Riesling vs Pinot Grigio: Differences in taste, sweetness level and food pairing

Famous German quality white wine riesling, produced in Mosel wine regio from white grapes growing on slopes of hills in Mosel river valley in Germany

Choosing between Riesling vs Pinot Grigio is easy once you understand the differences and commonalities of these popular white wines. You will find out the differences in taste, dry vs sweet, examples of each wine under $40, and food-wine pairing tips in the next few minutes.

1) Riesling vs Pinot Grigio: How Do They Taste?

As dry white wines, Riesling and Pinot Grigio have some points in common. However, there are significant differences in flavor you can enjoy in your glass of wine.

Riesling Taste

This white wine grape variety comes in multiple styles. In terms of typical taste, look for the following aspects.

  • Fruity Flavors. Apples, Apricots, Peaches, and Peaches are common in most Riesling wine varieties.
  • Secondary Flavors. In some cases, you might detect other flavors beyond the primary flavors of fruit. With Riesling, you may find honey and ginger flavor.
  • Acidity. Expect to taste a refreshing level of acidity in your glass of wine. Acidity in a glass of wine can be excellent. It is the same principle that makes lemonade so appealing in the hot summer months.
  • Alcohol. Typically in the 12.5% to 13.5% range. For a low alcohol Riesling, look for a German bottle.

To enjoy Riesling flavors at their best, take a moment to consider serving temperature questions like “should Riesling be chilled?”

Pinot Grigio Taste

The typical taste of pinot grigio (also known as Pinot Gris) is made up of the following aspects. Note that

  • Fruity Flavors. Green apple, pear, white peach, and lemon are commonly found in Pinot Grigio.
  • Secondary Flavors. Some people find honeysuckle, baking spices, and almond notes in the glass.
  • Acidity. Expect relatively high acidity, which means a refreshing glass of wine.
  • Alcohol. Pinot Grigio typically has a medium alcohol level (12.5-13.5%)

The above flavor observations are generalizations. In reality, multiple factors influence the flavor of each bottle of wine. For example, a late harvest Riesling white wine is going to taste sweeter. Further, the wine industry has additional “wine tools” (e.g., oak barrels and malolactic fermentation) to change the flavor.

2) Riesling vs Pinot Grigio: Dry vs Sweet

Comparing Riesling vs Pinot Grigio in sweetness levels is difficult because these white wines are made in multiple styles.

Pinot Grigio is made in dry, semi-sweet, and sweet styles. In general, dry wines are preferred today, so most Pinot Grigio you find will be dry. If you see a bottle of Pinot Grigio in one of your favorite wine shops and the label does not provide any further information about sweetness, it is probably a dry white wine.

Riesling white wine also comes in multiple styles. There are multiple types of Riesling: dry, off-dry, and sweet. As with Pinot Grigio, the most popular Riesling is dry. German wines have a tradition of producing “late harvest” (Spätlese) Riesling, which is sweet.

3) Riesling vs Pinot Grigio: Best Wines Under $40?

Whether you are buying a give for the passionate wine lovers in your life or looking for something for yourself, use these suggestions to find something in your price range. These affordable wines are good choices to get you started.

Riesling Wines Under $40

German wines can be more challenging to find, so I have left them out of this shortlist. Passionate wine lovers who enjoy Riesling have to buy German wines because Riesling wines come from.

2015 Smith-Madrone Riesling (Napa Valley, USA).

Priced at around $40, this Napa Valley Riesling has been described as “racy” because of its higher acidity levels. Expect a long finish when you taste this wine.

2016 Josmeyer Riesling Le Kottabe (Alsace, France).

Priced at approximately $25, this French Riesling has acidity and balance. It is a bit closer to sweet in terms of sweetness levels.

2017 Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Dry Riesling. (Clare Valley, Australia)

Priced at under $20, this dry Riesling offers a crisp wine experience with a high level of acidity. The floral aromas are present as well. In terms of wine styles, this Riesling is considered bone dry.

