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Great Wine Values: Loveblock Pinot Gris

Oceans of unassuming Italian Pinot Grigio have led wine drinkers to lower their expectations of this grape.

As grapes go, pinot gris is an odd duck. It is often pigeonholed as a bland lightweight white, thanks to its most popular iteration. Oceans of unassuming Italian pinot grigio have led wine drinkers to lower their expectations of this grape. But when this heavy-cropping vine of French origin is managed for flavor and balance rather than exploited for volume and efficiency, it can produce wines of startling depth and character, as with this delicious jewel from New Zealand. Genetically speaking, pinot gris is a mutant — a pale-skinned variant of red pinot noir in which one of the genes that control purple color is missing. It takes its name, literally the “gray pinot,” from the uneven shading of its berries, which are neither deep purple like pinot noir nor bright green like pinot blanc, but instead offer a dizzying range of unexpected colors like brassy gold or dusty lavender, sometimes within the same bunch. The keys to the commercial success of pinot gris in Italy are the vine’s productivity and the weirdly low acidity of its grapes, which allow vintners to dramatically reduce production cost by harvesting bumper crops very early, before grapes are fully ripe. But when this grape is pruned to reduce yields and ripened fully in a cold climate that preserves natural acidity, the results are spectacularly flavorful. This wine makes a perfect example, practically oozing with lively flavors of cantaloupe and kiwi, passionfruit and pear.

Loveblock Pinot Gris, Marlborough, New Zealand. $17.99 (regularly $19.99; sale price through Sunday. PLCB Item #2532.