Dom Maxwell (Greystone, above left) and Emma Jenkins (above right) presented this masterclass on Pinot Gris from New Zealand. It’s a grape that has been neglected by wine geeks. This is because it is so often a grape used to please the masses, fashioning inoffensive Pinot Grigio-style wines with little personality. In New Zealand, it has done rather well: it’s a grape that is planted throughout the country. Emma pointed out that globally it’s a growth market and plantings have increased in New Zealand from 130 hectares in 2000 to 1100 in 2007. There are currently 2400 hectares in the country, which is roughly similar to Chardonnay. But Pinot Gris continues to increase! ‘A lot of people look down their nose at it,’ says Emma, ‘but it’s well suited to New Zealand.’ The variety has a tendency to acid drop, but with a cool growing season this can be managed. ‘It should be treated with a lot more care: it’s relatively easy to make an anodyne style, but people should do better with it,’ she concludes.
‘It is an exciting time for NZ Pinot Gris,’ says Dom Maxwell. ‘it hasn’t been here in quantity for very long. There has been an understanding of canopy management, getting the acid balance right through leaf removal and crop size. As the vines get a bit older beginning to see site differences.’
One of the areas Pinot Gris is doing well is in the natural and orange wine field, with people playing around with skin contact. ‘They are thick skins and you can pull a lot of structure from them,’ says Dom.
Here are my notes on the wines we tried.
Craggy Range Te Muna Vineyard Pinot Gris 2016 Martinborough, New Zealand
Light, clean, pure and textural with lovely freshness, a bit of grapiness and some stony citrus fruit. Very crisp and well balanced. 89/100
Kim Crawford Pinot Gris 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Rounded and a bit nutty with some grapiness. Simple, rounded and appealing with faint spicy hints. Nice fruit purity. 88/100
Jules Taylor Pinot Gris 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Fresh, lively, bright and fruity with a bit of grapefruit freshness and some smoky, spicy complexity. Quite mineral with a smooth mid-palate and a tangerine tang on the finish. 90/100
Nautilus Pinot Gris 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Pretty and pure with a lychee-like edge to the fresh fruit. Detailed and fresh with crisp table grape and some grapefruit characters. 89/100
Aronui Single Vineyard Pinot Gris 2016 Nelson, New Zealand
Lively and bright with a spicy lemon and grapefruit freshness backing up the smoky grape characters on the palate. Attractive and detailed, with a nice mineral finish. 90/100
Greystone Sand Dollar Pinot Gris 2015 Waipara Valley, New Zealand
Textured, pure and pretty with a slight nutty edge to the sweet pear and apple fruit. There’s a hint of smoky complexity here. This is all about the texture and fruit sweetness. 90/100
Seresin Pinot Gris 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Complex, nutty, appley with a lovely core of ripe pear fruit and some peach kernel notes. Lovely fruit here with nice precision and balance. Lovely complexity. 92/100
Greywacke Pinot Gris 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Really smoky, spicy and mineral with lovely precision to the textured pear, grape and melon fruit. Lively and bright on the finish with real weight on the mid-palate. The sweetness is beautifully integrated. 93/100
Gibbston Valley La Dulcinée Pinot Gris 2012 Central Otago, New Zealand
Spicy and textural with a complex apricot, honey and stony mineral character. Very detailed and expressive with lively grape and citrus fruit. Lots of interest here: flirts with reduction. 93/100
Prophet’s Rock Pinot Gris 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
Lovely nutty, spicy, pear and peach notes adding interest to the grape and citrus fruit. There’s a tightness on the finish but also some lovely depth on the mid-palate. So attractive with a serious side. 92/100
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Really interested in learning more about producers who are producing some Pinot Gris from New Zealand using extended skin contact. Any recommendations?