Written by
Alan Boatright

Chardonnay VS Pinot Grigio

If you somewhat appreciate wine, you have likely heard of the two varieties, Chardonnay VS Pinot Grigio. After all, they are probably two of the most sought-after wines on the market.

You may also know that both fall in the category of white wines and are refreshing to the palette.

However, what may surprise you is that those are pretty much the only factors that are similar between the two.

Yes, Pinot Grigio is the perfect accompaniment for a warm summer’s day; Chardonnay, on the other hand, is a tad complex.

Swirl and sip on the two, and you will soon realize the distinction between crisp Pinot Grigio and creamy Chardonnay.

Read on to know the differences between the two, as it will help you make the ideal pairing choices.

The Main Differences

Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio are both leading white wines, but that is pretty much all that is similar between them. Here are the primary areas where the two differ from one another:

Grape Color

Among the many differences between them, one that is hardest to miss is the difference in the grape skin color. Chardonnay comes from a green-skinned grape, while the Pinot Grigio grape has a grayish-blue hue. The latter can also have brownish-pink, black, or pale white grapes.

Chardonnay VS Pinot Grigio: Aussie Wine Regions

Chardonnay wine can originate from both hot and cool-climate regions. The wine from the hot areas comes from the Riverland region. On the other hand, the ones from the cool-climate locales are crafted in Southern Highlands, Victoria & Tasmania.

Chardonnay wines of the Burgundian varieties originate in the Adelaide Hills and Yarra Valley regions.

The production of Pinot Grigio, however, takes place in several regions around Australia. These include the Adelaide Hills, Orange, Mornington Peninsula, New South Wales, Yarra Valley, and Tasmania.

Characteristics

From a Chardonnay wine, you can expect a full-bodied flavor that is bold yet dry. You will also find a hint of several fruits in it, including apple, starfruit, pineapple, and melon.

Chardonnay VS Pinot Grigio
Courtesy of Wine Folly

Chardonnay wines tend to be aged in oak, so they may also have an essence of butter, cream, or vanilla. However, if you opt for an unoaked Chardonnay, these buttery ad creamy tones will be absent.

Pinot Grigio wines are quite zesty, which is no surprise considering citrus is the main ingredient in this wine. For this reason, they often give off an aroma that is fruity and tangy as well.

Usually, the palette of this delectable wine includes apple and pear flavors.

An Overview of Chardonnay

The wine derives its name from the Chardonnay village sequestered in the Mâconnais region of Burgundy. The popular belief is that this village is this wine’s birthplace and holds the oldest Chardonnay vineyards.

Chardonnay can thrive in various climates and soils, making them a popular growing choice around the world. They were carried into the New World with America’s discovery, and since then, they’ve been grown everywhere.

Australia, South America, and Southeast Asia, in particular, are known for their wine cultivation.

Another popular belief is that Chardonnay is an accidental product of crossing Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc grapes. The latter of the supposed parents is virtually impossible to find in France now.

The grape itself is green in color with a neutral flavor. So winemakers typically use oak, terroir, and technique to enhance the natural palette.

The flavor of Chardonnay wine is deeply influenced by where the grapes are grown. Warmer regions like Napa Valley or Australia will produce wines with a tropical fruit essence like pineapple, mango, or papaya. Along with that, they will have a mild acidity.

On the other hand, wines from cooler areas like Willamette Valley will taste like apple, pear, peach, and citrus. Besides, they have a more noticeable acidity.

If you find your Chardonnay has buttery or oak tones, that has more to do with the winemaker than the grape.

Production Of Chardonnay Wine

The Burgundy region of France is by far the largest producer of Chardonnay grapes. Yet, for some odd reason, it is better known for its Pinot Noir grape cultivation. The ratio between the cultivation is around 60% to a mere 30%.

Chardonnay VS Pinot Grigio

The US (California in particular), comes in at a close second in the production of Chardonnay wine. The country is known to have approximately 41,000 ha in Chardonnay grape cultivation.

The top production areas in the state of California are Napa Valley and Sonoma country. However, cultivation also takes place in Oregon, Washington, and New York.

Other countries deeply involved in Chardonnay cultivation are Australia, Italy, Chile, South Africa, Spain, Argentina, Moldova, and New Zealand.