Pinot Grigio Wines Under $40

To complete this introduction to affordable wines, let’s look at Italian Pinot Grigio.

2017 Vie di Romans Dessimis Pinot Grigio Friuli Isonzo

Priced at approximately $36, this Italian wine has earned an average critic score of 92 out of 100. Wine experts describe the wine as “light and crisp.” Expect to taste peach in the glass.

2018 Vie di Romans Dessimis Pinot Grigio Friuli Isonzo

If your budget for affordable wines is more limited, look for this bottle which sells for less than $30. Despite the price, the average critics’ score for this wine was 93 out of 100. Expect to taste peach and citrus fruit. James Suckling, one of the world’s leading wine experts, gave this wine a score of 96.

2017 St. Michael-Eppan San Michele Appiano Sanct Valentin Pinot Grigio Sudtirol – Alto Adige

Priced at $39, this Italian Pinot Grigio has earned an average critic score of 92 from wine experts. Reviewers describe this wine as tasting creamy and full-bodied.

4) Riesling vs Pinot Grigio: Where Are They Produced In The World?

These famous white wines are produced all around the world, but some wine regions are leaders.

Riesling Top Wine Regions

In terms of countries, Germany (59% of global production), the USA (13% of global production and France 8% of global production) are the highest producers of Riesling.

When browsing in wine shops, it is more helpful to look for specific wine regions like Alsace (one of the best French white wine regions) or the Mossel (Germany). The world-famous ice wines of Canada from Niagara are typically made from Riesling.

Pinot Grigio Top Wine Regions

In terms of countries, Italy (59%), the USA (32%), and Australia (6%) are the largest producers of this popular white wine.

When buying Riesling in wine shops, ask for suggestions in the following wine regions. In Italy, look for the northeast (e.g., Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige). In the US, look for Pinot Grigio in California.

5) Riesling vs Pinot Grigio: Food Wine Pairing Suggestions

Designing a meal around these white wines is easy because they work with multiple types of wine. To plan your meal, here are a few options to get you thinking.

Riesling Food Pairing Tips

When you open a bottle of Riesling, there are multiple ways to enhance the experience by pairing it with the right foods.

  • Cheese. Dry Riesling pairs well with Brie and Camembert. If you prefer a sweet Riesling, choose feta, blue cheese, or aged gouda. Some experts consider Riesling to be the most “cheese friendly” wine, so feel free to experiment with different ideas.
  • Meat Dishes. White meats like chicken, pork, and bacon are good pairings. You can also add in some kinds of seafood like shrimp and crab.
  • Vegetarian Dishes. Look for vegetables like eggplant, squash and carrot, and red onion. These pairings mean Riesling can pair well with Thanksgiving vegetarian dishes.

Pinot Grigio Food Pairing Tips

As you open up your bottle of Pinot Grigio, this white wine works with some of the same foods, but there are differences to keep in mind. In general, pinot grigio is considered a light white wine that works well as a starter wine before starting your meal (find out how Sauv Blanc vs Pinot Grigio compare).

  • Cheese. Wine experts recommend avoiding cheddar and stilton cheeses and try something milder like brie or mozzarella. These lighter cheeses will pair well with the wine’s sweeter qualities.
  • Meat Dishes. Pinot Grigio is similar to Riesling when it comes to meat pairings (discover how Pinot Grigio compares to another white wine in this guide – Chardonnay vs Pinot Grigio). White meats like chicken and turkey go well with Pinot Grigio. In addition, seafood is a good choice (e.g., sole, trout, haddock, and scallops).
  • Vegetarian Dishes. A salad featuring yellow squash, celery, onion, kale, and white beans tend to work well.

Discover The White Wines of France

Did you enjoy drinking Riesling from Alsace in western France? If so, do yourself a favor and discover some of France’s white wine regions.

Riesling vs Pinot Grigio: Differences in taste, sweetness level and food pairing

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