Riesling vs Pinot Grigio

Published January 9th, 2023

Both of European origin, but now grown almost everywhere in the world, Riesling and Pinot Grigio are two white berried vines that produce wines (mostly vinified alone) of medium body and great versatility in pairing with food.

Riesling vs Pinot Grigio.

These grape varieties can produce dry and sweet wines, but their similarities don't end there. These are fresh and light wines, with a citrus character and medium-light body (depending on the terroir and the style chosen by the winemaker), which go very well with fish and white meats, but can also create very interesting combinations with Asian cuisines.

Both are among the 4 noble grape varieties of Alsace (together with Gewurztraminer and Moscato) and can therefore be used for the production of Grands Crus, Vendanges Tardives (VT), and Sélections de Grains Nobles (SGN) wines.

In our article, we will study their main characteristics and analyze the comparison Riesling vs Pinot Grigio.

Riesling vs Pinot Grigio

Riesling and Pinot Grigio wines have a lot in common but, to be able to choose between the two wines with knowledge, it is necessary to understand their characteristics. Let's see together similarities and differences.


Riesling and Pinot Grigio are both white wines produced in a wide variety of styles. These varieties are widespread throughout the world and are considered noble grapes in Alsace, where they produce wines of the highest quality.

Both Riesling and Pinot Grigio are usually vinified in purity, in cement or steel vats. They are not aged in wood to preserve the freshest characteristics.

These are white wines with a fruity and citrusy aromatic profile, good acidity, and a light to medium body that pair deliciously with seafood, fish, and white meats. Their semi-dry versions are excellent in pairing with spicy Asian cuisine.


Despite both grapes making white wines, Pinot Grigio is not a white variety but has a coppery skin.

Riesling tends to have a slightly lower alcohol content than Pinot Grigio, and greater complexity both from an aromatic and a structural point of view. Pinot Grigio, on the other hand, has a less pronounced acidity than Riesling but tends to be a bit more full-bodied.

Although the best examples of Pinot Grigio have good aging potential, in general Riesling produces longer-lasting wines.

As a general rule, Pinot Grigio tends to be less expensive than Riesling.

Pinot Grigio is also suitable for the production of orange wines, Riesling is one of the most used grapes for the production of exceptional frozen wines.

Comparison chart between Riesling and Pinot Grigio

Riesling Pinot Grigio
Tasting notes Savory character. Citrus, stone and graphite flavors and even hydrocarbons with age. Remarkable acidity. Rich and pungent, with good structure and fruity and floral aromas.
Sweetness Dry to sweet Dry to sweet
Body Light to medium Light to medium
Acidity Extremely high Medium
Alcohol Low to medium Medium
Age worthiness 5 to 25 years 2 to 15 years
Cost 10$ to 200$ 8$ to 100$
Food pairing shellfish, seafood, oysters, sushi, pork hearty fish dishes, white meats and salami, Carbonara pasta, Pad Thai.
Serving temperature 8-12°C/ 46-54° F 8-12°C/ 46-54° F

Taste and flavor


Riesling is characterized by intense aromas of citrus fruits such as lemon and lime, green apple, hawthorn, wisteria, and chamomile, with a tendency to mineral notes of hydrocarbons with different intensities based on the territory of origin.

The long refinements give this product aromas of butter, honey, wax, and dried fruit as well as a fabulous evolution of the hydrocarbon notes. Botrytis enriches these wines with spicy notes such as saffron and cinnamon.

But the most relevant characteristic of Riesling is its vibrant acidity which balances residual sugars in sweet wines and makes the wine very long-lived.

Pinot Grigio

The character of Pinot Grigio strongly depends on the place and style in which it is produced. In particular, two styles of Pinot Grigio are distinguished. The Italian Pinot Grigio style is a fresh and light wine, while the French style corresponds to more full-bodied and complex wines.

But in general, its aromatic, ethereal, and delicate scent refers to the characteristics of the lands of origin and perfectly reflects the soft and velvety taste with notes of flowers and fruit and a pleasant balsamic aftertaste.

Origin and history


Riesling's elective homeland is Germany where the vine originates. The areas of main interest all wind along the course of the Rhine or the Moselle river.

