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Whether you’re opening a bottle to celebrate, you’re meeting friends for lunch, or you just fancy a fresh, crisp glass of sparkling wine, Pinot Grigio is always a great choice.
Pinot Grigio is a light, crisp wine that is popular amongst many, but is it a sweet wine? And how can you tell if a wine will be sweet or not?
Keep reading to learn more about Pinot Grigio, including how it’s made, what it tastes like, and how to spot a sweet wine on the shelves.
Pinot Grigio comes from the Pinot Gris grape, which is from the Pinot grape family.
The Pinot family includes Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir, and each has its own unique flavours. Pinot Gris grapes are a mutation of the Pinot Noir.
The signature Pinot Grigio taste we know and love is achieved by harvesting the pinot gris grapes early so the grapes still have their fresh acidity.
The amount of time the grapes spend on the vine and the date that the grapes are harvested can impact the look, acidity, and overall taste of the wine, particularly when left over a hot summer.
Pinot Gris grapes have a unique appearance - they tend to be a pinkish colour or a grey/ blue colour, depending on the time of harvest.
The earlier the grapes are picked, the more grey the appearance of the grape - and the longer the grape spends on the vine, the pinker the appearance.
‘Gris’ means grey in French and Italian, which is where the grape appropriately gets its name.
You may be wondering how a grey grape can produce light, golden wine - this is because the stem and skins are removed.
Pinot Grigio is a crisp and fresh wine that features citrus, pear, honey, and green apple aromas.
The fresh ‘zing’ we recognize and love in a glass of Pinot Grigio comes from the fermentation process.
Instead of wooden barrels, Pinot Grigio will usually be fermented in stainless steel tanks.
Barrels not only raise the production process but can cause a lingering taste and a musky aroma, unlike the clean and fresh taste we love in Pinot Grigio.
When fermented in barrels, the wine should be consumed within a year or two of harvest for the best taste.
Is Pinot Grigio Sweet?
Although Pinot Grigio can have a fruity taste, it isn’t particularly sweet. It is a dry wine, and dry wines aren’t usually sweet as they contain very little residual sugar.
Grapes have a naturally high sugar content - especially the longer they’re on the vine.
Although Pinot Gris grapes are usually harvested early to achieve the signature taste and appearance of Pinot Grigio, there’s still a high sugar content.
During fermentation, yeast is added to the grapes to consume the naturally occurring sugars inside the grape.
To achieve the dry and crisp taste, vintners will leave the yeast to consume pretty much all of the grapes natural sugars so there’s very little (if any) residual sugar remaining.
If winemakers shortened this process, the wine would be sweeter - the more residual sugar, the sweeter the wine.
You may notice a sweeter taste in lower quality or cheaper bottles of Pinot Grigio as there’s generally more residual sugar left from the fermentation and fining process.
Some flavours you may notice when you’re sipping your favourite Pinot Grigio include green apple, lemon, lime, honey, and blossom.
Although it’s not a particularly sweet wine, it’s popular amongst those who don’t regularly drink wine due to the crisp fruity tastes.
However, if you want a sweeter or fuller-bodied wine, then you may want to go for a dark red instead.
Like with any wine, Pinot Grigio can taste different depending on where the wine was produced. Pinot Grigio produced in Northern Italy has the classic taste we recognise - a crisp and fresh fruity flavour with the signature ‘zing’.
However, Pinot Grigio from New Zealand and South Australia may taste a little fruitier than it’s Italian counterpart. Pinot Grigio produced in these regions feature more tropical flavours and a little more complexity.
Pinot Gris typically has a sweeter taste than Pinot Grigio. Pinot Gris is made in Alsace, North-Eastern France, and although it’s made from pinot gris grapes, it’s made using a slightly different process.
Pinot Gris can be a sweet wine, and can make a great pairing with many desserts. Although many people love the crisp freshness of Pinot Grigio, it isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.
Some critics think that Pinot Grigio is too simple, and is lacking in flavour - but the taste and flavour of Pinot Grigio can vary from brand to brand.
It tends to be the sweeter wines that pair well with desserts - the sweet taste of the wine compliments the dessert better than a dry wine.
Port, sherry, and other full-bodies reds pair well with many desserts due to the alcohol and sugar content in the wine.
However, this doesn’t mean that Pinot Grigio can’t be a great pairing with certain desserts. For a great pairing, it’s best to choose a dessert that isn’t too sweet.
An extra sugary dessert will dampen the taste and flavours of the wine. A good dessert to pair with Pinot Grigio is a fruit salad with Greek Yoghurt - anything light and not too sugar will be a perfect match.
If you want a sparkling white that gives you more options for dessert pairings, then you may want to opt for Prosecco.
Prosecco can pair well with anything that has a mixture of sweet and salty - and again, isn’t too sweet.
If you’re looking for a sweeter type of wine, look for the words ‘late harvest’ on the bottle. Late harvest wines are made from grapes that have spelt longer on the vine - which leads to them having higher sugar levels resulting in a sweeter taste.
Fortified wine is another type of wine to look out for if you want a sweet wine.
Fortified wine gets its sweetness from the fermentation process - instead of leaving the yeast longer to consume all of the residual sugar, the yeast spends less time doing so which results in more residual sugar.
Port, Sherry, and Madeira all have high sugar and alcohol content, making for a sweet, strong wine.
When you’re looking for a sweeter glass of wine, on the label look for RS. This stands for residual sugar, and will tell you how sweet the wine is.
The ABV stands for alcohol by volume, and the general rule of thumb is the higher the RS, the lower the ABV.
If you want a sweeter wine, look for wines that have an ABV of 11% or lower - although these have less alcohol, they have a sweeter taste.
The best way of knowing which wine is sweeter is by getting to know the different styles of wine. Either research the different types of wine or attend a wine tasting session.
Dryer whites tend to include Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc. Some sweeter wines may include Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Moscato, Sherry, Port, and Ice Wine.