Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


What's in my glass this week - White Rioja and Pinot Gris

If you love wine, want to know a little more about it but don't have the bandwidth to do a night course, a day course or sign up to serious, qualification based study, what do you do?

One of the best places to have fun while you learn about wine is Winetopia. Organiser and owner of the event, Rob Elliott, devised Winetopia with a fun approach to wine knowledge in mind and I am pleased to announce today that I will be part of the team again for the fourth (or is it the fifth?) year running. The event took place for the first time in 2016 and it is a real honour and privilege to be part of the team.

So, if you love wine and want to learn a little more about it, without having to take the plunge into deep waters of study, join the winemakers, chefs and writers, such as yours truly, at this year's Winetopia.

Buy Winetopia tickets and learn more here: 

What I'm drinking this week

Both days and nights are blustery in Martinborough at the moment. The small rural town that I call home is one of the top regions for high quality Pinot Noir in New Zealand, albeit with wines produced on a relatively small scale. This means that the white interloper is never far away. We're talking Pinot Gris. 

I have not always had the most sympathetic view of Pinot Gris but even I have to admit that the quality, style and price of Pinot Gris is rising in stature, both in New Zealand and the world at large. Three convincing good quality new examples tasted this week prove that energy can shine in wine made from Pinot Gris grapes. I have chosen an outstanding version as one of my wines of the week, see below. This week has been mainly about Pinot Noir, which I am tasting for my annual report in Drinksbiz magazine - more on that later.

This week also offered a chance to get reacquainted with an interesting dry white from Spain's most famous wine region, Rioja. The wine is called Nivarius, which is an esoteric dry white made from Tempranillo Blanco. Yes, that is a thing and this is a fantastic example of it.

Wines of the week


2022 Nivarius RRP $23.99

If it's possible to beat this level of drinkability with layers of complexity for less than $25, please let me know. This 100% Tempranillo Blanco is made with grapes grown on vineyards in Albelda de Iregua and Montes de Clavijo, at an elevation of over 700 metres above sea level, which means cool nights enable grapes to retain freshness and depth in a textural, dry white with the body and flesh of a Chardonnay and interestingly savoury flavours from the first aroma to the last lingering sip. 

Available from specialist wine stores


2023 Jules Taylor Pinot Gris RRP $29.99

Jules Taylor is well known for her love of Sauvignon Blanc and she produces it at a high quality level, without a high price tag, but this Pinot Gris is another story. This wine has zingy flavours, a zesty charm and purity of taste in every delicious sip. Here is a Pinot Gris that elevates the grape, without running roughshod over its innate lightness.