain with its skin for a certain amount of days giving it the slightly red color. Pinot Gris on the other hand is not left with the skin, therefore creating a white wine.

a glass of red wine with a grilled fish salad on a plate

Flavors and Pairings with both Pinots:

As far as taste is concerned, Pinot Gris wine offers a crisp, dry, acidic, medium-body sensation with flavors of bright, zesty citrus, sometimes with almond accents. Its counterpart, Pinot Noir, is a semi-acidic, also crisp, and light bodied red wine with flavor notes of red berries, cherries, and vanilla.

When it comes to food the versatile Pinot Noir wine pairs nicely with light meats such as chicken and fattier fish like salmon. Most Pinot Gris wines, having a medium body and crispness, allows it to pair well with light seafood dishes.

a bottle and a glass of pinot noir resting on a table on a balcony

Why does a Pinot Noir or Pinot Gris bottle shape differ from a Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc bottle shape?

The answer is simpler than you may think. It has to do with the region from which the varietal originates. For example, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are presented in a Burgundy shaped bottle with less pronounced shoulders that slope downward.

On the other hand, Cabernet SauvignonSauvignon Blanc and Merlot, for example, are presented in a Bordeaux shaped bottle, which has distinct, high shoulders and a deep punt on the bottom of the bottle.

These Wine Wizard questions were featured in our Gold Wine Club's newsletter,The Wine Press featuring wines from Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyard.