Chardonnay vs Pinot Grigio: How To Know Which One Is Best For You

chardonnay vs pinot featured image

Last Updated: January 12, 2021

Ordering a bottle of wine a couple of decades ago in an average restaurant, you would most likely have been offered the classics like Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne. 

If you're lucky enough, perhaps you might get a chance to choose between Barolo or Brunello.

If you enter that same restaurant today, you will find the astonishingly diverse range of bottles from across the globe quite overwhelming.

So...

If you're a wine lover like me, you're probably wondering about the difference between chardonnay and pinot grigio, and which of the two would be more suitable for your taste. 

If yes, then the great news is you just landed on the right page! Keep reading, and together let's learn more about the sheer variety of these two wines so next time, you’ll know the best one to go with your moment or mood.

Main Differences Between Chardonnay And Pinot Grigio

The main differences between Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio are:

  • Chardonnay has a dry, bold & full-bodied palate, whereas Pinot Grigio is also a dry wine, but light-bodied and tangy.
  • Chardonnay is the perfect match for heavier and more complicated meals, whereas Pinot Grigio makes a good pair with light foods.
  • Chardonnay has higher sweet levels, whereas Pinot Grigio has the least sugar content of the two.

All That I Need To Know About Chardonnay

The Origin

Chardonnay is undoubtedly the world’s most famous wine. It is used in Burgundy and Chablis fine white wines and is the only white grape used in Champagne. In California, you will see more of it around the cooler areas. 

The chardonnay originated from the Burgundy region in France, while in California, it was not widely grown until selected clones of high yield became available. The grape’s adaptability means that people grow it in nearly every grape-growing country in the world.

Characteristics

Most Chardonnay wines develop quickly in the bottle and change substantially

over a few years. This wine is fascinating, with hints of tropical fruits in their flavor and aroma, smoky overtones from aging in oak barrels, and a crisp smack of acidity. Except for the very best, you can consume most of these wines within two to five years.

Its taste depends on what climate the grapes were grown in. The winemakers create medium-bodied wines in cooler climates; they cultivate fuller-bodied wines in warmer climates.

Perfect Food Matches

A glass of Chardonnay makes a perfect match with the following foods: 

  • Lobsters, especially those with butter
  • Semi-soft white cheeses, such as fontina, Chevres, and halloumi
  • Oysters
  • Sautéed scallops
  • Roast sea bass
  • Salmon
  • Grilled swordfish
  • Turkey breast
  • Roast chicken with herbs
  • Roast veal

The Difference Between Oaked And Unoaked Chardonnay

Oaked chardonnays adapt flavors that naturally occur in aging woods. The most prominent of these flavors taste like vanilla. 

Still, wines can also pick up other flavors such as mocha and toffee from an aged barrel of oak. That is what’s giving oaked chardonnays a more profound, toastier palette with pastry notes, baked fruit, and warm spices.

On the other hand, winemakers age unoaked chardonnays in various methods. 

One of those methods is aging the wine in tanks made of stainless steel or concrete. That is to limit the influence of oxygen and retain the wine’s new character. It brings out chardonnay’s brighter side, with more acidic palettes and a combination of citrus, fresh tropical fruits, and white florals flavor profiles.

Wines Similar To Chardonnay

If you enjoy Chardonnay, you would most likely enjoy the following wines too:

  • Albariño
  • Roussanne
  • Torrontés
  • Viognier

How To Serve Chardonnay

A temperature can make a wine unpronounced or emphasize it based on its components. 

Whites need a chill to lift delicate aromas and acidity. The best way to serve Chardonnay is when it’s chilled. If you serve it warm, the flavors get mixed up, and when you serve it too cold, the flavors die out. If the wine is less oaky, you can serve it closer to 50°F.  

To chill it, stick reds and whites in the fridge and remove them an hour or two before serving. It doesn't make any significance if you opt to chill your bottles in the door, but it's best to place them back on a shelf or in the crisper bins if you frequently open the chiller door.

The Best Glass To Use For Chardonnay

Drinking from the wrong glass can have a significant impact on a wine’s taste and smell. 

It’s best to drink a Chardonnay from a larger, wide-rimmed glass for the aromas to develop fully. This kind of glass helps in balancing different flavors out. 

The glass’s wide-opening design allows the wine to flow freely from one side of your palate to the other. And that brings out all the wine's characteristics in the right quantity.

Nutritional Facts

A glass of Chardonnay contains about 120 calories. It is a lighter, crisper, sweeter wine and can have as little as 1.5 grams of sugar, depending on the type of wine and amount you're drinking. Its alcohol content is typically around 12.5% to 15.5%, but I suggest always read the labels just to be sure.

All That I Need To Know About Pinot Grigio

The Origin

Pinot Grigio is a famous Italian wine style that is refreshing and zesty white. Its skin is not green like other white grapes, but instead have a greyish-blue hue, which is how they got their name. 

It originates in Burgundy but found its way to Switzerland in the 1300s, then to northern Italy, where the real story of Pinot Grigio was born.

Characteristics

Pinot Gris is one of the darkest-skinned grapes producing white wine. It comes as a dry white wine with either a light or medium body most of the time.

The best of its kind is crisp, refreshing, and well balanced with moderate acidity and complex fruit flavors from melon to green apple. Some also have a delicate tropical or citrus fruit flavor.

Grapes And Wine Regions

Where you grow the wine, what season you harvest, and what production methods you use can significantly determine its characteristics. 

Its French style is known as the Pinot Gris, famous for being a fragrant alternative to Chardonnay; its Italian style is dry with minimal fruit and plenty of mineral flavors. 

On the other hand, the German-style is sweet and fruit-driven, while the California Pinot Grigios tend to be sweeter than the Italian versions, less crisp, and fruitier in flavor. Some wines will have light sandy mineral ascent, along with subtle honey and ginger notes. 

The Difference Between Pinot Grigio And Pinot Gris

Both Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris have the same grape variety, with the first having an Italian designation and the latter having the French one. Aside from that, Italian Pinot Grigio most likely has citrus and tree fruit flavors, while the Pinot Gris is more associated with tropical fruit flavors.

Perfect Food Matches

The key to finding a wine’s perfect pair is to ensure that it matches the food and wine’s flavor and matches the dish’s weight with the wine. The more substantial the food, the fuller-bodied, and the more significant the wine should be. 

Pinot Grigio generally complements lighter dishes and pairs exceptionally well with the following:

  • Shellfish
  • Sushi
  • Mussels and oysters
  • Ceviche
  • Flaky white fish like tilapia, sea bass, and sole
  • Light pasta dishes and cheeses
  • Fresh salads like a wheat berry salad with pears
  • A crunchy, creamy salad like fennel-avocado salad
  • Smoked meats, particularly salmon
  • Grilled chicken 
  • Grilled kabobs, meat or vegetarian

The pairing would sometimes involve trial and error because every dish is different in its ingredients and preparation. But for Pinot Grigio, it would be best to avoid pairing it with anything acidic like citrus fruits or recipes using tomatoes.

Wines Similar To Pinot Grigio

If you love Pinot Grigio, you might as well know about its alternative like:

  • Soave
  • Fiano
  • Pecorino
  • Muscadet

How To Serve Pinot Grigio

Serve red wines cool and white wines cooler but not very cold. The Pinot Grigio is best to drink when it's young, which means about two years within its vintage. All pinot grigio types have 48 degrees Fahrenheit as the ideal temperature. 

To chill it to this temperature, place it in the refrigerator for about two to three hours before serving. Then remove the wine half an hour or up to an hour before serving, or chill it over ice. 

For more precise measurement, there are several wine temperature thermometers available to ensure that you’ll get the maximum enjoyment out of all the flavors in your Pinot Grigio.

The Best Glass To Use For Pinot Grigio

A stemmed glass with a U-shaped design can efficiently capture and distribute the wine’s floral and fruity aroma. 

The narrow design of such wine glasses can help in maintaining cooler temperatures longer. This glass also prompts the tongue to be in a U-shaped position, making the wine go down the front towards the palate’s center and create a smoother sip.

Nutritional Facts

Alcohol is usually the first that comes to mind when we think about pursuing a healthier lifestyle. But the truth is, there are alcoholic beverages we can still enjoy less the worry of how many inches it will add to our waistline.

Pinot Grigio is one of the best wines for those looking to lower their carb intake. On average, a 5-ounce glass of pinot grigio has at least 3 grams of carbs with 120 calories. But keep in mind that moderation is still the key if you’re trying to stay trim and healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions 

red and white grapes plus red wine being poured

Chardonnay Vs Pinot Grigio’s Similarities & Differences

Is Pinot Grigio A Drier Kind Of Wine Than Chardonnay?

White wines tend to be drier than the red ones and more aromatic and zesty too. Generally speaking, Chardonnay is the drier of the two. 

However, it is also possible to have a Pinot Grigio that can also be as dry as the Chardonnay. How dry the wine could depend on the region and winemaking style.

Does Chardonnay Taste Like Pinot Grigio?

While both of these wines make an easy and refreshing drink, the similarity ends there. A simple taste of each will highlight the difference between creamy chardonnay and crisp pinot grigio. 

Overall, a chardonnay will usually be fruity, velvety, and full, whereas the Pinot Grigio gives a distinct citrusy taste with green apple notes, always crisp and typically dry.

Which Is The Better Wine Of The Two, The Chardonnay Or The Pinot Grigio?

Chardonnay is undoubtedly the most popular white wine variety in the world. It is much heavier and less acidic. 

The Pinot Grigio, on the other hand, doesn’t have the oak flavors and aroma which the Chardonnay has. 

However, the comparison between these two requires extensive knowledge and a keen interest in how the winemakers carefully craft each wine.

Another way to choose between these two would be pairing them with food. Chardonnays are excellent with heavy meals, while Pinot Grigio is best with light dishes and seafood.

Does Chardonnay Have A Higher Alcohol Content Than Pinot Grigio?

Chardonnay has a higher alcohol content of 13.5 to 14.5 percent, whereas Pinot Grigio’s alcohol content ranges from 12.5 to 13.5 percent only. 

Sweeter grapes come from regions with warmer climates, and it eventually increases the wine's alcohol content.

Key Takeaway

Now that we have in-depth knowledge about these two famous wines, the decision is up to you whether you pick Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio. The next time you pass by a liquor store, grab a bottle of both and initiate some wine tasting. 

Make it a habit to always read labels too. The type of wine that’s best for you will always depend on your taste and, of course, the occasion. 

There is no sure way of knowing, but the trick would be to go through their characteristics and have a sample of both. Rest assured that you can never go wrong whether you choose one or the other as both are well-known for the luscious mouthfeel they can provide, and they will make a great addition to your wine list.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top