New Zealand pinot gris shows a touch of French flair, a hint of Italian brio and a style that is all Kiwi, says JOHN BELSHAM .
A mutation of pinot noir originating in Burgundy in France, pinot gris (grey pinot) is made across the globe in a range of styles. There are multiple spellings, with ‘gris’ and ‘grigio’ being the most common. The Italian versions (‘grigio’) embrace crisp acidity and clean angular lines, while the French versions emphasise exotic aromas and tropical flavours. Despite the different spelling and styles, the variety is exactly the same. In New Zealand we have adopted the French spelling but make our own styles which generally tend toward the ripe stone fruit spectrum in a medium-dry or medium-sweet style. Unfortunately, its global popularity is not always commensurate with quality as it is a very challenging wine style to perfect. Balancing flavour, ripeness, sugar and alcohol levels with a variety that has relatively low natural acidity is not an easy task. However, when managed well New Zealand pinot gris offers precise floral aromatics, freshness and generosity.
Jo Gear is the Head Winemaker at New Zealand Wine Cellars and the talent behind this number one wine from the Ata Mara vineyard in Pisa, Central Otago.
With characteristic modesty Jo suggests that “there are a lot of Pinot Gris styles out there and it’s often hard to define what makes a good one, but it takes the same qualities that make any other wine special”. When pressed for more detail on how she has made this beautiful wine she credits the quality of the vineyard, her viticulture team and the often-unheralded winery team. However, her own skill with Pinot Gris is clearly demonstrated in chaperoning this wine. It takes experience, vision and a real affinity with the variety to elevate Pinot Gris from bland to notable. Furthermore, the Central Otago 2018 season was very challenging with record summer heat followed by unseasonal autumn rain. Ideally this variety prefers a cooler and drier season to excel yet Jo has expertly managed the conditions and triumphed with this wine.
This wonderfully ripe expression of Pinot Gris has spice, freshness energy and depth. The appealing lively aromas open out to a creamy palate reminiscent of vanillin custard yet still holding a tight form. The balance is off dry and the finish of the wine is perfectly shaped with just enough acidity to offset the generosity of texture.
The delightfully spicy aromas of ripe pear and candied ginger draw you …2
A very fresh and crisp style with an appealing aromatic blend of …3
A more savoury style with notes of fennel and some salinity. This …4
This wine is like smelling a basket of tree ripened pip fruits. …5