Saturday, January 12, 2013


I had to laugh reading Bill Ralston's column in the latest Listener. He relates how a neighbour dismisses Pinot Gris as 'cougar juice' for older ladies on the prowl.

Pinot Gris doesn't do it for me. It's Her Indoors favourite tipple and I enjoyed telling her of the 'older ladies on the prowl' jibe.

Years ago I did drink Pinot Gris. This was back in the days when white wine offerings from both Australia and New Zealand were a bit ordinary. Chardonnay was hardly planted, Riesling was scarce, Sauvignon Blanc hadn't been 'invented' and most whites were from hybrid or cloned varietals.

I drank some interesting Alsace Pinot Gris known as Tokay (when good Riesling or Gewurztraminer couldn't be found) and even Hungarian Pinot Gris known as Szurkeberat. I tended to steer clear of German variants known as Rulander as there was always good German Riesling to be had.

Pinot Gris is an ancient varietal first recognized in Burgundy would you believe although they had the good sense to chuck it in favour of Chardonnay years ago. It made its way North and East sponsored by that old nancy boy and fraudster Charles IV. He drank a bit (but who wouldn't if your wife's name was Blanche) and took Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir to the even colder climes. Pinot Noir wasn't successful but Pinot Gris took off like a weed.

In the 1980's when we started to see some better Pinot Gris in New Zealand I used to buy Dry River's version from Martinborough. It was rich and spicy and drank and kept well. In later days I have found this too viscous and cloying and don't drink it even when offered a glass.

There is a surfeit (to me) of Pinot Gris in New Zealand, mostly bland innocuous stuff. There doesn't seem to be any consistent styles with some producers varying the alcohol and sugar levels each year (although the same could be said of Riesling).

There are some better ones emerging now that have a better acid and mineral structure sort of like a good Riesling ......... but, why not just buy and drink Riesling, New Zealand's best and most underrated white wine.

 Lean, sinuous, flinty, rich refreshing and satisfying. Better with a bit of age........ sort of like a cougar.

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