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Michael Cooper's top pinot gris picks for 2019

Fans of the easy-drinking white are rewarded by an abundance of choice.

What is it about pinot gris that explains its near 20-fold increase in vineyard area in New Zealand since 2000? How about the wine’s downright drinkability? Full-bodied and dryish, with gentle acidity and smooth, ripe but not assertive flavours, pinot gris tends to slip down very easily, drawing you back for a second glass … and maybe a third.

Akarua Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Gris 2018 ••••½

Full of youthful vigour, this is a basically dry style. It has mouthfilling body, good intensity of vibrant peach, pear and lychee flavours, shows a distinct touch of complexity and has a fractionally off-dry finish. $29

Allan Scott Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 ••••

Weighty and vibrant, with good depth, this wine is delicious young. Full-bodied (14% alc/vol), it has fresh, strong, pear-like aromas and flavours, hints of peaches and spices, and an off-dry finish. Fine value. $18

Clark Estate Blackbirch Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 ••••

This lively Awatere Valley wine is attractively scented and mouthfilling (13.9% alc/vol), with ripe stonefruit flavours, good vigour and intensity, fresh acidity and a dryish, finely balanced finish. $19

Blackenbrook Nelson Pinot Gris 2019 ••••½

This powerful wine (14% alc/vol) is still very youthful. It has strong peach, pear, lychee and spice flavours with a distinct touch of complexity, slight sweetness balanced by fresh acidity and a scented bouquet. $25

Dashwood by Vavasour New Zealand Pinot Gris 2019 •••½

This is a good buy. Full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), fresh and vibrantly fruity, it has plenty of ripe, peachy, slightly spicy flavour and a dryish finish. $16

Domain Road Defiance Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Gris 2018 ••••

Attractively scented, this single-vineyard wine was partly barrel-fermented. Full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with fresh, generous peach, pear and spice flavours, it is a vividly varietal, off-dry style. It has a distinct touch of complexity and very good delicacy, depth and harmony. $26

Ceres Swansong Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Gris 2018 ••••½

This single-vineyard wine is full-bodied (14.5% alc/vol), fleshy and fragrant, with concentrated, ripe stonefruit flavours, gentle spicy notes and an off-dry, creamy-textured finish. $28

Falconhead Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2018 •••½

Priced sharply, this is an attractively scented, mouthfilling wine (13% alc/vol), with good depth of vibrant peach, pear and lychee flavours, hints of spices and ginger and a dry, harmonious finish. $16

Greystone Waipara Valley North Canterbury Pinot Gris 2018 •••••

Already delicious, this is a sturdy wine (14.5% alc/vol) with intense stonefruit flavours, a vague hint of honey, and excellent complexity and harmony. Made in a medium-dry style, it’s certified organic. $29

Hãhã Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2019 ••••

Offering excellent value, this attractively scented, mouthfilling wine (13% alc/vol) is vibrantly fruity and smooth. It has peach, pear and spice flavours, with very good vigour and depth, and an off-dry finish. $18\

Esk Valley Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2019 ••••½

Showing strong personality, this partly barrel-fermented wine is freshly scented and full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), with strong, vibrant, pear-like flavours, hints of lychees and spices, a touch of complexity, balanced acidity and a dryish, lingering finish. $20

Hawkshead Central Otago Pinot Gris 2018 •••••

This classy Gibbston wine is currently delicious. Fragrant and fleshy (13.5% alc/vol), it has concentrated, ripe, peachy, slightly spicy flavours and a very harmonious, dry, lasting finish. $29

Mahi Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 ••••

This Awatere Valley wine is fully dry. Freshly scented, it is lively and mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), with citrusy, spicy, slightly peachy and nutty flavours. It has a touch of barrel-ferment complexity and a crisp finish. $22

Martinborough Vineyard Te Tera Pinot Gris 2019 ••••

Offering good value, this is a fragrant, fleshy, weighty wine (14% alc/vol), with generous, ripe, peachy, slightly spicy flavours and a dry, slightly creamy finish. $20

