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The best white wines that aren't pinot gris

It’s time to branch out from the usual wine styles in New Zealand.

Sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot gris dominate our white-wine consumption. But don’t miss out on the wines from several other highly distinctive grape varieties grown here. In Europe, they are celebrated as regional classics.


Coopers Creek Select Vineyards Bell-Ringer Gisborne Albariño 2019 ••••½

Fresh, lively and full-bodied, this wine has strong citrusy, peachy, spicy flavours and a dry, finely poised finish. Although age worthy, it has great drinkability in its youth. (13% alc/vol) $22

Nautilus Marlborough Albariño 2019 •••••

Invitingly scented, this vibrantly fruity, gently spiced wine is mouthfilling, with a slightly salty streak and a crisp, dry, persistent finish. A great all-purpose wine. (13% alc/vol) $30

Sileni Grand Reserve Advocate Hawke’s Bay Albariño 2018 ••••½

This powerful wine was grown in the Bridge Pā Triangle. Sturdy, it has generous peachy, spicy flavours and a fully dry, crisp, lasting finish. (13.5% alc/vol) $25

Chenin blanc

Astrolabe Marlborough Chenin Blanc Demi-Sec 2019 ••••½

Full of drink-young charm, this attractively scented wine is fresh and vibrant, with ripe peach and pear flavours, moderate acidity and a sliver of sweetness. (13.5% alc/vol) $25

Forrest Marlborough Chenin Blanc 2018 ••••½

This harmonious wine was handled in tanks and barrels. Fresh and lively, it has citrusy, peachy flavours, showing a touch of complexity, balanced acidity and an off-dry finish. (12.5% alc/vol) $25

Mt Difficulty Long Gully Bannockburn Chenin Blanc 2018 ••••½

This single-vineyard wine is an off-dry style. Freshly scented and vibrantly fruity, it has peachy, citrusy flavours, showing excellent vigour, delicacy and length. (13.5% alc/vol) $34


Askerne Reserve Hawke’s Bay Gewürztraminer 2018 •••••

This striking wine is weighty, rich and rounded. It has concentrated peachy, slightly spicy and gingery flavours. It is slightly sweet, soft and lush. (14% alc/vol) $30

Greystone Waipara Valley North Canterbury Gewürztraminer 2018 •••••

Certified organic, this partly barrel-fermented wine is highly perfumed and softly mouthfilling, with deep stone-fruit and spice flavours, gentle sweetness and a rich, well-rounded finish. (14% alc/vol) $33

Loveblock Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2018 •••••

Offering top value, this intensely varietal wine is perfumed, weighty and rich, with concentrated, ripe, peachy, spicy flavours, a slightly oily texture and a smooth, gently sweet, lasting finish. (13.5% alc/vol) $22

Mount Riley Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2019 ••••

Perfumed and full-bodied, this bargain-priced wine is invitingly scented, with peach, lychee and spice flavours, showing a touch of complexity, slight sweetness and excellent depth. (14% alc/vol) $15

Pegasus Bay North Canterbury Gewürztraminer 2018 •••••

Full of personality, this off-dry wine was matured in old French oak barrels. Weighty and rich, it has concentrated peachy, spicy, slightly gingery flavours, a vague hint of honey and a complex, perfumed bouquet. (14% alc/vol) $30

Zephyr Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2019 •••••

Worth cellaring, this richly perfumed wine is full-bodied, with concentrated peachy, citrusy, spicy flavours, gentle acidity and a long off-dry, finely poised finish. (13.5% alc/vol) $28

Grüner veltliner

Hunter’s Marlborough Grüner Veltliner 2018 ••••

Drinking well now, this barrel-fermented wine is full-bodied and dry, with strong peachy, slightly spicy flavours, fresh balanced acidity and good complexity. (14% alc/vol) $25

Jules Taylor Marlborough Grüner Veltliner 2018 ••••½

Currently delicious, this mouthfilling wine has strong, fresh, peachy, spicy, slightly gingery flavours, lively acidity and a finely balanced, dry finish. (13% alc/vol) $25

Riverby Marlborough Grüner Veltliner 2018 ••••½

Attractively scented, this Wairau Valley wine is full-bodied, with strong, fresh, lively citrusy flavours, slightly peachy and spicy notes and a dry, harmonious finish. (13.5% alc/vol) $22

