Sauvignon Blanc vs Pinot Grigio

Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are two very popular types of white wines. These two wines, however, have many noticeable differences.

In a nutshell, Sauvignon Blanc is known for its vibrant, herbaceous qualities, often revealing tantalizing notes of citrus and tropical fruits. Pinot Grigio, however, exudes a more delicate, refreshing profile, with subtle hints of stone fruit and a crisp minerality that make it an alluringly versatile choice for various occasions.

In this article we will be comparing their differences in terms of:

  • Acidity
  • Body
  • Color
  • Aroma
  • Taste
  • Alcohol by Volume (ABV%)
  • Food pairings
  • Caloric Content
  • Serving and Storage

So make sure to stay with us until the end to discover more about these popular white wines.


In the diverse and ever-evolving world of wine, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio have undoubtedly carved out their unique spaces, enchanting wine enthusiasts with their distinct characteristics and versatility.

Though they share a position among the most popular white wines, these two varietals offer a fascinating study in contrasts. The aim of this article is to delve into the subtleties of these beloved grape varieties, shedding light on their histories, winemaking processes, and what makes them truly stand out in a sea of options.

Sauvignon Blanc, with its green, herbaceous flavors, hails from the famed French regions of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. It has since traveled far and wide, gaining international recognition, especially in New Zealand, where its crisp and fruity expressions have captivated palates across the globe.

Pinot Grigio, on the other hand, boasts Italian roots that trace back to the Pinot family of grapes. Its refreshing, delicate profile offers delightful versatility, making it a favorite among casual drinkers and connoisseurs alike.

This comparative analysis seeks to provide an engaging and informative journey into the realms of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, fostering a deeper appreciation for the intricacies that define these cherished wines. So, pour yourself a glass, settle in, and join us as we unravel the captivating stories and flavors of these two remarkable varietals.

The main difference between these two wines are their aromas. Pinot Grigio has the ability to be made both in stainless steel tanks with no oak aging (Italian style) and to go through malolactic fermentation and be aged in oak barrels, that make it more aromatic (French Style).

If you’re looking to expand your palate and move forward from Chardonnay wines, these alternatives are the best ones to try. Let’s have a look at each of these popular white wines before we go forward with their comparison.

Sauvignon Blanc Overview

Bordeaux and Loire Valley beginnings

Sauvignon Blanc’s story begins in the picturesque vineyards of France’s Bordeaux and Loire Valley regions, where it has been cultivated for centuries. Sauvignon blanc grapes are green-skinned. It is speculated that the grape gets it’s name from the French words “sauvage” (meaning “wild”) and “blanc” (meaning “white”). Reflecting its once untamed nature and its affinity for vigorous growth in the vineyard.

In these regions, Sauvignon Blanc found its initial fame as an essential component in the production of Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, and various white Bordeaux blends, where it was often paired with the luscious Sémillon grape.

Sauvignon blanc grapes are cultivated all over the world. They produce crisp, refreshing, dry wines, and they can also be used in blends or to create sweet wines, like Sauternes.

Sauvignon Blanc wine grapes on the vine in a vineyard in France.

Expansion to New Zealand and beyond

In the latter half of the 20th century, intrepid winemakers transported Sauvignon Blanc to new lands, most notably to New Zealand, where it found an ideal home in the cool-climate region of Marlborough.

The unique terroir and innovative winemaking practices of this remote island nation resulted in a fresh, fruit-forward style that quickly captivated the international wine community. Today, Sauvignon Blanc has spread its wings, becoming a cherished varietal in numerous wine-producing regions, including South Africa, Chile, Australia, and the United States, where California’s Napa Valley and Sonoma have made particularly noteworthy contributions.

Depending on the climate where Sauvignon blanc grapes are grown, the flavors can range from grassy to tropical. In cooler climes, the grape tends to produce wines with high acidity and “greener” flavors, such as grass and green bell peppers.

