Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc: The differences

“White wine is white wine!” Or is it? Anyone who has already dealt with the numerous white grape varieties in this world knows: the variety is unbelievable. Even within one and the same family, there are significant differences that add another facet to the enjoyment. This can be seen with Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. An overview shows where the two siblings are not at all alike.

Hardly any difference before maturity

With Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, the beginning of the annual growth and ripening cycle is exactly the same as with all other grape varieties. Fruit buds emerge from small blossoms, which later develop into green grapes. Up to this point, the two grape varieties are almost identical, which is why the layman in particular cannot make any difference. However, as maturity sets in, the most significant and obvious difference becomes apparent.

The visual appearance: These two are not the same

When the grapes ripen on the vines of the Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris varieties, even hikers in the vineyard quickly recognize that these are different varieties. While the skin of Pinot Blanc is white and the grapes are shimmering green-yellow, this is different with Pinot Gris. It develops a color that seems to oscillate between white and red grape varieties. The peel is therefore green in some places, but at the same time also has a clearly purple tinge. This creates the greyish impression to which the vine owes its name.

Hand holds white grapevines

Not equidistant from the parent vine

The reason for the different coloring of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris is the degree of mutation. Both varietals are color mutations of Pinot Noir . The genetic change in Pinot Blanc is so pronounced that its anthocyanin content is practically zero. As a result, the characteristic color cannot be found. Pinot Gris again is a mutant between Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. It has the color characteristics of both varieties, but is visually closer to Pinot Noir than its white brother.

Distribution worldwide: Both varieties are popular

According to experts, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris most likely originate in the French region of Burgundy. Within France, both varieties are popular in Alsace, where winemakers use them for dry still and sparkling wines.

Both Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris have traveled widely around the world and therefore have many different names. Pinot Gris is also known under the names Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio . The two vines can be found in many well-known wine countries such as Italy, France, the USA and also Germany.

Distribution in Germany: Slightly more gray than white

When looking at the German list of grape varieties, it becomes clear that Pinot Gris is somewhat more common in this country than Pinot Blanc. About 7,100 hectares of vineyards are under the grey-blue grape variety. The Pinot Blanc comes on about 5,747 hectares of planted area. It thus occupies 5.6 percent of the total area under vines in the Federal Republic. Pinot Gris can boast about seven percent.

As far as the distribution within German wine regions is concerned, both varieties are mainly represented in Baden, Rheinhessen and the Palatinate.

Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc: Differences in taste

Pinot Gris tend to show a little more extract and structure than some Pinot Blanc. Nuances of nuts and herbs are often found in the bouquet of this grape variety, paired with fresh fruit notes. Pinot Gris often smells of pineapple, lemon zest, apple and pear.

Pinot Blanc, on the other hand, is popular with many connoisseurs for its somewhat fresher expression. The bouquet reveals apple, pear, melon, quince, a hint of nuts and meadow flowers. A Pinot Blanc is often pleasantly creamy on the palate and is considered by some connoisseurs to be the rounder variant of the two varieties. The Pinot Blanc is said to have a certain similarity with the Chardonnay .

Available variety: It depends on the winemaker

How exactly Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris differ can hardly be summarized in general terms. Although a certain tendency is recognizable, it is ultimately up to the winemaker to work out the respective grape variety individually.

Winemakers also like to use barriques and wooden barrels for Pinot Gris, as this variety is also popular with smoky nuances and notes of dried fruit. Pinot Blanc, on the other hand, is valued by many winemakers as the starting point for fruity sparkling wine-growers’ sparkling wines, although one or the other Pinot Blanc from barriques is also available on the market.