If you’re looking for a crisp, white wine, these two varietals may be at the top of your list. But how do you choose? Let’s take a look at some of the main differences between Sauvignon Blanc vs Pinot Grigio.
Both Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are fruity, crisp, and dry white wines that pair well with a variety of foods. But each has distinct characteristics that have made them some of the most sought-after among wine enthusiasts.
In this guide, we’ll review the wines’ flavor profiles, aromas, average prices, and more to help you choose your next bottle with confidence.
- The origin of Pinot Grigio
- The origin of Sauvignon Blanc
- Flavor characteristics and aroma
- Acidity in Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc
- Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc: Body
- Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc: Color
- Food pairings
- Price of Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc
- Sauvignon Blanc vs Pinot Grigio summary
- More wine tasting guides
The origin of Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio — or Pinot Gris as it’s called in France and other wine producing regions — is a mutation of the same grape used to make red Pinot Noir wine.
It has its roots in the Burgundy area of France and dates back roughly two thousand years.
In the 14th century, the Pinot Grigio grape spread from Burgundy and became widely planted in neighboring Switzerland and Italy.
Most Italian Pinot Grigio grapes are now grown in northern Italy, in areas including Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, which borders Slovenia.
Even though Pinot Grigio is a white wine, the grapes used to produce it are actually grayish-pink in color. “Grigio” is the Italian word for gray.
Other growing regions for Pinot Grigio (and Pinot Gris grapes) include France, the United States, Germany, Australia, and parts of South America.
The origin of Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc grapes are believed to date back as much as 500 years ago, originating in central France’s Loire Valley. It began to gain popularity in both the Loire Valley and in the Bordeaux region of France during the 18th century.
Like Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc also has a connection to red wine. It was crossed with the red Cabernet Franc grape to create Cabernet Sauvignon, which is now the most widely planted wine grape in the world.
Sauvignon Blanc now ranks 8th worldwide, behind only the Chardonnay grape as the most popular white grape variety planted.
It grows best in regions with mild temperatures. Along with France, other major growing regions include the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.
Flavor characteristics and aroma
Flavor profile is a key difference between Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. And their respective growing regions play a large part.
Notes of citrus and other fruity flavors are some of the hallmarks of Pinot Grigio wine. Lemon, lime, and orange are common flavor characteristics in this Italian wine, as are honey, green apple, pear, and apricot.
You’ll have hints of these in the nose as well, combined with floral notes of minerality.
Dryer Pinot Grigios are often grown in Italy, as well as in North America and parts of the southern hemisphere, where they’re called Pinot Gris. These varieties often mature in stainless steel tanks, which result in a clean, crisp wine.
Sweeter versions are mainly produced in the Alsace region of France. These Pinot Gris wines exhibit flavors of honeycomb and sweet apples along with lemon. They’re often aged in oak barrels and can evoke spicier notes including cinnamon and ginger.
Sauvignon Blancs are also fruit-forward wines. Common flavors can range from green apple and white peach to passion fruit, papaya, and other tropical fruits, depending on the growing region.
For example, ones produced in France exhibit more citrus, peach, and grassy flavor characteristics than those made in New Zealand, which have more pronounced tropical flavors.
On the nose, you’ll commonly detect notes of passion fruit, mango, nectarine, and fresh cut grass, as well as minerals like chalk or wet concrete.
Sauvignon Blanc is usually aged in stainless steel.
Acidity in Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc
Both Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc often have high acidity, due mainly to the cooler regions in which the grapes are grown. Lower temperatures delay ripening and keep natural sugar levels in the grapes low.
Wines high in acidity tend to be bright and zesty, especially whites. They coat the sides of your tongue and awaken the mouth when you drink them. And you’ll often detect some zingy tartness.
Most Pinot Grigio is grown in Italy’s cooler climates in the far north of the country. This produces a type of white wine with moderate to high acidity which is dry and crisp.