Maude Central Otago Pinot Gris 2018 ••••½

This highly attractive, partly barrel-fermented wine is full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), with strong, peachy, citrusy flavours, hints of pears, apples and spices and a finely poised, dry finish. $27

Hunter’s Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 ••••

Drinking well now, this is a freshly scented, mouthfilling wine (13.5% alc/vol), with strong, peachy, citrusy, slightly spicy and gingery flavours that are dry and persistent. $20

Mills Reef Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2019 •••½

Made for very easy drinking, this fresh, lively, fruity wine is full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with very good depth of pear and spice flavours, and an off-dry finish. $19

Misha’s Vineyard Dress Circle Central Otago Pinot Gris 2018 •••••

This lovely young wine was made in an off-dry style. Highly scented, with mouthfilling body (14% alc/vol), it has vibrant flavours of pears, peaches, apples and spices and excellent delicacy, depth and harmony. $28

Mount Brown Estates North Canterbury Pinot Gris 2018 ••••

Offering great value, this fragrant, softly textured wine is full-bodied (14% alc/vol), with strong peach and pear flavours, slightly spicy notes, gentle acidity and an off-dry finish. It’s already drinking well. $16

Jules Taylor Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 ••••½

This attractive, fully dry wine is fragrant and full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), with strong pear, apple and lychee flavours, gentle spicy notes, a distinct touch of complexity and a smooth, lingering finish. $23

Mount Riley Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 ••••

Fragrant and full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), this is a great buy. It has strong pear and spice flavours, a touch of barrel-ferment complexity and a smooth, off-dry finish. $16

Sherwood Estate Stoney Range Waipara Valley Pinot Gris 2019 •••½

Offering good value, this partly barrel-fermented wine is full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), with very satisfying depth of peachy, citrusy, slightly spicy flavours and a crisp, off-dry, finely balanced finish. $17

Spy Valley Single Estate Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 ••••½

Delicious young, this fragrant, weighty wine (14% alc/vol) is very harmonious, with rich, ripe stonefruit flavours, a hint of ginger, gentle acidity and an off-dry finish. $25

Main Divide North Canterbury Pinot Gris 2018 ••••

From Pegasus Bay, this is a consistently good buy. Full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), with a touch of sweetness and balanced acidity, it has strong, peachy, slightly spicy, vaguely honeyed flavours. $21

Starborough Family Estate Marlborough Pinot Gris 2019 ••••

Freshly aromatic and full of youthful vigour, this full-bodied wine (13% alc/vol) has strong, peachy, citrusy, spicy flavours, good complexity and a dryish, crisp finish. $20

Terrace Edge North Canterbury Pinot Gris 2018 ••••½

Certified organic, this youthful Waipara wine is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with good intensity of ripe stonefruit flavours, a hint of honey and an off-dry finish. $25

Terra Sancta Mysterious Diggings Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Gris 2018 ••••

Enjoyable young, this freshly scented, full-bodied wine (13.5% alc/vol) is vibrant and smooth, with pear and spice flavours, balanced acidity and a basically dry, lingering finish. $24

Nautilus Marlborough Pinot Gris 2019 ••••½

Highly scented, this instantly appealing wine is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with concentrated, peachy, gently spicy flavours. It has excellent freshness, delicacy and harmony, and a dry finish. $30

The Crater Rim Waipara Valley Pinot Gris 2018 ••••

This powerful wine was fermented in old barrels. Light gold, it is sturdy (14.5% alc/vol) and slightly sweet, with strong, peachy, spicy, slightly nutty flavours. $22

Vavasour Awatere Valley Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 •••••

This refined, partly barrel-fermented wine is fragrant, vibrant and mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with strong peach and pear-like flavours, a hint of spices and a dryish, smooth finish. $23

This article was first published in the September 28, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.