Pinot Gris 'strongest challenger' to Sauvignon in NZ

Chris Losh

Chris Losh

17 February 2016

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.

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