Moselle river

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio is a noble vine that was born centuries ago in the French region of Burgundy from a rib of Pinot Noir. It is a gray-blue grape variety generated by a natural mutation.

Where are they produced and in which styles?


Riesling is considered one of the finest white grape varieties in the world. Its elective homeland is Germany, where it is still today the most widespread grape variety, especially in the Moselle, Palatinate, and Rheingau.

In Alsace, where it produces more full-bodied, fruity, and alcoholic wines, the most important area is that of the Upper Rhine with vineyards facing east.

In recent times, Riesling is also gaining ground in Australia and New Zealand. In New Zealand, late-harvest wines are made with grapes affected by Botrytis Cinerea. In Australia, it is preferred to vinify it dry with the potential for aging in the bottle. In Canada, it is used to make Icewine.

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio was born in the French region of Burgundy, but its production has however gradually spread internationally, so much so that it is also cultivated in the New World (in Australia, New Zealand, and the USA).

Today Italy holds the record for the largest number of hectares planted with this variety, which has found an ideal habitat in Friuli Venezia Giulia, where it represents 25% of regional production, in Alto Adige, Lombardy, and Veneto. Italian Pinot Grigio is generally a delicate white wine with citrus and fresh fruit aromas and lively acidity.

This grape is also widely grown in the Alsace wine region of France where it is called Pinot Gris (French translation of Pinot Grigio), and where it produces richer and more complex wines in dry, semi-dry, and sweet styles.

Sweetness/dryness comparison

When considering Pinot Grigio vs Riesling, it is essential to compare the degree of sweetness of these wines.

In reality, both wines can be produced in various styles with a variable residual sugar.

Pinot Grigio has a sweeter tendency in Alsace, while it is essentially a dry wine in the rest of the world. Riesling, on the other hand, truly reaches all the most disparate degrees of sweetness, from Canadian and German icewines to those attacked by noble rot from New Zealand, up to the various semi-dry, sweet and dry wines from Germany.

Alcohol content comparison

The alcohol content of Riesling and Pinot Grigio is very similar. Both of these wines have a medium to low alcohol content, with Riesling tending to be less alcoholic, even if this trend is slightly changing also as a function of the global rise in temperatures.

Food pairing

Whether you drink Riesling or Pinot Grigio, the great versatility of these wines makes them ideal in combination with a wide variety of foods.


There are countless food pairings in which Riesling is considered the perfect wine.

The fresh versions are excellent aperitifs, and pair well with fish, especially mollusks, shellfish, and crustaceans as their mineral notes blend perfectly with the iodized flavor of fish. Riesling is also one of the most requested wines in Japan because it goes very well with sushi.

For Alsatian wines, the classic pairings are with the local recipes choucroute, matelote, and palette de porc fumée.

However, Riesling wines also work deliciously with poultry, white meats in general, and goat cheeses.

Sweet wines and late harvests go well with sweets and desserts such as citrus ftarts and lemon cake.

Pinot Grigio

Depending on the winemaking style, Pinot Grigio offers a wide range of pairing possibilities. It pairs well with appetizers, fish dishes, and white meats.

Alsatian wines characterized by a more important residual sugar and a more intense aromatic character go very well with Asian cuisine that is not too spicy and with blue cheeses such as Gorgonzola.

The more complex and full-bodied versions vinified with skin maceration (Orange Wines) are suitable for accompanying risottos or white meat dishes in complex and spicy recipes.

Wines to try under $50

There are several excellent Riesling Pinot Grigio wines on the market for all budgets. Here is our selection of wines not to be missed, to discover the essential characteristics and taste the best these wines have to offer.

Eroica Riesling, USA.


  • Loewen Longuicher Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett, Germany

  • Grosset Alea Riesling, Australia

  • Kuentz-Bas Riesling Grand Cru Geisberg, France

  • Eroica Riesling, USA

Etude Pinot Gris, USA.

Pinot Grigio

  • Jermann Pinot Grigio, Italy

  • Domaine Weinbach Clos des Capucins Pinot Gris, France

  • Cave de Ribeauville Pinot Gris Gloeckelberg Grand Cru, France

  • Etude Pinot Gris, USA