Riesling vs Pinot Grigio: What Are The Important Differences To Know?

Riesling vs Pinot Grigio
This is our comparison of Riesling vs Pinot Grigio wine. Do you know what are the 8 important differences?

This is our comparison of Riesling vs Pinot Grigio wine. We’ve extensively researched these two popular wines to help you pick the best for you.

Riesling is a well known high quality white wine produced worldwide in a variety of styles and at all level of sweetness, which can age for decades.
 
It’s known for its high acidity and intense fruity and floral aromas which depends on the level of ripeness in the grapes.
 
Pinot Grigio, in its dry version, is light, refreshing, and crisp. Lemon and apples are typical aromas.
 
Its French version, Pinot Gris, has more complexity, a different structure, and pairs well with bolder flavors dishes.
 
Find below our wine guide on the most important differences between these two great wines.
 
Our recommendation for Best Value Riesling is Nik Weis Selection Urban Riesling and for Best Overall is Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese.
 
Our recommendation for Best Value Pinot Grigio is Italo Cescon Pinot Grigio and for Best Overall is Vie di Romans – Dessimis Pinot Grigio 2019.
 
Let’s begin with the review!

Wine Selection Overview

Find below our Riesling vs Pinot Grigio wine selection for you where you’ll find our recommendation for you.

Riesling Selection

Hans Baer Riesling Trocken 2020
4.1/5

If you are after a great dry, light and refreshing German Riesling for a very good price, you’ve just found it!

It’s pretty popular amongst the Vivino’s community too, and for a very good reason!

Nik Weis Selection Urban Riesling
4.1/5
This Riesling is an authentic dry Mosel wine that reflects the classy nature of the grape variety as well as the character of the Moselle.
 
It offers a great value for money, as similar wines usually costs 3 times as much. If I’d were you I’ll be quick here!
Dr. L Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese
4/5

Spätlese Riesling or late harvest, comes with more concentrated and riper lemon, lime and peach flavors than Kabinett. 

This one has a lively minerality, along with a delicate and crisp acidity that perfectly balances the bright white peach and lemon fruit.

.

Pinot Grigio Selection

Cielo e Terra
Pinot Grigio
3.7/5

It has straw yellow with green reflections.

It has bread crust and green apple. It has fresh and drinkable, perfect on a hot day.

You’ll find it for less than $10. That’s a pretty good value for money if you ask me!

Italo Cescon
Pinot Grigio
4.1/5

This wine has a straw yellow color, intense, with slight notes of nutmeg, peach leaf broken citrus. Dry and cool.

Net ripe and fruity scents, all the orange zest, full flavor fills the long mouth.

Ah, it cost less than $20… I’ll be quick if I were you.

Vie di Romans - Dessimis Pinot Grigio 2019
4.4/5

This is not the usual Pinot Grigio and it will blow you away. 

“Delightful Pinot Grigio, easily the best I’ve had to date” says Chiara & Philippe from the Vivino community.

Copper-colored from the natural grape skin tint. The bouquet is full of sweet pastry aromas, scents of Williams pear skin, and notes of yellow fruit.

Expect a medium-body wine with complex oak, pear, peach, and honey notes. 

Comparison

Let’s now take a closer look at the difference between Riesling vs Pinot Grigio so that you’ll have enough details to make an informed decision.

Riesling vs Pinot Grigio: Where are they produced?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Riesling vs Pinot Grigio from regions and wine styles points of view.

Riesling is a cold-hardy white grape that gives it’s best in cool and moderate climates. Generally speaking we can say that:
 
In cool climates, like Germany for example, the typical traits are high level of acidity, sometimes balanced by residual sugar and apple and pear notes.
 
In warmer climates, like Alsace, citrus and peach notes are more common.
 
There are at least 6 different Riesling styles, of which the primary 2 are German and French Riesling.
 
  • The two primary features of a German Riesling is that it’s almost always produced in purity, i.e. no blending, and it’s rarely aged in oak.

    German Riesling is also produced at level of sweetness.

  • French Riesling, or better Alsace AOC, has a higher alcohol content, usually 12%, than the German style and it’s dry.

    It is more rounded thanks to its ageing in steel tank or oak barrel.

Find out more about the other Riesling styles here.

Cool climates help Pinot Grigio grow at its best and mature relatively early causing high sugar levels. 

Depending on the vinification style, this can lead to either a wine high in alcohol if fermented to dryness, or a sweeter wine.

Minerally and Dry Pinot Grigio is primarily from the northern part of Italy and precisely Lombardia, Trentino Alto Adige, and Veneto.

Fruity and Dry Prinot Grigio is primarily from Italy (north-east Italy, Toscana, Abruzzo, and Sicilia, USA (California, Oregon, and Washington), and New Zealand.

Fruity and Sweet Pinot Gris is primarily from Alsace in France. 

Read this article do find more about Pinot Grigio.

Riesling vs Pinot Grigio: Which grapes are used to produce them?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Riesling vs Pinot Grigio from a grape point of view.

Riesling is made with Riesling grapes.

Pinot Grigio is made with Pinot Grigio grapes.

Both are white-wine grape varieties of the species Vitis vinifera.

Riesling vs Pinot Grigio: What's their alcohol content?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Riesling vs Pinot Grigio from an alcohol content point of view.

Alcohol content or more precisely Alcohol By Volume, i.e. ABV, measures the alcoholic strength of a drink.

There is a direct relationship between the sugar left in the wine after the alcoholic fermentation has taken place, i.e. Residual Sugar or RS, and ABV.

During the alcoholic fermentation, the yeast transforms the sugar in the grape juice into alcohol.

