Wine can be divided into two types: oyster wine and mashed-potato wine. We either love or hate oysters, there is no middle ground, while mashed potato is all middle ground. Riesling is an example of a “love it or hate it” wine, while pinot gris is a classic mashed-potato wine. 

It is a safe choice. It rarely makes my pulse race but is a good choice if you must order a wine that will suit diverse tastes. What’s not to like? 

Pinot gris ranked fourth in terms of production from this year’s vintage, behind sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and chardonnay. It was 27% down on the previous year, which could affect export sales, where it ranks third. The drop in production may also result in shortages on the domestic market. The 2021 vintage was generally excellent in terms of quality, if not quantity. I strongly recommend you buy now while stocks last. 

Pinot gris is showing steady growth, which leads some to speculate that it could become “the next big thing” in the unlikely event that sauvignon blanc falls out of fashion. 

What should good pinot gris taste like?

A winemaker once told me that making pinot gris was like painting a picture using only white paint. The challenge is to amplify the grape’s subtle flavours. That can be achieved by allowing the juice and skins to spend a little time together before being pressed and fermented. Unfortunately, that can result in the extraction of tannins, which tend to make the wine slightly “grippy”. Astringency can be masked by leaving a small amount of unfermented residual sugar in the wine. 

A good pinot gris will have gentle fruit and floral flavours such as honeysuckle, pear, quince and apple. It will achieve a perfect balance between subtle sweetness and refreshing acidity. It should never be bitter.

What is the best food to match with pinot gris?

Pinot gris is a colour mutation of pinot noir, with which it shares other characteristics, including being food-friendly. It matches a wide range of dishes but, unlike pinot noir, can suit moderately spicy dishes such as Thai curries. 

Does pinot gris improve with age?

There may be exceptions but I think pinot gris should be enjoyed within four years of vintage while it is at its freshest best. 

Which region makes the best pinot gris?

That’s a hard one to answer because regional styles vary so much that it is like comparing apples and pears. Pinot gris in the northern regions tends to be more lush and floral than the tighter, tauter, crisper wines in the more southerly regions. 

Top 10 pinot gris

Dry River 2020 Pinot Gris, Martinborough, $65
This must surely be the country’s top pinot gris. Rich, fleshy wine with impressive concentration and exotic tropical fruit and ripe stone-fruit flavours, with ginger, spice, oyster shell and hazelnut characters. Creamy textured with a lingering finish. Complex wine with an exciting future. Stockist: Moore Wilson’s, Wellington.

Domain Road 2020 Defiance Pinot Gris, Central Otago, $27
Bright, fresh pinot gris with poached-pear, quince, floral/honeysuckle and bready yeast lees flavours. An initial hint of sweetness is balanced by fruity acidity to give the wine a mouth-cleansing and moderately dry finish. Stockist: Wine Freedom, Otago.

Villa Maria 2020 Single Vineyard Seddon Pinot Gris, Marlborough, $29.99
Rich, almost luscious pinot gris with ripe peach/tree fruit, mixed spice, floral/honeysuckle and brioche flavours. An initial hint of sweetness helps promote a silken and sumptuous texture, although the wine finishes dry. Stockist: The Good Wine Co., Auckland.

Martinborough Vineyard 2021 Te Tera Pinot Gris, Martinborough, $22.99
Dry, weighty, silken-textured pinot gris with classic pear, apple and honeysuckle flavours supported by gently tangy acidity. Satisfyingly rich, fruity wine with a pleasantly lingering finish. Stockist: Moore Wilson’s, Wellington.

Astrolabe 2021 Kekerengu Coast Pinot Gris, Marlborough, $30
Delicious pinot gris with power, purity and precision. Tree fruit/pear/apple flavours with a subtle seasoning of clove/spice characters supported by taut acidity which gives the wine energy and a lengthy finish. Stockist: Astrolabe, Marlborough.

The Ned 2021 Pinot Gris, Marlborough, $18.99
Pink-tinted pinot gris with floral/honeysuckle, pear and ripe-apple flavours supported by juicy acidity. Smooth-textured wine with a backbone of crisp acidity. Lovely purity and drive. Stockist: The Good Wine Co., Auckland.

Eradus 2021 Awatere Valley Pinot Gris, Marlborough, $19.99
Crisp, fresh and flavoursome pinot gris with typical pear and apple flavours. An initial hint of sweetness is balanced by tangy acidity to leave a pleasantly dry, mouth-watering finish. Stockist: The Good Wine Co., Auckland.

Trinity Hill 2021 Pinot Gris, Hawke’s Bay, $24.99
Vibrant, high-energy pinot gris with apple, lime juice and honeysuckle flavours and a hint of clove/spice. An interesting mix of concentrated fruit and savoury/nut/ginger characters. Stockist: Advintage, Hawke’s Bay.

Grasshopper Rock 2021 Pinot Gris, Central Otago, $27
Off/dry pinot gris with mandarin-blossom, honeysuckle, pear and ripe-apple flavours. An initial suggestion of sweetness is balanced by fruity acidity to give a gentle, dry and mouth-watering finish. Stockist: Caro’s, Auckland. 

Neudorf 2020 Home Block Moutere Pinot Gris, Nelson, $33
Dry and moderately intense pinot gris with nashi pear, apple and a suggestion of honeysuckle, supported by a backbone of fine tannins that are perfectly balanced by an almost subliminal sweetness. Stockist: By the Bottle, Auckland.

Read more from Bob at