Wine match: Pinot gris

You are never quite sure what you are going to get with pinot gris.

Less austere than sauvignon blanc, yet more expressive than chardonnay, it covers a multitude of sins, and a virtue or two.

We tend to produce a much "bigger" wine than the almost bone-dry pinot grigio served in Italy, but it can also be a bit overblown when there's insufficient acid to counteract the aromatic fruitiness and alcoholic intensity.

I've had pinot gris at 14% and beyond, which makes for a heavy wine which sometimes seems to acquire something of an oily mouthfeel as well.

The most successful examples of the genre are those in which the residual acid counterbalances and cuts through the fruit - and you end up with a lovely refreshing wine, redolent of pears and apples with hints of stonefruit.

The Central Otago labels tend to be a little on the expensive side - you'll get cheaper from Marlborough - but the cooler temperatures seem to help with the natural acidity and flavours.

Rockburn pinot gris has made an impression in the past and recently I've sampled the Lake Hayes Central Otago Pinot Gris 09 and found it to be a very pleasant wine (RRP $25).

Its full-bodied nature and tendency to aromatic expression means it's an excellent alternative to gewurtztraminer when there's a bit of spice in the accompanying food.

It won't be intimidated by a bit of heat.

Some white wines you don't want to chill to extremes for fear of suppressing the volatile flavours, but this is a wine you can serve well cold - particularly on hot summer days.


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