Grapes with high residual sugar will therefore produce dry wine with a high ABV.

Depending on the different styles, Riesling’s ABV is usually between 9% to 12%, whereas Pinot Grigio’s ABV ranges between 10% to 14%.

Riesling vs Pinot Grigio: What's their taste profile?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Riesling vs Pinot Grigio from a taste profile point of view.

Riesling is produced in a variety of styles and at all level of sweetness. Find out more here.

Expect high acidity, light to full body, dry to sweet and an ABV that ranges between 10%-12%.

Typical notes for just-ripe grapes are green and citrus fruit, i.e. apple, pear, lemon and lime.

For ripe grapes you should expect stone and tropical fruit, i.e. peach, apricot, mango and pineapple.

If you happen to perceive gasoline as well, don’t worry as it’s actually pretty normal for aged and high quality Riesling.

Pinot Grigio (minerally and fruity style) it’s known for its dryness, high acidity, light-body, lemon, and apple notes. 

Pinot Gris (Alsace) on the other hand has more body, lower acidity, more complexity, and is sweeter.

Here is a brief overview of Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris typical flavors:

  • Pinot Grigio Minerally and Dry: apple, lemon zest, mineral.
  • Pinot Grigio Fruity and Dry: apple, lemon, white peach, pear, creamy.
  • Pinot Gris Fruity and Sweet: sweet lemon candy, honey, ginger, spice, ripe pear.

Riesling vs Pinot Grigio: Are they sweet or dry?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Riesling vs Pinot Grigio in terms of sweetness level or residual sugar.

The sweetness level of a wine is expressed in grams of sugar per liter, aka g/L, or as a percentage.

10 g/L equals 1% which, if you are interested, represents 6 calories per 5 oz serving. 

You will usually find Riesling produced at all level of sweetness from dry to sweet.

On the other side you can find Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris in various sweetness levels, that goes from dry to sweet.

  • A dry wine contains less than 15 g/L.
  • An off dry wine contains between 15-30 g/L.
  • A sweet wine contains between 50-100 g/L.

Learn more about wine sweetness level here.

Riesling vs Pinot Grigio: Which are the recommended food pairings?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Riesling vs Pinot Grigio from a food pairings point of view.

Riesling is a versatile wine and it’s high acidity makes is good match with salty food, such as French fries, salty olives, salami.
 
If you prefer the sweet Riesling, you’ll find that it’ll match very well with spicy food, such as Chinese, Thai and Tex-Mex cuisine as well as roasted pork, duck and gooes.
 
Veggie wise onion, carrot, eggplant are very good much as are white fish, shrimp and crab.
 
Cheese wise go for semi hard cheese, like Parmigiano, Pecorino, or creamy cheese like Camembert and Brie.

Pinot Grigio
and Pinot Gris pairings depend on the style.
 
Pinot Grigio goes well with salad and salty foods like french fries and salty olives. 
Chicken, shellfish, and grilled fish are common pairings.
 
Cheese wise go with soft (Philadelphia) and creamy (Brie) cheese for the minerally version. Semi-soft (Fontina) and firm (Beaufort) for the fruity version.
 
Pinot Gris pairs well with stronger flavors like foie gras, cream sources, grilled vegetables, reach veal, pork, and meaty fish.
 
Cheese wise go for blue mold and hard cheese like Gorgonzola and Pecorino.

Riesling vs Pinot Grigio: How should you serve and store them?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Riesling vs Pinot Grigio in terms of serving and storing the wine.

Riesling doesn’t need to be decanted. Serve it at 43 – 46 °F (6 – 8 °C) in a Viognier glass for non dessert wine or a Fortified glass for dessert wine. 

The recommended storage period is up to 10+ years.

Pinot Grigio shouldn’t be decanted. The service temperature and the storing period depend on the style.

For Minerally and Fruity Pinot Grigio serve at  45 – 50 °F (7 – 10 °C) in a Pinot Grigio or Viognier glass.[1]

The recommended storing period is 2-3 years for normal bottles.

For Pinot Gris off-dry serve at 45 – 50 °F (7 – 10 °C) in a Pinot Grigio or Viognier glass. For Pinot Gris, sweet serve at 43 – 56 °F (6 – 8 °C) in a Fortified glass. 

Riesling vs Pinot Grigio: How much do they cost?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Riesling vs Pinot Grigio from a price comparison point of view.

Let’s start by saying that both wines are affordable.

For Riesling you’ll find good entry level bottle between $10-$20. 

Great bottles will generally be around $30-$50 and outstanding bottles and usually ice wine, spätlese and auslese can go up to $100.

For those of you who are after the luxury segment be prepared to spend several $100s.

Pinot Grigio is an affordable wine. The price generally ranges from $10 – $30. Where $10 is usually the IGT Italian style and $30 the Alsatian style.

Our Verdict

If you have been through the guide, by now you are a Riesling vs Pinot Grigio expert!

Both Riesling and Pinot Grigio are great wines and by now you should have a good idea of what to expect from them.   

Our recommendation is therefore based on what you’d fancy the most at a particular given moment or event. 

Are you after the freshness and variety of sweetness that Riesling can offer?

Our recommendation for Best Value Riesling is Nik Weis Selection Urban Riesling and for Best Overall is Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2019.

You cannot resist the crispiness and lightness of a Pinot Grigio, can you?

Our recommendation for Best Value Pinot Grigio is Italo Cescon Pinot Grigio.

If you are after something special, our recommendation for Best Overall bottle is Vie di Romans – Dessimis Pinot Grigio 2019.

As always make sure to serve them at the right temperature to enjoy them at their best.

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