Does New Zealand Pinot Gris show regional typicity?
Are there distinctive characters in Pinot Gris from different parts of the country to differentiate the regions on taste?
To find out was the aim of the exercise as eight Pinot Gris wines from the 2006 vintage, from eight different regions were lined up and tasted off against each other. Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa, Marlborough, Nelson, Waipara, Waitaki and Central Otago were represented.
After the tasting I knew three things.
Firstly, 2006 was a good vintage for Pinot Gris in New Zealand across all the regions tasted. I would award every one of the wines tasted, a medal.
Secondly, there is varietal typicity but no regional typicity. Many of the wines expressed similar characters of pip fruit and stone fruit with low to medium acidity and a soft texture. Some were herbal, citric and a little savoury or herbal on the finish, others were fruity and floral. But there were no distinctive characters that jumped out of the glass to identify a wine as being from a particular region. What they varied in was their sweetness levels and their richness and power. The variations were winemaking derived.
Thirdly, in most cases, if Pinot Gris has a screwcap closure, it needs decanting to bring out its best. That is because some of the wines, where the aromas were muted, were so much more expressive the second day. But leaving a wine to try on a second day is not real world behaviour. Normal people open a wine to drink it right there and then. So by sloshing it into a jug and giving the wine a bit of air in the process, you are doing both the wine and your enjoyment of it, a favour.
So I liked all the wines, but I tasted them twice - without food, and then with food. There were a couple of front runners in the initial tasting. This was quite simply because the wines had richness, power and lots and lots of flavour. They were thoroughly enjoyable drinks without any food at all.
Top wine of the initial tasting was Johanneshof Trocken/Dry Pinot Gris 2006 from Marlborough. Rich, ripe and luscious, it was the deepest in colour of all the wines. Spicy and aromatic with stewed pears and hints of rose musk, a lovely seam of apricot gives it a hint of a Viognier character and it finishes with lifted apricot and citrus with a slightly nutty influence and a bone dry aftertaste. I thought it absolutely fascinating. It's sealed with a Diam technical cork, carries 14.4% alcohol by volume and has an RRP of $26.
Huntaway Reserve Gisborne Pinot Gris 2006 from Gisborne was also rather flirty, perhaps because it had 12% Gewurztraminer in the blend. That enhanced the richness and flavour of this fresh, lively, perfumed, sweetish wine - although with just 6.6 grams per litre of residual sugar, it was technically dry. Ripe and rounded with butter caramel, honeyed peaches, soft acidity and a long, rich finish, I think in the real world it would be outstanding with a little chilling. Sealed with a screwcap, it carries 14% by alcohol and costs about $21.95.
But after I had tasted the wines with food, another front runner emerged, and although initially it lacked the excitement of some of the others, it opened up beautifully in the glass. It is one of the wines that needs decanting to bring out its best if you are just going to have it as a drink. It showed that so well the second day.
It was the Camshorn Glenmark Gravels Pinot Gris 2006 from Waipara. Pale in colour, it had a fruit salad aroma of reasonable intensity for Pinot Gris - even without decanting. Later it became quite spicy and floral. A little sweetish in the palate, quite fruity, like Watties Fruit Salad of old with apples, pears, lots of peach a touch of pineapple and that one glace cherry that everyone fights over. There's a herbaceous twang to the finish and a touch of limey citrus to balance the fruit sweetness. It reminded me of biting into a juicy, just ripe pear from one of the trees in my back yard. It has 10 grams per litre of residual sugar and 13% alcohol by volume. It is sealed with a screwcap and costs about $23.95 a bottle.
We matched the wine to a fennel seed and citrus zest encrusted fillet of pork, served with a fresh pear and fennel bulb sauce. The pears were off our tree and they were so juicy and sweet, the whole dish could have been better with a sweet wine, despite the addition of fennel and citrus zest.
This is why the drier wines didnít really work as accompaniments - and most of the wines were technically dry. But as well as the Camshorn Pinot Gris being outstanding with this dish, the Huntaway Reserve Pinot Gris and the Lake Hayes Central Otago Pinot Gris also starred too.
My favourite Johanneshof Dry/Trocken Pinot Gris, just didnít work.
Another dish and another wine could have come out tops. That's just the way it works.
So here are the rest of the wines in the tasting - and all, as I said before, are recommended
Morton Estate Hawkes Bay Private Reserve Pinot Gris 2006
Quite dry, well-made, distinctly Pinot Gris aromas and warm, textural, spicy flavours of stonefruit and sweet baked pears with hints of vanilla. Just off dry. 13.8% alc.$22.95. Screwcap.
Gladstone Wairarapa Pinot Gris 2006
Fairly neutral steely aroma with hints of strudel pastry, interesting complex, layered palate with earthy nuances and a slightly grainy texture, nashi pear, hints of tangelo, a touch of anise and a high-toned citrussy finish with hints of creaming soda and baked apples. Fascinating wine with a hint of oak and a character that some people would call 'minerally'. 2.9 g/l rs. 14% alc. $27.00. Screwcap.
Anchorage Nelson Pinot Gris
Quite neutral, steely, pear drop aroma but excellent fruit weight in the clean, refreshing, bright palate that is full of lovely tangelo-like citrussy flavours with perhaps a hint of lime, herbs and hints of apples. Spicy and lightly oily with nashi pear flavours filling out the finish, it has lovely varietal typicity. 4.5 g/l rs. 13% alc. $20.00. Screwcap.
Ostler Waitaki Valley Audrey's Pinot Gris 2006
Unfortunately marred by smoky sulphides on the nose and in the palate, a common trait of Italian Pinot Grigio but beneath all this it's rich and powerful with a slick oily texture, a spicy backbone and apricot the dominant fruit.
Treated with a 10c coin (see my blog), it becomes floral and perfumed with hints of bees wax and the taste is bright and fruity, full of pear and tropical guava, building to a long creamy finish. 13% alc. $32.00. Screwcap.
Lake Hayes Central Otago Pinot Gris 2006
Fairly neutral aroma at first but later spicy and sherbetty, it tastes quite dry with a spicy, citrussy backbone and is rather neutral and mouth puckery until a bubble bursts to bring an explosion of juicy vibrant stonefruit and a rich, spicy, slightly honeyed finish. 6.8 g/l rs. 13.5% alc. $25.00. Screwcap.
© Sue Courtney
19 Feb 2007