The other day I lamented that I was so over Pinot Gris. It's just that in this 2008 vintage I'm finding Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are providing so much flavour and expression whereas too many Pinot Gris are boring. So I thought I would pull all the wines I had of this currently less favourable varietal (to my palate) from the tasting box and wipe the slate clean.
There were 16 wines to taste and with wines from 6 different regions I asked Neil to ensure the first flight of six wines had one representative from each region. I've done it before and I was now doing it again - trying to see if anything in the wine would scream its place of origin, after all there was over 1000 kilometres, as the crow flies to separate the northern most from the southern most. There were wines that encompassed Waiheke Island in the north to Central Otago in the south, with Wairarapa, Marlborough, Nelson and Waipara in between. But after tasting the wines, as far as I was concerned no distinct expression of 'terroir' could be seen. As for my evaluation, some of the wines performed poorly and the three from the North Island gained scores that in a wine show would result in no award. However there was a definite highlight ….
Top wine from this multi-region tasting was the sole representative from Waipara - the Camshorn Waipara Pinot Gris 2008. It's subtle and clean and expresses what I call 'classic' Pinot Gris aromas and flavours of pears, apple and spice. It also had a lovely citrussy note coming through and a touch of vanilla bean too. It received my top score of the flight of 17.5/20.
Next to appear on the table was five wines from Marlborough, including the wine that was included in the multi-region flight. These wines were a mixed bag and with different styles of winemaking and sweetness levels, there was no "I am Marlborough" regional distinctiveness at all. I scored all these wines 16 points (bronze medals standard) or above and my top wine of this flight, with its first appearance in the tasting, was Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Pinot Gris 2008. I liked the complexity that a touch of wild yeast barrel ferment had added. There was something reminiscent of 'alternative' Sauvignon Blanc yet it retained classic Pinot Gris traits. I thought it mouthfilling, rich, delicious and long and awarded it 18.5/20.
Four wines from Nelson made up the next flight and as a group of wines, these were the most impressive - all the wines gaining at least 17 points out of 20 (silver medal standard), or more. But it was the Rimu Grove Nelson Pinot Gris 2008 that was awarded top score. It had extra complexity over the other contenders and pleased my palate the most on the day.
Last of all a fright (sic) of three Hawkes Bay wines and quite honestly, I couldn't get excited about any of them - but the top scoring wine was called back to the taste-off.
And so to that taste-off - there were four wines chosen but five were poured. Again tasted blind, they included the following Church Road Hawkes Bay Cuve Series Pinot Gris 2007 as top Hawkes Bay
Rimu Grove Nelson Pinot Gris 2008 as top from Nelson
Lawson's Dry Hills Pinot Gris 2008, my top rated wine from Marlborough
Camshorn Waipara Pinot Gris 2008 as the top from the 'other regions'
There was also Wild South Marlborough Pinot Gris 2008 as this was my husband's favourite of the Marlborough flight and he was in charge of pouring the wines.
We retasted and rescored and when it came to the top wine, there was no quibbling, there was no arguing, and there was no divergence of opinion. We both agreed that Rimu Grove Nelson Pinot Gris 2008 stole the show on the day .
Rimu Grove Nelson Pinot Gris 2008 is rich and concentrated with a toasty overlay. Biscuity notes on the nose carry through to the full-bodied, rounded palate. Fragrant and fruity with pear and apple, a hint of butterscotch or perhaps a "creme brulee topping", the pleasing flavours carry through and linger for a enjoyable aftertaste and with more time in the glass, florals emerge. When chilled, as tasted later, it is still amazing - chilling adds a refreshing crispness but it never loses it sensual texture.
Made from fruit grown in the Moutere Hill, this gorgeous Rimu Grove wine underwent 100% whole cluster pressing with 15% aged on its yeast lees in French oak barrels for 4 months and the remainder aged on its yeast lees in stainless steel. The finished wine has 13.5% alcohol and 12 grams per litre of residual sugar. It is very similar but just that little more complex than what turned out to be its sister wine, Rimu Grove Bronte Pinot Gris 2008. The Bronte has just 10% barrel aging and slightly lower alcohol in comparison.
So yes, Pinot Gris does have something going for it, but perhaps it is when it has a little assistance - like the subtle oak in some of my preferred wines.
Another thing I found over three days of tasting, is that the poorer performing wines tasted much better the second day - so a little decanting wouldn't hurt - but who ever thinks of decanting a new vintage white? Chilling also elevated the scores of many of the wines - including those from Hawkes Bay that didn't do so well in the first assessment.
When it comes to the bottom line with Pinot Gris it really depends on what people want. At a recent seminar I attended it was pointed out that one of the reasons consumers love Pinot Gris is because it is uncomplicated, it doesn't assault the palate with flavours and it goes well with food. So there you go. Buy it. Try it. And then - and only then, decry it.
PS. Looking back over my Wines of the Weeks, I see Rimu Grove Nelson Pinot Gris 2007 was a Wine of the Week as well. It's definitely not favouritism. It's the quality of the wine that comes through in a blind (i.e.label hidden) tasting.
Check out www.rimugrove.co.nz for more.
© Sue Courtney
17 Nov 2008