Pinot vs Sauvignon Blanc: 8 Important Differences

Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc are two extremely popular white wines, and for good reason. 

Both wines are known for their brightness and crispness, as well as being good accompaniments to a variety of foods and occasions. 

If you’re looking to brush up on your wine knowledge, this article will highlight the key differences between Pinot and Sauvignon Blanc

We’ll be looking at several categories, including:

  • Region
  • Grape variety
  • Color of wine
  • Favor profile
  • Aromas
  • Aging potential
  • Tannin levels
  • Acidity
  • Food pairings
  • Aging vessels. 

By splitting it up into sections, it makes it easier to understand why the key differences make the wines unique and why you might prefer one to another. Let’s get started!

Pinot vs. Sauvignon Blanc Comparison

Pinot vs Sauvignon Blanc

For each of the sections below, I’ll explain the characteristic, its influence, and then a comparison between the two different wines (Pinot Gris first, and then Sauvignon Blanc). 


The region where wines are produced has a heavy influence on how they turn out. 

Many things can affect this, particularly weather conditions and the soils where the grapes are made. 

For many wines, there are multiple regions that have gained recognition for the wine they produce. I’ll talk about where they’re from, and where they have become popular. 

Pinot Gris originated in Burgundy, a region in France, since the Middle Ages. As such, it is a very old wine.

Nowadays, it is mostly produced in Italy where it is also called Pinot Grigio. Italy has become known for its Pinot, and the Italian style has become most consistent with the flavors of Pinot Gris. 

Sauvignon Blanc, as you might have guessed by its name, is also a French wine originating from Bordeaux (a city in southwestern France). 

It was first produced in the 1500s, gaining immense popularity since then. Now, the wine is known for being produced in the Loire Valley in France, Marlborough in New Zealand, and the Napa Valley in California. 

Grape Variety

The grape variety of wines is the most important factor in creating a certain type of wine. 

Most wines have different grape varieties that produce specific wines, and the process of making wine adds all sorts of nuance and specificity that distinguish them from each other. 

Pinot Gris wine is made from a grape that is also called Pinot Gris. The grape itself is a rosy white color with a gray tinge. 

Gris means gray in French, the country where the grape originated from. The grape is related to the Pinot Noir grape, which is used to make Pinot Noir wine (a red wine). 

Sauvignon Blanc is also made from a grape of the same name. Sauvignon Blanc grapes are green-skinned with a white interior. 

The grape is extremely popular in winemaking due to its acidity and crisp nature, which we’ll expand on later. The citrus-like grapes also originated from France, hence their French name. 

Color of Wine

The color of wine has a great deal to do with the grape variety and the way the wine is produced. 

Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc are both white wines, but their colors are quite different upon closer inspection which is a key aspect in telling the two wines apart. 

Pinot Gris has a pale, lemon-yellow color, similar to that of straw. It sometimes has a more golden or mustardy tint. Again, specificities have a lot to do with how the wine has been made, and this can vary from region to region. 

Sauvignon Blanc also has a pale lemon-yellow color, but it is ever so slightly lighter in hue. This could be to do with the crispness of the grape and the green color of the skin, which translates through the color and clarity of the wine. 

Flavor Profile

Now we’re getting into the fun part: the actual flavor of the wine! 

Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc have very different flavor profiles, which makes them relatively easy to tell apart. A wine’s flavor profile consists of the elements in the wine.

The Pinot Gris flavor profile consists mainly of fruity flavors like peach, lemon, and lime – resulting in an overall zesty and sharp flavor. Sometimes, it may even seem tropical. 

There is occasionally a slight grit (like almond), or a mineral stone-like flavor. Overall, it has a fruity and smooth profile.

Sauvignon Blanc’s profile consists of fruity and zesty flavors like citrus, green apple, and lime. The overall citrus-like nature makes sense as to why these two wines are commonly compared. A herbal quality also exists in a Sauvignon Blanc.


Aromas are similar to a flavor profile, except with a focus on the smell. The aroma of wine is dependent on many factors, including variety and winemaking style. 

For Pinot Gris, the aromas are similar to its flavor profile. There are notes of juicy pear, citrus, and a more nutty smell. Often, there is a distinct honey or honeysuckle sweetness also present. 

Sauvignon Blanc also has beautiful aromas, consisting of citrus, apple, and even grapefruit. It distinctly has herbal properties, often described as a fresh-cut grass smell. This makes a lot of sense for this traditionally sharp wine. 

Aging Potential

The aging potential of a wine refers to its ability to age before being bottled and available for consumption. 

Aging takes place in a constant environment after being bottled. It can help bring out certain notes and aromas from the wine that otherwise may have stayed hidden.

Pinot Gris is a wine that is recommended to be consumed while it is young. It can last for around 5 years, but 1-3 years is the golden spot that is said to exhibit its best qualities.

Sauvignon Blanc is also recommended for drinking while it is relatively young (within 1-5 years)/. However, it can stretch a little longer than Pinot Gris. Some Sauvignon Blanc can be aged for up to 10 years, bringing out more mineral notes.

Tannin levels 

Tannins are found mainly in the skin, as well as the seeds of grapes and other plants. Tannins have a major effect on the wines structurally and are typically more present in red wines. 

Pinot Gris has low levels of tannins, resulting in a wine that is less structured and less grippy. It is known for its smooth feeling on the tongue and its creaminess. 