Serving Chardonnay Wine

Aging has no particular effect on Chardonnay and is entirely unnecessary with this wine. That said, you may store it for as long as ten years, provided it is in a temperature-controlled environment.

The recommended temperature for storage is near 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you are planning to partake in this delicious wine, pay attention to its body. An oaked, full-bodied Chardonnay will be most enjoyable chilled at around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, if your Chardonnay has a less oaky pallet, serve it chilled at nearly 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Food Pairings for Chardonnay

Chardonnay wines work delightfully with a plethora of dishes. Here are some of your options:

  • Serve the wine with mild, buttery, or creamy dishes.
  • It goes incredibly well with meaty fish like halibut and cod and shellfish like shrimp, crab, or scallops.
  • Oaked Chardonnay complements foods with grilled, smoked, and toasted flavors remarkably well. Think toasted nuts or pastry crust.
  • You will thoroughly enjoy a pairing of subtly flavored, lightly seasoned poultry and pork dishes.
  • Unoaked Chardonnay is the perfect accompaniment to dishes with a silky texture like risottos, creamy soups, and white sauce pasta.

Wines Similar to Chardonnay

If you enjoy a glass of Chardonnay, here are some more options from the white wine category to try:

  • Viognier
  • Savatiano
  • Roussanne
  • Trebbiano Toscano

An Overview of Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio is one of the best wines you can find in the market while looking for Italian wine styles. Even in America, it holds the second position among the most famous wines in the world.

overview of Pinot Grigio

Originally, the Pinot Grigio grapes come from Burgundy. They are quite like the Pinot Noir grapes but have a greyish-blue color. Although these grapes also have brownish-pink or even black and white colors.  

In France, people call Pinot Grigio grapes Pinot Gris. While Gris means grey in the French language, Grigio is the Italian word for grey. Germans call it Grauburgunder that translates to the grey grape from Burgundy. 

Other than Burgundy, the Pinot Grigio grapes are grown in various places such as Australia, Slovenia, and California. Even though the grape is the same, the wine style might be different in these locations. 

In the 1300s, The Pinot Grigio grapes came to Switzerland from Burgundy. It was an Emperor’s favorite wine but was not that famous among other people.

The Pinot Gris became a hit when it came to northern Italy, and people in Fruili, Lombardy, Alto Adige, and Veneto regions started growing it.  

It became even more popular when the plantation for Pinot Gris grapevine started in Eyrie Yards, Oregon, USA, in 1966. 

Where do Pinot Grigio Grapes Grow? 

The Pinot Grigio grape plantation covers more than 70,000 acres of land around the world. Out of this 70,000, Italy has 25,000 acres of land at which it grows the Pinot Grigio Grapes. The United States holds second place with 16,000 acres of land.  

The Pinot Gris grapes are cultivated in around 12,500 acres in Germany, while Australia has 7,000 acres mainly for these plants. New Zealand, Hungary, Romania, and Austria comprise the remaining land. 

The Production of Pinot Grigio Wine  

For producing Pinot Grigio wines, the producer must extract juice from the Pinot Gris grapes and remove their skin layer. Due to the thin skin, the wine has a light color with a hint of pink.

Pinot Grigio wine production

The Pinot Gris grapes are among the first varieties of grapes harvested every year. Since these grapes mature quickly, their harvesting process might even start in August.

Even with this early process, it scores the right quantity of acidy and comes in various fruity flavors. 

The “Alcohol by Volume” or ABV in Pinot Grigio wine can be anywhere between 11.5 and 13.5. You can store this wine at your home for 3 to 5 years from the date of production. 

The Pinot Grigio wine usually takes six months to produce. You can expect it to be ready in late winter or early spring. Chardonnay, on the other hand, takes even more time to be bottled. But it also has a shelf life of at least ten years.

Flavors of Pinot Grigio Wine

Pinot Grigio comes in three different flavors that may vary in different locations, depending on where the grapes came from.

taste of Pinot Grigio

Following are the flavors of Pinot Grigio Wine that you can find in various countries:  

Mineral and Dry

The Mineral and Dry flavor of Pinot Gris is most popular in the northern region of Italy, Hungary, and Austria.

With their powerful force on agriculture, the mountains help these grapes maintain the right acidity level. Due to this, you get a white wine that goes well with French fries or mussels. 

The wine drinkers love this flavor of Pinot Grigio wines due to its saline quality, low fruit flavors, and simplicity. 

