Pinot Gris ‘strongest challenger’ to Sauvignon in NZ

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Drinks: Wines
Location: New Zealand

After years of trying to find a ‘second’ white variety that can make an impression, momentum in New Zealand seems to be building behind Pinot Gris.

Pinot Gris plantings have doubled in the last seven years, to around 2,700 hectares, making it the fourth most widely-planted grape in the country, after Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Plantings of Riesling, by contrast – thought by many to be the Next Big Thing – are falling. Chardonnay, too, is in gentle decline.

‘It’s a category that’s booming – we can’t get enough of it, domestically as well,’ says Simon Kelly, European director of sales for Yealands Estate.

In the past, winemakers have struggled to settle on a Kiwi style of Pinot Gris. ‘There were wines at 14% abv with 10 grammes of sugar,’ says Kelly. ‘But embracing the acidity helps us to make a drier style.

‘I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s the great white hope, but it’s certainly a delicious style. I’d say it’s the strongest challenger as a white alternative to Sauvignon Blanc,’ said Kelly.

Pinot Gris is now around 7% of all New Zealand wine production, which is still dominated by Sauvignon Blanc, at 70% of the total crush.

About Author

Chris Losh

After five years working on My Weekly magazine (during which time he learned how to write horoscopes and make things out of mince) in 1995 Chris Losh entered the world of drinks writing and, despite all advice from his doctor – and the wishes of most South African winemakers – has stayed there ever since. He began on Wine and Spirit International, editing it for several years before moving on to edit Wine Magazine. Both publications have since gone the way of the Dodo, but he claims to have nothing to do with their demise, and his alibi appears solid, since he was freelance writing for anyone who would pay him at the time. In 2007, he helped to set up both Imbibe magazine and the Sommelier Wine Awards, and has spent much of the last three years eating, drinking, and listening to French sommeliers talk about minerality. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Louis Roederer Feature Writer of the Year, but didn’t win. Perhaps he should have stuck to horoscopes. And mince.

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