In warmer climes, it can develop more tropical fruit aromas. Historically, this was one of the first wine varieties that was ever bottled with a screw cap, especially in the New Zealand market. It is also best consumed young, as it doesn’t really benefit from aging. Aged Sauvignon Blancs tend to have strong vegetal aromas like peas and asparagus.

Pinot Grigio Overview

Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio and Grauburgunder are all different names for the same popular white wine. According to historians, the Pinot Gris grape originated in the Burgundy region and spread all over the world.

Connection to the Pinot Noir family

Pinot Grigio, also known as Pinot Gris in France, is a member of the Pinot grape family, closely related to its more famous sibling, Pinot Noir. The grape’s origins can be traced back to the Burgundy region of France, but it wasn’t until it found its way to Italy that Pinot Grigio truly began to flourish. Over time, it has become synonymous with Italian winemaking, gaining recognition for its light, refreshing character and approachability.

Pinot Grigio is thought to be a variant of the Pinot Noir variety and normally has a grayish-blue color. The word “pinot” is speculated to have been given to the grape because the grapes are grown in small pine cone-shaped clusters.

Pinot Gris grapes can also give very different wines depending on where they are grown. In France you’ll find more spicy and full bodied wines, while in Italy they are more acidic and lighter-bodied.

In New Zealand the wines have moderate to low acidity, higher alcohol levels and an “oily” texture that makes the wine appear more full-bodied.

In this area, it’s also common for Pinot Grigios to go through malolactic fermentation to convert sharp malic acid into creamy lactic acid. This process is very common for Chardonnay wines and almost all reds. The flavors might range from ripe tropical fruit notes like melon and mango to botrytis-like undertones.

Regional variations in Italy

The diverse regions of Italy have allowed Pinot Grigio to express itself in various styles, influenced by factors such as climate, altitude, and local winemaking techniques. In the cool, mountainous region of Alto Adige, Pinot Grigio exhibits a bright, mineral-driven profile with zesty acidity.

Further south in the Veneto, the grape takes on a more fruit-forward persona, while in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, it often showcases richer, more complex flavors.

Growth in popularity and production

Over the past few decades, Pinot Grigio’s popularity has skyrocketed, establishing it as one of the most widely consumed white wines in the world. The varietal’s approachable and food-friendly nature has contributed to its global appeal, prompting increased production in various regions beyond Italy’s borders.

Today, Pinot Grigio is cultivated in countries such as the United States, Australia, and France, where the grape is known as Pinot Gris and can produce remarkably different expressions compared to its Italian counterpart.

Flavor Profiles and Aromas

The vibrant character of Sauvignon Blanc

Green and herbaceous notes

Sauvignon Blanc is celebrated for its vivacious, herbaceous character, often displaying distinctive green notes such as freshly cut grass, green bell pepper, and gooseberry. These unique flavors are a result of the grape’s natural chemistry, including the presence of compounds called pyrazines. The intensity of these green notes can vary, depending on factors like climate, vineyard practices, and winemaking techniques.

Tropical fruit and citrus flavors

In addition to its herbaceous qualities, Sauvignon Blanc is known for its bright fruit flavors, which can range from zesty citrus fruits like lemon, lime, and grapefruit to luscious tropical fruits such as passion fruit, guava, and pineapple. The fruit profile of a Sauvignon Blanc often reflects the climate of the region where it’s grown, with cooler climates favoring citrus notes and warmer climates bringing out more tropical flavors.

Influence of terroir and winemaking

The flavor and aroma profile of a Sauvignon Blanc can be significantly influenced by its terroir – the unique combination of factors like soil, climate, and topography that make a wine region distinctive. For example, the mineral-rich soils of France’s Loire Valley contribute to the region’s trademark flinty, mineral-driven Sauvignon Blancs, while the intense sunlight and maritime climate of New Zealand’s Marlborough region yield fruit-forward, zesty wines. Winemaking techniques, such as fermentation temperature, aging, and the use of oak, can also play a crucial role in shaping the final character of a Sauvignon Blanc.

