Category Archives: New Zealand Pinot Gris

Mar 03 2013

New Zealand Pinot Gris: The Kiwis master another white variety!

Posted on March 03, 2013 | By

Given the success of the Kiwis in winning world-wide acclaim for their sauvignon blanc, you can’t blame them for trying to show the rest of the world how to make great pinot gris!

Last week’s New Zealand Wine in A Glass tasting in Sydney gave me a wonderful opportunity to sample some of the very best examples of New Zealand pinot gris. While I confess that pinot gris is not one of my favourite wine styles (I’m a chardonnay and riesling lover) these wines were a revelation. Enticingly aromatic and delightfully clean and crisp, most of the wines I tried revealed an added layer of complexity that made for a very intriguing tasting.

Pinot Gris is starting to hit its stride in New Zealand for a few reasons:

  • As a relatively new variety in New Zealand (plantings have increased by 100% since 2006) only now are the vines beginning to gain a bit of age – an important attribute for adding complexity to the wines.
  • Most of the top examples are made by New Zealand’s family-owned and artisanal producers who tend to treat the variety with kid gloves. For pinot gris, in particular, carefully managing yields and keeping crop levels low are vital for insuring quality.
  • As happened with sauvignon blanc, winemakers are experimenting with new winemaking styles to increase complexity in their wines. Spy Valley, for example, makes its single vineyard label, the Spy Valley Envoy Pinot Gris in the Alsace-like vendange tardive style. The hand-picked grapes are fermented in old oak barriques and then aged on lees for seven months before blending and bottling. The resulting effect is a full-bodied slightly sweet palate of ripe stone flavours balanced by a lively acidity and a long spicy finish.

New Zealand pinot gris also represents excellent value for the quality. … Read the rest

Oct 10 2011

Masterclass with New Zealand’s Escarpment and Quartz Reef

Posted on October 10, 2011 | By

On Wednesday night I attended a masterclass hosted by two of New Zealand’s leading winemarkers: Larry McKenna of Martinborough’s Escarpment and Rudi Bauer of Central Otago’s Quartz Reef. Organised by and held at the very picturesque Coast restaurant in Cockle Bay, the evening proved a wonderful opportunity to sample pinot noir from the two most acclaimed wine regions for the variety in New Zealand.

Both winemakers have drawn on Burgundy for inspiration for their pinot noir. Their winemaking practices reflect the very best of Old and New World traditions as characterised by complete respect for their respective terroirs and a willingness to experiment with new ideas to improve the quality of their wines. Austrian born Rudi did several vintages in Burgundy, as well as California and at Rippon in New Zealand before starting Quartz Reef in 1996. Larry grew up in Adelaide, studied at Roseworthy College and worked in Europe and New Zealand before co-founding Escarpment in 1998.


Larry talked about how the winemaking philosophy of the renowned Burgundy estate Domaine Dujac has influenced his own approach. Dujac vinifies its pinot noir with little or no de-stemming of the grapes, with winemaker Jacques Seysses being convinced that it gives the wines greater complexity. Larry explained that he includes whole bunches in the fermentation for his pinot noir. The fruit for the 2009 vintage, for example, was a little riper than 2008, so a slightly higher percentage of whole bunches (approximately 40%) were used to enhance the wine’s complexity and tannin structure. The fruitier and more savoury perfume aromas of the Escarpment Pinot Noir 2009 made it our table’s choice over the more subdued but still very good 2008.

The Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown recently described Rudi’s winemaking style as “both understated and powerful.” Quartz Reef’s single vineyard … Read the rest