Pinot Gris – April 2022

The runaway popularity of Pinot Gris in New Zealand shows no signs of abating. Plantings of the traditional Alsace variety have soared from 130 hectares of bearing vines in 2000 to 2,786 hectares in 2022. Pinot Gris is now New Zealand’s third most widely planted white-wine variety, trailing only Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

With Pinot Gris – as with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir – winegrowers have discovered a classic variety that, overall, performs better in New Zealand than in Australia. Pinot Gris also appeared on the market at just the right time (20 years ago) to pick up some of that era’s ABC (‘Anything but Chardonnay’) consumers. Pinot Gris even has some Chardonnay-like traits – mouthfilling body, gentle acidity and peachy, non-aggressive flavours.

The problem is that Pinot Gris can easily be boring. Some winegrowers see Pinot Gris as “like working with white paint on a white background.” A key issue is that Pinot Gris has a tendency to over-crop, yielding unripe, dilute wines. Small crops are needed to build the concentrated, ripe stone-fruit and spice flavours of fine Pinot Gris.

Almost 70 per cent of the wines in the tasting flowed from Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay. However, the tasting also attracted multi-regional blends and wines from Northland, Nelson, North Canterbury and Central Otago.


Best Buys

Esk Valley Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2021, 4.5 stars, $20

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Pinot Gris 2021, 4 stars, $15

Whitehaven Marlborough Pinot Gris 2021, 4.5 stars, $23


Treat Yourself

Askerne Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2021, 5 stars, $25

Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Marlborough Pinot Gris 2021, 5 stars, $25

Nautilus Marlborough Pinot Gris 2021, 5 stars, $29