Regions having a cool climate are more likely to produce these wines in different styles. Here are the locations where you can find this flavor of Pinot Grigio:

  • Austria
  • Veneto and Lombardy, Italy
  • Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
  • Rheinhessen, Pfalz, and Rheingau in Germany
  • Hungary
  • Romania
  • Slovenia 
  • Okanagan, Canada

Produced in stainless steel tanks, there is no malolactic fermentation or oak aging in these wines. You can get the mineral and dry flavor with an alcohol level that ranges from 10 to 12 percent ABV.  

Fruity and Dry

You can find the fruity and dry flavored Pinot Gris in warmer regions such as Abruzzo, Australia, Chile, California, Sicily, and Tuscany. It is a fruit-driven style wine made with a rich, complex flavor. 

You can smell the lemon, white peach, and yellow apple flavors in this wine. The fruity smell indicates that the wine comes from a sun-friendly climate.

Unlike the mineral and dry flavor, this wine style has malolactic fermentation. Due to this process, this type of wine has less acidity but a smooth mouthfeel. 

Usually, the manufacturer uses stainless steel tanks or neutral barrels to produce this flavor of Pinot Gris wines. 

Here are the countries that produce this fruit-flavored wine: 

  • Australia
  • Argentina
  • Chile
  • California 
  • Fruili-Venezia Guilia, Abruzzo, Sicily, and Tuscany in Italy
  • New Zealand
  • Washington
  • Oregon

A unique, notable feature of this style is that it is grown on lees. Sometimes, the wine may have an additional creaminess due to the partial malolactic fermentation.  

Fruity and Sweet

The fruity and sweet is a sweet Pinot Grigio wine style manufactured mainly in Alsace, France.

The winemakers in Alsace try to recreate the sweet white wine called Tokaji drunk by the kings in Transylvania and the Ottoman Empire (now known as Hungary).  

The fruity and sweet Pinot Gris comes in multiple flavors, including honey-crisp apples, honeycomb, and lemon candy. The winemakers use advanced winemaking methods to improve the mouthfeel texture.

They use the late-harvested Pinot Gris grapes that maximize the flavors in the wine.  

Serving Pinot Grigio 

Pinot Grigio is a sweet white wine that goes well with heavy cream-based dishes and light spicy dishes. Like every other wine, Pinot Grigio also has an ideal serving temperature.

When served chilled, the flavors in this wine enhance and will produce a better taste. 

The ideal serving temperature for Pinot Grigio wines is 48 degrees Fahrenheit. Serving this drink too warm or cold will deteriorate the flavors and ruin its taste. 

You can place the wine bottle in your refrigerator for around 2 to 3 hours and take it out 10 minutes before you serve. If you want to serve it immediately, you can place it in a freezer for 20 minutes.

However, a rapid wine chiller will be more useful in this situation as it only takes less time to chill the wine bottle.

In case you want an accurate serving temperature for your Pinot Grigio wine, measure it with a wine temperature thermometer. 

Serving the Pinot Gris wine at 48 degrees will improve the floral, mineral, citrus, and fruity flavors of the wine.  

Food Pairings for Pinot Grigio Wine 

There are a lot of dishes you can serve with a glass of Pinot Grigio Wine. Here are some of the best foods you can pair with this wine: 

  • Antipasti – either seafood or vegetable-based ones such as marinated fish and seafood salad. 
  • Fried vegetables or fish like fritto misto.  
  • Pasta sauces 
  • Vegetable-based or seafood risottos like risotto primavera topped with vegetables such as asparagus and peas. 
  • Seafood salads, including crab salad, prawn salad, and shrimp salad. 
  • Sushi can also be a good pairing with this wine.

Wines Similar to Pinot Grigio

If you loved having Pinot Grigio, you should try the following similar wines: 

  • Albarino
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Friulano 
  • Grechetto
  • Muscadet
  • Unoaked Chardonnay
  • Pinot Blanc
  • White Pinot Noir

Similarities between Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay

The only similarity between Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio wines is that both look quite identical in wine glasses, but the taste is really different. Chardonnay has an aroma of fresh-cut grass, while Pinot Grigio is a lighter drink with a melon flavor.

Similarities Between Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio Wines

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Wine is Sweeter: Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay?

