What is the Real Difference Between Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio?

With the vast amount of choices available in the wine world, it can be a tad difficult to nail down all the different styles and varieties. For example, Chardonnay vs Pinot Grigio, they look almost identical and are both described as a dry white wine. So how can you tell the difference? Which one should end up in your refrigerator? Here’s what you need to know:


Chardonnay is beloved by winemakers around the globe. It is a hearty variety that can grow in a myriad of locations. From the infamous wine regions of France and Italy along with other well-known wine countries such as South Africa, Argentina, and New Zealand, Chardonnay seems to be in just about every major vineyard worldwide, including some not so obvious regions, like Israel, Canada, and India. Not only are the grapes easy to cultivate in a variety of climates, elevations, and soil types, the wine itself is quite “malleable” meaning it takes on a lot of the flavors and characteristics of the land on which it’s grown.

With all the diversity that can be found in its cultivation, Chardonnay really shines with its abundance of different flavors and styles. There are a multitude of possible fermentation techniques ranging from the types of acid used to the amount of time and precise temperature at which the wine spends “aging”. Chardonnay readily accepts an extraordinary amount of winemaking techniques, and rather than holding onto one universal “style”, it leans into the different senses. Some describe Chardonnay as a blank canvas that allows each winemaker to add their personal touch to the wine’s overall flavor and composition.

Although there is a lot of variety possible based on the growing locations, the techniques utilized, and the amount of time spent aging, Chardonnays do have some characteristics that come through regardless. Chardonnay is a dry, medium-bodied white wine. It often has fruity notes, such as apple or lemon, and as many winemakers choose to age their Chardonnay in oak barrels, there can also be hints of vanilla present.

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio is a very interesting wine. It’s technically classified as a white wine, but it’s thought to come from a mutation of the Pinot Noir variety, which is a red grape. The Pinot Grigio grapes of today look to be grayish-blue in color (thus the “grigio”, which means “gray” in Italian). This variety is grown in only a few regions around the world, the vast majority of which are in Europe. While there might not be such a range in its growing regions, Pinot Grigio is considered an “early-to-market” wine, meaning that the fermentation time is rather short.

Like Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio is described as a dry, white wine; however, the comparisons usually stop here. Pinot Grigio is generally much more acidic or tangy in flavor and has a lighter, silkier feel to it. There are often bright citrus notes, like lime, accompanied with other fruity flavors, such as pear or white nectarine. Honey or honeysuckle aromas might also be associated with Pinot Grigios. Due to the relatively small amount of diversity in its cultivation and fermentation, light, crisp Pinot Grigios are refreshingly consistent across the board.

Overall, there are quite a few differences between these two seemingly similar wine varieties: the diversity levels present in their growing regions, the winemaking and fermentation techniques represented, as well as the individual taste and feel of the finished products. Differences aside, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio are rightfully two of the most popular varieties of white wine in the world. Really, either way you go, you’re in for a culinary masterpiece. Enjoy!

Leave a Reply