Fans of New Zealand sauvignon blanc can be fiercely loyal to that one style of white. If that’s you, I’m glad you love your wine, but do be careful not to miss out on another grape variety which performs excellently in the land of the long white cloud.
Pinot gris is planted in both warmer regions of the north island and cooler areas of the south – it’s the country’s third most widely planted white grape (after sauvignon blanc and chardonnay). And it’s wonderful.
What makes New Zealand pinot gris so compelling is that it offers up very generously fruity flavours – think ripe apples, pears, quinces, tropical fruits – and can be somewhat honeyed and off-dry with a full creamy texture, yet in the best examples, it pulls up tight at the end with a citrus flourish, lifting the wine into delicious freshness. Yes, this is the same grape the Italians call pinot grigio, but New Zealand’s versions are far less bland, and more in line with the fatter, fuller style seen in Alsace, with extra added bright fruitiness, as is the usual Kiwi way.
It’s generally thought that New Zealand pinot gris from the north, and especially north-east Gisborne, is rather richer than the more zesty examples from cooler Marlborough and Nelson in the south island, but in reality winemaker decisions hold as much sway as geography, with lees ageing and stirring and barrel use some of their ploys.
These wines are a food matcher’s heaven. Try them with pork, especially roast pork (hot or cold) with apple sauce, glazed hams, creamy chicken pies and rich cheesy quiches. Or go down the seafood route and chill them for spicy white fish, chilli and prawn stir-fries or a luxurious fish pie. But do try them, even die-hard sauv blanc lovers, please.
Specially Selected Freeman’s Bay Pinot Gris 2022, Gisborne, New Zealand
12.5%, Aldi, £8.29
There’s a cocktail of juicy peaches, mangoes and yellow pears in Aldi’s version made from fruit grown in the east of the North Island. I found a very slight spritz too which will disappear with a few more weeks’ age, and a finish of citrus pith and zest. Decent introduction to the style.
Villa Maria Pinot Grigio 2022, East Coast, New Zealand
13%, Tesco, £10.75 or £9 for Clubcard holders until 9 October; Waitrose, £10.99 with 25% off six bottles of wine priced over £6 until 3 October, then reduced to £8.99 from 4-31 October
Deep golden version and although its flavours conjure up cooked orchard fruit – tinned pears, apple purée – it’s got zippy acidity that keeps it succulent and fresh. This is a terrific match for cold cuts of roast pork. (I’ve no idea why they label it “grigio” as it’s very much in the “gris” style…)
Waimea Pinot Gris 2022, Nelson, New Zealand
13%, Majestic, £12.99 or £10.99 as part of mixed six
The Nelson wine region is less famous than neighbouring Marlborough but it also produces fine aromatic whites, due to its equally bright sunny days and cooling sea breezes. I love this relatively dry pinot gris, with its crunchy green apples and pears, hint of more tropical passionfruit and long finish. Pan-fried white fish and ratatouille or homemade fish pie, please.
Opawa Pinot Gris 2022, Marlborough, New Zealand
13%, Ocado, £15.25, down to £13.75 until 3 October
Gorgeous gris, ripe and fairly full-textured and a complex mix of delicious fruits – I picked up apples, pears and quince with a zingy lime note streaked through it. Try this one with lightly spiced Asian fish or pork dishes. Opawa means “smoky river” in Maori; the vines are mainly in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley, South Island.
Astrolabe Province Pinot Gris 2022, Marlborough, New Zealand
13.5%, Waitrose, £15.99 with 25% off six bottles of wine priced over £6 until 3 October
Slightly off dry (and the helpful back label tells you this), with a honeyed scent and a compote of sweet yellow apples and pears. There’s a light bitter twist in here too – a grapefruit pithiness. Can also take on lightly spiced seafood; goes well with a rich cheese quiche too.