The Best Pinot Gris in New Zealand 2023

, from Issue #108. May 08, 2023
The Best Pinot Gris in New Zealand 2023

From vibrant and zesty, to notes of sweet botanicals, our judges round up the best pinot gris in Aotearoa. 

People are always making predictions in the New Zealand wine industry. One day consumers might want to drink wine in restaurants or buy their wines in bottles as opposed to flagons. No, really? Muller Thurgau is doing just nicely thanks, but this new-fangled sauvignon blanc won’t have much of a future. Screwcaps will never take off, but viognier will be the next big thing. People will never go back to wanting big, buttery chardonnay and pinot gris? Meh, can’t see it lasting. As the decades roll along it’s exciting to see what sticks and what doesn’t. Yet, judging by the whopping 103 entries received for our latest, erm, judging, it looks like pinot gris is still steaming ahead in the quality and popularity stakes. In all the pinot gris tastings we’ve held over the last eleven years, we’ve never had so many gold medals awarded. Fourteen to be exact! And while Central Otago and Marlborough tended to dominate, our judges were thrilled to see heavy metal also going to Waiheke Island, Hawke’s Bay, Martinborough and Waipara, North Canterbury. 

As with all our dish panels, the wines are tasted blind and served under strict competition conditions by head steward Maxime Cavey and the expert team at the Eastern Institute of Technology’s Viticulture & Wine Science programme and we were itching to launch into it. 

Our team were looking for clean purity of flavour, freshness, energy and personality and we got that in spades. Entries were spread across the 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 vintages and clearly there was pixie dust and unicorn fluff floating around the vineyards during those years because there has never been a dish tasting panel where 91 percent of the entries came away with a medal. 91 percent! If anything, pinot gris is one of those wines that judging panels at competitions are extra tough on because it’s such a huge consumer category. So, it was incredibly exciting to tally up the scores across the board. 

And now here we are, introducing our votes for the best pinot gris’ in Aotearoa! 

1. Mt Difficulty Central Otago Pinot Gris 2022 ($26.99) – Gold Medal

If balance, texture and delicious dryness in your pinot gris gets you up and dancing, then this new release from the maestros at Mount D will definitely bring a bit of disco to your tastebuds. Simon loved its creamy complexity, while Barry was bowled over by its baked apple and spiced peach punchiness and excellent length and weight. Cleansing and incredibly satisfying it should be in your fridge now!

2. Villa Maria Seddon Marlborough Pinot Gris 2021 ($29.99) – Gold Medal


A splash of wild fermentation in older oak barrels and a six-month stint resting on
its lees definitely enriched the complexity and deliciousness of this gris. Barry loved its barley and praline notes, Simon its youthful, luscious freshness and Yvonne was entranced by its enticing apple strudel spices and summer flowers on the nose, followed by its ripe yellow plum plushness on the palate. 

3. Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Gris 2019 ($32) – Gold Medal 

“I love the rich, toasty complexity in this maturing wine,” said Yvonne, “and its fig-like notes on the nose and nectarine stone and spicy pear flavours on the palate.” Barry loved its edge of Harrogate toffee and toasted coconut characters. At 14.5% alcohol it’s no wallflower, yet it’s silky, sublimely stylish and well and truly wowed our judges. Widely available. 

4. Mount Brown Estates Grand Reserve North Canterbury Pinot Gris 2021 ($22) – Gold Medal 

With its generous pear brûlée perfume and sweet almond layers, this juicy, generously proportioned pinot gris from North Canterbury definitely impressed. At 10% residual sugar, it oozed succulence yet had a fresh, frisky apricot and nutmeg note to finish. 

5. Te Kairanga Martinborough Pinot Gris 2022 ($25.99) – Gold Medal 

“Loving the vibrant citrus blossom freshness and delicious palate weight in this wine,” gushed Simon, a sentiment backed up by Barry who also highlighted the beautiful, beeswaxy textures and softly-spiced finish. And such a long finish it has! Yvonne agreed it had huge staying-power on the palate and plushness for days. 

6. Saint Clair Family Estate Origin Marlborough Pinot Gris 2021 ($19.99) – Gold Medal 

This is super soothing, creamy-styled with a beautifully balanced style, according to Yvonne. “Mango, tropical fruits and an interesting play of acidity and textures,” added Barry. “It’s a structural wine with drive and fullness.” Superb! 

7. Man O’ War Vineyards Exiled Waiheke Island Pinot Gris 2022 ($29.99) – Gold Medal 

“Citrus-saturated and a total delight to drink,” gushed Yvonne. “This little bottle of wonderful will definitely wow the crowds.” “Tangy and sweet with fresh, vibrant aromatics,” agreed Simon, while Barry also found pineapple and candyfloss characters to shimmy up to its zesty acidity. 

8. Prophet’s Rock Central Otago Pinot Gris 2021 ($35) – Gold Medal 

Here’s an ultra-lithe style with stonefruit and honeysuckle complexity, beeswax and nashi notes, and lovely lacy acidity. Simon said that this Central Otago stunner is also bursting with rich, creamy, moreish complexity and turns the volume right up to eleven. 

9. Church Road Gwen Hawke’s Pinot Gris 2020 ($24.99) – Gold Medal 

It was the classic quince, spiced pear and fantastic fennel and finely tuned cucumber notes which impressed Barry in this deliciously dry style. “I’m loving the pot pourri aromatics and the zesty freshness, too,” remarked Yvonne. Simon was also impressed by the youthful, vibrant, mineral- laced magic in this Hawke’s Bay star. 

10. Nanny Goat Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Gris 2022 ($35) – Gold Medal 

With its white peach and floral notes, this pinot gris got the ‘very pretty’ vote from Barry immediately. “Plump in the mid-palate, clean, crisp and fruity, it’s all here,” he said. Yvonne loved its zesty quince and fresh-cut nashi niceness, its apple intensity and delicious tension. Great stuff here! 

11. Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Pinot Gris 2021 ($24.99) – Gold Medal 

A ripe opulent style here from Villa Maria, with lovely freshness and creamy weight that impressed Simon from the first sip. Barry found fennel bulb and Tahitian lime layers while Yvonne was wowed by its spicy intensity, nutmeg and nashi notes and its extensive length of flavour. Very nicely made. 

12. Ayrburn Central Otago Pinot Gris 2022 ($32) – Gold Medal 

From a very new vineyard on the scene comes a pinot gris packed with generously spicy apple and pear strudel layers, cleansing acidity and lush, plush textures. Barry enjoyed its green melon, pear drop and candyfloss characters and its refreshingly crunchy palate. Lifted herbal notes lead to a lengthy, energetic finish. Yum! 

13. Mount Michael Central Otago Pinot Gris 2022 ($28.5) – Gold Medal 

Highly floral and showing subtle spice and herb layers typical of cooler climate pinot gris, it was a resounding “I love it!” from Yvonne. “Highly textural and heaving with poached quince, pear and green apple, it’s a stunner.” Simon agreed, stating it showed delicious drinkability and had a great future ahead of it. 

14. Two Rivers Phoenix Marlborough Pinot Gris 2022 ($25) – Gold Medal 

Stacked with summer flowers, anise, nashi and ginger-laced, soothing spices on the nose, this has a rich, creamy, leesy feel to it and roars with red pear notes on the finish. Refreshing yet richly structured, it’s a satisfying sip that’ll wow the crowds.