Chardonnay has a low acidity level because of which it tastes less sweet than the Pinot Grigio. The latter is sweeter due to the early maturation of grapes and high sugar levels.

However, some Pinot Gris wines less sweet due to the malolactic fermentation and high volume of alcohol. 

Which Wine is Drier: Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay?

Chardonnay is drier than any flavor of Pinot Grigio wine. However, the best way to decide which is drier is to pair them with the right dishes.

While Chardonnay goes with heavy meals, you can have a glass of Pinot Grigio with seafood or light dishes.

What Are the Basic Differences Between Pinot Grigio And Chardonnay?

Both Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are renowned brands of white wine in the world. But these wines come from different grapes and have different flavors, depending on the climate they grow in.

Pinot Grigio wine comes from greyish-blue-colored grapes, while Chardonnay comes for green-skinned ones. The former has a melon aroma, whereas the latter produces a fresh-cut grass aroma.

Both wines are white and look the same when poured in a glass. However, their taste is nowhere similar to each other as Pinot Gris is sweeter and Chardonnay is drier.

Chardonnays in America have a creamy and buttery flavor. Most manufacturers use oak barrels to produce the Chardonnay wine. Some even use French oak barrels that give the wine a cleaner and silkier taste.

You need to drink both the wines to tell the major differences between them. Otherwise, it is impossible to tell which white wine is Chardonnay and which one is Pinot Grigio. 

Which Wine Has Higher Alcohol Content: Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay?

You can find Pinot Grigio with an ABV of 10 to 12 percent, while Chardonnay wines have an ABV between 13.5 and 14.5 percent.

This indicates that Chardonnay has higher alcohol content than Pinot Grigio.

Which Wine is Better: Pinot Grigio?

It is not possible to tell which wine is better as it depends on your preferences. While Chardonnay is the most famous wine in the world, Pinot Grigio is not that far behind.

The former is a medium-bodied wine with a vanilla flavor, whereas the latter is a light-bodied, sweet drink with a crisp-citrus flavor. 
Pinot Grigio may also have a touch of honey that enhances the sweetness of the wine.

If you like drier wines, Chardonnay is probably the better option. However, if you want a sweet wine, you can pick up a bottle of Pinot Grigio. 

Is It Easy to Tell the Difference Between Pinot Grigio And Chardonnay Without Tasting Them?

No, you cannot tell the difference between Pinot Gris and Chardonnay without tasting them. They might look identical but have different tastes.

With Chardonnay, you will feel the fresh-cut grass taste, whereas Pinot Grigio will give you a melon flavored taste.

Best Chardonnay Wines

There are so many Chardonnay wines having different amounts of alcohol content available in the market at different prices. Here are some of the best ones that you can try: 

  • Carneros Hudson Vineyard - $48
  • Ramey Chardonnay Carneros Hyde Vineyard - $48
  • Kistler Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Camp Meeting Ridge - $45
  • Shibumi Knoll Chardonnay Russian River Valley Buena Tierra Vineyard - $45
  • Chardonnay Russian River Valley J. Rochioli Reserve - $40
  • Chardonnay Santa Ynez Valley Limited Selection - $25
  • Chardonnay Carneros - $15
  • Chardonnay Beringer Chardonnay Napa Valley Private Reserve - $20
  • Chardonnay Marlborough - $10

Best Pinot Grigio Wines 

Like Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio wines also come in different flavors and prices. Following are some of the best Pinot Grigio wines available in the market:

  • Pinot Gris Alsace Cuvée Ste.-Catherine - $48
  • Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Alsace Vieilles Vignes - $45
  • Pinot Gris Alsace Vendanges Tardives - $40
  • Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Alsace Calcaire - $40
  • Marc Tempé Pinot Gris Alsace Zellenberg - $38
  • Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris Alsace Vendange Tardive - $32
  • Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris Alsace Grand Cru Kessler - $30
  • Pinot Grigio Brda: $24    
  • Domaines Schlimberger Pinot Gris Alsace Les Princes Abbés -$20
  • Pinot Grigio Santa Barbara Country Alisos Vineyard - $18
  • Pinot Gris Yakima Valley -$10

Conclusion

It is not easy to select between Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay as both are great to pair with your food.

The above Chardonnay vs. Pinot Grigio guide will help you decide which one is better for you. You can also try both wines and know the difference between their taste.   

Read Next Article
No more content to load.

Related Posts

crossmenu