Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are two of the most popular white wines in the world. These crowd-pleasing varieties are typically dry, offer pleasant fruit aromas, and refreshing acidity. Their mass appeal gives these bottles the top spot on many restaurant by-the-glass lists and store shelves across the U.S.

Because of their crisp and easy-drinking profiles, these grapes are often lumped together. But don’t give in to the misconception that they’re the same: These wines differ from each other in several major ways, including the regions they’re from, conditions they thrive in, and overall flavor profile.

So, before you order your next glass of white, read on to discover the key differences between Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.

Get the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture sent straight to your inbox.

Sauvignon Blanc vs. Pinot Grigio: Regions

Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio both originated in France, but now exist in regions across the globe. Within France, Sauvignon Blanc thrives in both Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, most notably in the subregions of Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé. While it’s believed that Pinot Grigio (known as Pinot Gris in French) originated in the Burgundy region, it’s now most commonly found in the sunny, mountainous region of Alsace on the German border.

While Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio both have a presence in northern Italy, Pinot Grigio definitely dominates there. Most bottles of Pinot Grigio you’ll find on the shelves now are from the regions of Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and Trentino-Alto Adige. The Veneto is known for producing bulk, budget Pinot Grigio, while higher-end expressions come from Friuli and Alto Adige. Pinot Grigio is also commonly found across northern Italy’s eastern border in Slovenia.

Outside France, Sauvignon Blanc staked its claim in New Zealand’s Marlborough region. Examples from this region took off in popularity over the past several decades due to the area’s distinct style and approachable price tag. The region’s tropical fruit, jalapeño, and bright citrus tasting notes are unmistakable, making Marlborough a reliable favorite among Sauvignon Blanc lovers.

As for the U.S., Sauvignon Blanc is common throughout California. For a while it was known as “fumé blanc,” a specific style of the grape characterized by richness and oak aging, but now this grape can be found in a range of styles across the state. Pinot Grigio found its home in Oregon, where they typically refer to it as Pinot Gris. The state is known for its richer, rounder expressions of the grape.

Sauvignon Blanc vs. Pinot Grigio: Growing Conditions

A robust grape, Sauvignon Blanc can adapt to a range of climates, while Pinot Grigio tends to be a bit more finicky in the vineyard. Pinot Grigio is susceptible to several diseases, and due to the grape’s low natural acidity it needs to grow in cool-climate or high-altitude environments to retain structure. If it’s grown in too warm a site, the wine can lose its acidity and land flabby on the palate. That’s why the mountainous regions of Alto Adige and Alsace produce high-quality examples of Pinot Grigio.

Sauvignon Blanc can stand the heat of California or the chill of the Loire Valley, but the flavor profile of the wine will change in accordance with its growing conditions. Expect fresh citrus, grass, and minerals in cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc and more tropical fruit notes like guava and passion fruit, as well as jalapeño and gooseberries in expressions from warmer sites.

Sauvignon Blanc vs. Pinot Grigio: Perception

Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio both have a reputation for being accessible and affordable, but there are some differences in how people view these wines in terms of price, prestige, and ageability.

Gris (French) and Grigio (Italian) translate to gray, as the skins of the Pinot Grigio grape tilt more pink-gray than a white wine grape’s typical light green skin. Wines from this grape would traditionally be made with skin contact, giving them an amber or copper color. But in the ‘60s and ‘70s, some producers in northern Italy decided to ferment Pinot Grigio without skin maceration, making it into a crystal clear white wine for the first time. What followed was an overwhelming mass-production of this style of Pinot Grigio, which is known for being easy-drinking but overall lacking in complexity. That’s why these wines are usually regarded as budget bottles.

Pinot Gris from Alsace and Oregon is typically made in a richer style, sometimes with a touch of oak aging for added complexity. These bottles tend to garner more respect and a higher price tag since they are made in smaller production and in a more time-consuming style.

Similarly, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region is produced on a larger scale and is usually very budget-friendly and ready to drink on release. Sauvignon Blanc from French regions like Sancerre has a little more clout, due to its limited production and history. These wines are also known to be a bit more age-worthy due to their blazing acidity.

Sauvignon Blanc vs. Pinot Grigio: Flavor Profile

Now that you know these grapes’ origins, here are the aromas and flavors that distinguish Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.

Sauvignon Blanc has higher acidity than Pinot Grigio and will have more structure on the palate. Additionally, it tends to have more intense fruit notes with aromas of grapefruit, grass, and passion fruit jumping from the glass. Expressions from Sancerre also tend to offer mineral notes of slate or saline.

Pinot Grigio is known for being a bit subtle, and will meet you with a much more mild profile of soft pears and lemons. Pinot Grigio also doesn’t typically possess the salinity Sancerre usually offers.