The refreshing appeal of Pinot Grigio

Delicate stone fruit and floral aromas

Pinot Grigio is admired for its delicate, refreshing character, often presenting subtle aromas of stone fruits like white peach, nectarine, and pear, as well as hints of floral notes, such as honeysuckle and orange blossom. These nuances, combined with the grape’s natural acidity, make Pinot Grigio an easy-drinking, approachable wine that pairs well with a wide array of dishes and occasions.

Citrus zest and minerality

Many Pinot Grigio wines also showcase a delightful citrus zestiness, offering flavors of lemon, lime, and green apple, particularly when grown in cooler climates. This zesty quality is often accompanied by an appealing minerality, especially in wines produced in regions like Italy’s Alto Adige or France’s Alsace, where the vineyards’ distinctive soils impart an enticing, mineral-driven edge to the wines.

Diverse styles depending on region

The flavor profile and style of Pinot Grigio can vary greatly depending on the region in which it’s produced. For instance, Italian Pinot Grigio is typically lighter-bodied and fruit-forward, while the French Pinot Gris is often richer and more complex, with a weightier mouthfeel. In the United States, particularly in Oregon and California, Pinot Grigio can showcase an intriguing balance between these two styles, resulting in wines that offer a captivating blend of fruit, minerality, and texture.

Sauvignon Blanc vs Pinot Grigio: A Comparison

Now that we’ve gotten more familiar with these wine varietals, let’s have a look at some of their differences, and similarities, in terms of the characteristics mentioned in the beginning of the article. Given the fact that both of these wines are cultivated in many areas of the world, the different soil and climatic conditions can affect the final wine in various ways. In this table we will see the most common attributes of these wines.

CharacteristicSauvignon BlancPinot Grigio
AcidityHighModerate to High
BodyLight to MediumLight to Medium
ColorPale yellow-gold color with characteristic green huesPale, light yellow
AromasCool climate: grassy and vegetal aromas.
Warm climate: aromas of fresh herbs.
Almond, Honeysuckle, Honey. If the wine has gone through malolactic fermentation and aging you’ll find aromas of spices.
TasteCool climate: Gooseberry, passionfruit, honeydew
Warm climate: Grapefruit, melon, white peach.
Cool climate: Gooseberry, passionfruit, honeydew
Warm climate: Grapefruit, melon, white peach.
Alcohol by Volume (ABV)12.5-13.5%12.5-13.5%
Food PairingsSeafood, pasta, white meats, mild vinaigrettes and medium-soft cheeses.Seafood, creamy pasta and mozzarella cheese. Think Italian cuisine and you won’t fail.
CaloriesAbout 122 calories in a 5-oz servingAbout 123 calories in a 5-oz serving
Serving & StorageServe cold, 45-55°F.
Consume fresh or keep it in your cellar for 3-5 years after vintage.
If recorked and refrigerated it can stay fresh for 5-7 days.
Serve ice cold, 45°F.
It is recommended to enjoy it within 2 years after it has been bottled. If stored in ideal conditions it can remain fresh for up to 5 years.
If recorked it can stay fresh in the fridge for 5-7 days.
Sauvignon Blanc vs Pinot Grigio: A head to head comparison.


These two popular white wines are very different when it comes to aromas and flavors, but somehow very similar when we consider the other characteristics mentioned in the article. With summer right around the corner, having a couple of bottles of these wines chilled and ready in your fridge is an excellent idea for when you have people over or for when you want to relax and enjoy a chilled glass of vino after a long day.

As we already mentioned, these wines are produced in many different parts of the world, so we definitely suggest trying a few of them and spot the differences. We’re looking forward to listening to your thoughts and comments!

Carlos Flood

Hello, I'm Carlos Flood. I am a wine writer and the wine editor for The Wine Enthusiast Magazine. I have been writing about wine since 2008, but my love affair with all things grape started much earlier: when I was barely old enough to pick up a glass of vino at family dinners. As a food and drink journalist, my goal is simple: to help people know more about what they are drinking by providing them with information that will inform their decisions.

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