Pinot Gris grown in warmer climates in the United States and some areas of Oceania have more moderate acidity levels, though they still produce a dry wine.
Much of the Pinot Gris produced in France are made intentionally sweet by allowing them to dry on the vine or to be affected by botrytis, also called noble rot. These wines tend to have medium to high acidity levels.
Most Sauvignon Blancs also fall into the medium to high acid range. Those produced in France’s cooler climates exhibit high acidity levels and a sharp crispness.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are grown mainly in the Marlborough area on the South Island, which is also cooler in climate. This also contributes to the pronounced acidity in these wines.
While those produced in the United States, particularly areas with hot summers like California and Oregon, have more moderate acid levels.
Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc: Body
Very slight tannins and somewhat low alcohol levels in Pinot Grigio often result in wines that are light-bodied, refreshing, and easy to drink. The alcohol range for these wines usually falls somewhere between 12.5% to 13.5% ABV.
Since Pinot Gris from Alsace can be significantly sweeter and have a bit more alcohol content, so they can feel heavier.
Most Sauvignon Blancs range from very light to medium light in body. This holds true for almost all growing regions worldwide. The few exceptions include warmer regions like California and Spain, which produce a slightly fuller-bodied style of wine.
Sauvignon Blanc wines tend to have an alcohol level in the 12.5% to 14% range.
Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc: Color
Both Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are on the lighter side of the white wine color scale. They’re often pale yellow to light gold or straw in color.
In some cases, you may detect slight hues of green in Sauvignon Blanc, resembling some of its green apple and grassy flavors and aromas.
In contrast, many heavier white wines like Chardonnay can often be much darker in color, resulting in deep, rich yellows and golds.
Lighter foods like seafood dishes pair especially well with Pinot Grigio. These include whitefish like halibut and flounder, as well as shellfish such as shrimp, crab, and mussels.
White meat such as chicken and pork, as well as brighter cheeses, also go well with Pinot Grigio. In addition, spring vegetables like peas or even a vegetable risotto could be an ideal pairing.
The light body of this white wine pairs well with white meats, whitefish, and shellfish. Chicken, halibut, sole, shrimp, and scallops are all great food options.
Green vegetable dishes like lemon asparagus and a green bean salad also pair well with Sauvignon Blanc, as do bright fruit dishes like a pineapple mango salsa.
If you’re looking to pair it with cheese, opt for softer varieties like brie or feta.
Price of Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc
If you’ve read enough and you’re ready to start trying some Pinot Grigio, you’ll find that most are fairly affordable. You can pick up a good bottle for around $10-$15. Even higher quality ones can fall in the $25 range.
Prices for Sauvignon Blanc fall in a similar range. Many can be found around the $15 mark and are suitable to be consumed right away. Some higher-end bottles can fetch upwards of $30 to $50, and more for very high quality selections.
Sauvignon Blanc vs Pinot Grigio summary
- Primary growing regions: France, United States, New Zealand, Australia
- Worldwide growing acres: 299,000
- Body: Light to medium-light
- Color: Pale yellow/green to light gold
- Acidity: Generally high
- Flavor notes: Green apple, passion fruit, papaya, citrus, peach
- Cost: $15+ for ready-to-drink Pinot Noir; $30 and up for higher quality
Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris
- Primary growing regions: Italy, France, United States, Germany
- Worldwide growing acres: 148,000
- Body: Light to medium
- Color: Pale yellow to light gold
- Acidity: Medium to high
- Flavor notes: Lime, lemon, green apple, pear, honey, apricot
- Cost: $10-$15 for ready-to-drink Pinot Grigio; $25 and up for higher quality
If you enjoy a dry, crisp white wine, chances are you’ll like either a Sauv Blanc or a Pinot Grigio. Their refreshing, easy drinkability makes them perfect for a warm summer day or for a relaxed barbecue with friends. It’s no wonder they’re among the most popular white wines among amateur wine lovers and connoisseurs alike.
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