The same goes for Sauvignon Blanc. Tannin levels are much lower than other wines, due to the thinner skin on the grape. Lower tannin levels result in a smoother mouthfeel than other more textured wines. 


Acidity in wine is part of the typical profile and has a great influence on the drinking and approachability of wine due to its effect on texture and balance.. 

Pinot Gris wine has moderate acidity that can be translated through a crisp and fresh taste. The acidity in Pinot Gris is one of its key features, complementing its ripe fruit flavors of peach and citrus. 

Sauvignon Blanc also has moderate to high acidity levels, usually on the higher side; a wine known for its crisp and fresh taste present through acidity. Again, this helps to highlight the citrus flavors. 

Food Pairing

Wine has a special ability to match with certain foods and make both components better! 

Food pairing is an important part of learning about these wines, especially if you aim to host a dinner party any time soon. 

Pinot Gris pairs beautifully with milder, fresh flavors, with its acidity and citrus enhancing both the wine and the food. Seafood, cheese, and chicken are particularly good with Pinot Gris, but its true perfect match is sushi. 

Sauvignon Blanc also pairs beautifully with fish, poultry, and cheese – especially goat’s cheese. Its naturally citrus flavor enhances mild foods, just like Pinot. It is also great with spiced curries and fresh Asian flavors. 

Aging Vessels

Aging vessels are the storage choice for wines after they have been made to ferment and age before bottling. There are many, many different types of vessels to choose from, from oak barrels to stainless steel casks. 

Pinot Gris is most commonly aged in stainless steel vessels as there is less influence on flavors than there would be with a more natural vessel such as oak. This helps to preserve the citrus flavor and acidity.

Sauvignon Blanc is the same; it is preferably aged in stainless steel for identical reasons as our friend Pinot Gris. Sometimes, oak is used, but it is very neutral so as to not overwhelm the wine.

Which is better: Pinot Or Sauvignon Blanc?

Pinot vs Sauvignon Blanc Comparison

Wine is extremely personal, and everybody likes different wines for different reasons. It is just a part of the beauty! 

Both Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc are beautiful, approachable wines that can be enjoyed on many different occasions. 

Personally, I prefer Pinot Gris due to its slightly less acidic qualities. However, there’s nothing like a summer Sauv. 

Let’s go over the differences one more time in a table:

Summary of the Differences Between Pinot And Sauvignon Blanc

CharacteristicPinot GrisSauvignon Blanc
RegionItalyNew Zealand
Grape VarietyPinot Gris grapesSauvignon Blanc grapes
Color of WinePale golden yellow Pale bright yellow
Flavor ProfilePeach, citrus, melon, almondCitrus, green apple, grass
AromasPear, citrus, honeyApple, grapefruit, grass
Aging Potential1-3 Years1-5 Years
Tannin LevelsLowLow
AcidityModerate to highHigh
Food PairingSushi, seafood, cheeseSpiced curries, cheese, Asian flavors
Aging VesselsStainless steelStainless steel, neutral oak

Final Thoughts

By comparing the qualities and traits of Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, we can gain a better understanding of what goes into the process and why we might prefer one wine to the other.

My personal recommendations for each wine would have to be: 

Pinot Gris: 

  1. Domain Road Defiance Pinot Gris, Central Otago, 2022
  2. Russian Jack Marlborough Pinot Gris, 2022

Sauvignon Blanc: 

  1. Wairau River Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 2022
  2. Esk Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 2022


Which is nicer: Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc?

Wine is a personal preference, so it’s hard to say which wine is nicer than the other. If you like a smoother, easier wine, I would go for Pinot Grigio for its smooth and neutral quality. If you enjoy more acidity, try Sauvignon Blanc.

What is the difference between Pinot and Sauvignon Blanc?

There are many differences between Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, including their flavor profile, aroma, aging potential, regions of creation, and grapes. Here’s a table that summarizes the differences:

CharacteristicPinot GrigioSauvignon Blanc
RegionItalyNew Zealand
Grape VarietyPinot Gris grapesSauvignon Blanc grapes
Color of WinePale golden yellow Pale bright yellow
Flavor ProfilePeach, citrus, melon, almondCitrus, green apple, grass
AromasPear, citrus, honeyApple, grapefruit, grass
Aging Potential1-3 Years1-5 Years
Tannin LevelsLowLow
AcidityModerate to highHigh
Food PairingSushi, seafood, cheeseSpiced curries, cheese, Asian flavors
Aging VesselsStainless steelStainless steel, neutral oak
Is Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc more dry?

Both Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are dry white wines with minimal residual sugar from the grapes. Sauvignon Blanc is dry, but Pinot Grigio is more commonly associated with being a drier wine.

Which is sweeter Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir?

Sauvignon Blanc is a dry white wine, and Pinot Noir is a dry red wine. They both have minimal residual sugars, though this varies between winemakers. Pinot Noir has a raspberry-like aroma. For that reason, it could taste slightly sweeter.

Is Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc healthier?

Sauvignon Blanc has less antioxidant properties than Pinot Noir. Red wine also has links to increased heart health, although all alcohol should be drunk in moderation. Sauvignon Blanc has fewer calories than Pinot Noir as well.

What are the 5 levels of wine?

The 5 main characteristics of wine are Sweetness, Acidity, Alcohol Content, Tannin Level, and Body of wine. These characteristics vary between different styles and varieties of wine, as well as within styles such as Sauvignon Blanc. 

For example, sweetness or acidity may vary across different winemakers for the same style.

Jon Barbieri
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