Rock Ferry The Corners Vineyard Marlborough Grüner Veltliner 2018 •••••

This estate-grown and partly barrel-fermented wine is classy. Medium-bodied, it has intense citrusy, slightly spicy flavours, showing impressive vigour and complexity and a dry, persistent finish. Certified organic. (12.5% alc/vol) $33

Pinot blanc

Blackenbrook Nelson Pinot Blanc 2019 ••••½

Estate-grown in Tasman, this attractively scented wine is vibrantly fruity and mouthfilling, with good intensity of peach, pear, lychee and spice flavours and an off-dry finish. A distinctive Alsace-style wine. (13.5% alc/vol) $28

Greenhough Hope Vineyard Nelson Pinot Blanc 2016 •••••

Certified organic, this refined wine was barrel-matured for 18 months. Fragrant and full-bodied, it has rich, vibrant stone-fruit flavours, gently seasoned with oak, moderate acidity and a dry, smooth finish. (13.5% alc/vol) $36

Tohu Single Vineyard Whenua Awa Upper Awatere Marlborough Pinot Blanc 2018 ••••½

Full-bodied, this partly barrel-fermented wine has a fragrant, creamy bouquet, ripe stone-fruit flavours, slightly toasty notes, balanced acidity and excellent depth. (13.5% alc/vol) $36


Aurum Central Otago Dry Riesling 2018 ••••½

This youthful wine is mouthfilling, with fresh peachy, citrusy flavours, a sliver of sweetness and firm acid spine. Showing excellent weight and intensity, it’s well worth cellaring. (13% alc/vol) $28

Dashwood by Vavasour Marlborough Riesling 2019 ••••

Offering top value, this light-bodied wine is attractively scented, with vibrant citrusy, slightly appley flavours, gentle sweetness, appetising acidity and very good delicacy, depth and harmony. (11% alc/vol) $16

Two Paddocks Central Otago Riesling 2018 ••••½

Estate grown near Alexandra, this is a weighty, fleshy full-bodied riesling. Ripely scented, it is powerful with concentrated citrusy, peachy flavours, a sliver of sweetness and lively acidity. Certified organic. (13.5% alc/vol) $33


Kaimira Estate Brightwater Semillon 2009 ••••

Here is a rare chance to buy a New Zealand white wine that is more than a decade old. Estate grown in Nelson, it is highly fragrant, with citrusy, limey flavours, toasty bottle-aged notes adding complexity and a fully dry finish. (12.5% alc/vol) $25


Passage Rock Reserve Waiheke Island Viognier 2019 ••••

Full of personality, this barrel-matured wine has a slightly creamy, nutty bouquet. Weighty and fleshy, it has concentrated, ripe stone-fruit flavours, oak complexity and a rich, fully dry finish. (14% alc/vol) $50

Johner Estate Gladstone Viognier 2018 ••••½

Enjoyable young, this mouthfilling, vibrant wine has good intensity of stone-fruit flavours, a subtle twist of oak and a fully dry, very harmonious finish. (13% alc/vol) $26

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawke’s Bay Viognier 2018 ••••

Sturdy and sweet-fruited, this partly barrel-fermented wine offers top value. Full-bodied and vibrantly fruity, it has stone-fruit flavours, a distinct touch of complexity and a dry, rounded finish. (14% alc/vol) $19

Quarter Acre Hawke’s Bay Viognier 2018 •••••

This classy wine was hand-picked in the Bridge Pā Triangle. Seductively weighty and rich, it has lush stone-fruit flavours, finely integrated oak, gentle acidity and a long well-rounded finish. (13% alc/vol) $35


Seifried Nelson Würzer 2019 ••••

From a German crossing of gewürztraminer and müller-thurgau, this fresh, medium-bodied wine has citrusy, appley, gently spicy flavours. It is slightly sweet, crisp and finely balanced. (12.5% alc/vol) $25


Bellbird Spring Aeris NV •••••

This distinctive Waipara pinot gris was matured in old barrels under a veil of yeast, achieving its high alcohol through evaporation in cask. It has concentrated sherry-like aromas and flavours. Rich and complex, it has a long dryish, yeasty, nutty finish. (17.5% alc/vol – 500ml) $48

Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Awatere Valley PGR 2019 ••••

Blended from pinot gris, gewürztraminer and riesling (hence the PGR), this is a freshly scented, full-bodied wine with an array of fruit flavours and gentle spicy notes. Finely balanced, it is crisp and dry. (13.5% alc/vol) $23

This article was first published in the March 14, 2020 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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