NZ pinot gris 2012

Pinot gris found the going tough in the cool, challenging 2012 vintage.

by John Saker | Cuisine issue #157 | Friday, 22 February, 2013
Compared with the “spiritual home of pinot gris in Alsace, the region that gets France’s hottest summer peak temperatures, we simply didn’t get the heat last summer in New Zealand’’, says panel chair John Belsham. “Interestingly, our top wine was from Central Otago’s Alexandra Basin, home to this country’s hottest peak temperatures.” Judge Anna Flowerday notes that pinot gris also demands more effort in the vineyard if it is to fulfil its potential here. “It's about a harmony of elements," she says. “And it’s a variety we should excel at, but some of the lesser wines were out of whack.” Of 150 wines, only six were deemed worthy of four stars or more, with just one five-star rating.

The Tasting panel
Panel chair John Belsham, respected international judge and owner of Foxes Island Wines, Marlborough, was joined by Anna Flowerday, winemaker and co-owner of Te Whare Ra, Marlborough, and NZ Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas. Cuisine’s NZ wine writer John Saker was the associate judge (non-scoring).

1. Weaver Estate Pinot Gris 2012 (Central Otago) $27-$28 - 1-2
This relatively new family-owned label has produced a pinot gris of purity and finesse. “It’s not easy making a dry style and getting the balance right – here all the elements are in sync,” notes Anna Flowerday. Nashi pear, raspberry and stonefruit flavours are in good voice, the acoustics aided by ripe acidity in this svelte, pure wine. “A great match for that purity would be Cantonese food,” says Cameron Douglas. “It's an excellent yum cha wine." Winemaker Jess Weaver says the beauty of the wine is that it pairs well with anything fresh and summery – “from salads through to salmon and chicken”.

Jess Weaver is the first winemaker in a family that has a long association with the Alexandra Basin. Today, her brother Mark and parents Liz (also the face at the Weaver Estate cellar door) and Carey look after the vineyard, while Jess makes the wine at VinPro. She cut her teeth there under the experienced Carol Bunn after graduating from Lincoln in 2006. Recalls Carol, “Jess had natural talent, a great palate and a great attitude. She thoroughly deserves any success that comes her way.” A holiday in the Hunter Valley at 14 with family friends sparked Jess’s initial interest in wine as a career. She continues to work at VinPro for two months of the year over vintage then flies off for northern-hemisphere harvests. Oregon, Ontario, Austria and Germany are some of the stamps in her winemaking passport. Pinot gris was planted in 2008 in the Weaver vineyard on the Alexandra-Clyde Rd, not too far from the western head of the renowned Rail Trail. Jess says she is continually experimenting with the winemaking, in no year more so than in 2012. “I’m a huge chardonnay fan, so I wanted to get more texture, roundness and richness into the wine, rather than just apples and pears. We had to thin the crop a lot in 2012. I’m very happy with how that wine turned out.”

2. Giesen Marlborough Pinot Gris 2012 $19 - 1-2
In marked contrast in style to our top pinot gris, this big, bold, fleshy dry wine is generously flavoured with apple crumble, peach kernel and spice notes. Its weight would marry well with a dense fish, such as hapuku, served with a butter sauce.

3. Moncellier Pinot Gris 2011 (Marlborough) $23-$29 - 1-2
Looking very bouncy and vibrant for a 2011, this wine is a concentrated mouthful. Red apple and pear-drop characters make strong, sweetish statements and a spicy edge adds interest. “There’s good balance between the sweetness and the acidity,” says Cameron Douglas. [B]

Brancott Estate Special Reserve Marlborough Pinot Gris 2012 $29 - 1-2
This wine lands on your palate like a big fat pear drop, sending out waves of rich fruitcake and pear flavours. It’s a lovely effusive ripe style, with plenty of textural firmness and fine length. It would make an ideal partner for a ceviche dish served up chocker with lime and mangoes. [A]

Shingle Peak Reserve Pinot Gris 2012 (Marlborough) $15-$22 - 1-2
Weight and texture are this sharply priced wine’s trump cards. A generous serving of ripe fruit delivers nashi pear, quince and spice notes, all wrapped in an attractive sweet warmth. A style perfectly suited to accompany snapper or tuna sashimi. [B]

Villa Maria Private Bin East Coast Pinot Gris 2012 $22 - 1-2
This focused dry style from Villa Maria delivers a lot (typically) for the price, using fruit from the eastern coasts of Marlborough, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay. Pure pear and red apple flavours are balanced by a layer of minerally complexity and the texture is rich and plush.

See here for wines awarded three stars in Cuisine’s 2012 NZ pinot gris tasting.

To source wines listed contact the distributor, indexed by letter.
[A] Pernod Ricard NZ, ph: 09-336 8300
[B] Treasury Wine Estates, ph: 0800-367 837


Tasting method
All wines are tasted blind. If, after discussion, the tasters do not agree on a star rating, the wine will receive the rating given by the majority but dissenting comments will be included in the wine notes. The scores of winemaker judges cannot exceed those of other judges.

All wines entered in Cuisine tastings must be readily available at the time of publication. However, high demand and a six-week lead time between tastings and publication can affect availability. If you cannot find
the wines, contact the winery or distributor direct.

Suppliers are asked to provide a retail price range for all wines entered in tastings. Prices do vary between vineyard and low-to-high volume outlets and cannot, therefore, be guaranteed. All prices are quoted in $NZ.

Recommended by Cuisine stickers
Look for these top wines as your guarantee of quality.

Gold sticker - Wines awarded five stars can wear the gold five-star Recommended by Cuisine sticker.
Burgundy sticker - Wines awarded 4 1/2 and four stars can display the original Recommended by Cuisine sticker.


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