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Archive for September, 2010

Since launching our first vintage of Pinot Gris into the Taylors Estate range in 2008, many people have asked the question – what is the difference between Gris and Grigio?  The answer can be both simple and complex. 

 The simple answer is that this is a case where a single varietal is going by two names, so they are identical in the sense that they are made from the same grape variety (actually, as you will read later there are more than two).  The difference is in the spectrum of styles that can be crafted from this single variety. 

The names Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio mean ‘grey pinot’ in French and Italian respectively.  The word ‘pinot’ means pinecone and refers to the fact that the grapes grow in small pinecone-shaped clusters and of course, ‘gris’ or ‘grigio’ means ‘grey’.  There seems to be considerable clonal variation within the varietal and whilst it normally has a greyish-blue appearance, it can also be brownish-pink, bronze-copper to black and even white.  Jancis Robinson, MW says that the variety hardly knows if it is a dark or light grape. It is generally accepted that the variety is a mutant of Pinot Noir.  Another, although separate, mutant of the Pinot Noir grape is Pinot Blanc but do not be confused as this is not the same as Gris or Grigio.  Still with me? 

Interestingly this variety is known by as many as 18 different synonyms depending on what part of the world you are from. For example, Tokay d’Alsace, Ruländer and Sivi Pinot to name but a few.  No wonder there is some confusion! 

In Australia, the variety – under the guise of both Pinot Gris and  Pinot Grigio – has really taken the wine market by storm.  In 2000, there was less than 200 tonnes of grapes produced whilst the latest industry figures from the 2009 vintage show a whopping 40,500 tonnes produced nationally.  The Riverina, Adelaide Hills, Mornington Peninsula, Tasmania and the Yarra Valley are where many of the larger plantings can be found.  Here in the Clare Valley, which is well suited to the variety, there were approximately 140 tonnes produced from the 2009 vintage with many producers, including ourselves planting more hectares. 

To further add to the confusion surrounding this variety here in Australia, it seems the winemaking approach can result in the wines (stylistically) being little schizophrenic.  In the ‘old world’ producer nations of France and Italy, the styles are well defined.  French Pinot Gris, typically from Alsace, tend to be rich, medium to full-bodied wines with quite a floral bouquet.  The Alsation Pinot Gris also tends to be a bit more spicy and smokey and unlike most other Pinot Gris, will age quite gracefully.  Conversely, the Italian Pinot Grigio style is a far leaner, crisp and light-bodied wine that often displays citrus characters with just a hint of spice and a short, clean finish to the palate.  In typical Aussie fashion, some Australian winemakers are not following these ‘Old World’ style guides and are making a ‘grigio-style’ wine and labelling it Pinot Gris or vice versa, depending on what they think is the more popular style.  

At Taylors, as always, we are crafting our Estate Pinot Gris to express the terroir of the vineyard site and the natural flavours of the grape.  Consequentially our wine exhibits robust and lifted pear aromas, with a touch of spice.  The palate is elegant with distinct flavours of pear and spicy baked apple.  There is great balance to the palate, which is medium-bodied in weight and finishes quite long on a pleasing soft and gentle note.  Going forward, our winemakers are keen to experiment with the use of oak to bring more complexity to our Taylors Estate Pinot Gris, which I’m sure will create further interest.  From a national perspective, there is still a great deal of experimentation going on and it may take several more years before the most favourable combination of terroir and winemaking approach emerges to produce the quintessential ‘Aussie’ Pinot Gris or Grigio.  In the meantime, this is when consulting the tasting notes for a wine before purchasing is well worth doing.

Look out for our new Promised Land Pinot Grigio in stores this September!

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Post-Vintage Tastings

On two separate occasions during July and August I spent a couple of days with our winemaking team undertaking our annual post-vintage tastings.

The first tasting, of the white wines, was in July and then we followed with the red wines in August. This is an internal ‘no holes barred’ assessment of our wines from the 2010 vintage and let me tell you, I was extremely excited by the quality of the wines. Utilising the capacity and gentle handling innovations incorporated into our new Jaraman cellar, our winemakers have managed to retain and enhance the high quality fruit provided to them by our dedicated vineyard team. Usually based on their vineyard source, the individual parcels of fruit taken in during vintage are given an initial range allocation and then any subsequent processing required to transform the grapes into wine is based on that allocation but each parcel is still kept relatively separate until these post-vintage tastings. The wine then undergoes a final ‘blind’ assessment and is allocated into ranges only if it meets our quality standards. Happily the wines usually do but we find that this ‘blind’ assessment keeps our winemaking free of complacency and ensures that our mantra ‘The wine is everything’ remains true from vintage to vintage.

Meanwhile in cellar door Megan reports that stocks of the St Andrews 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 are dwindling fast as visitors, keen to procure a piece of Taylors wine history, are snapping up this amazing wine for their collections.

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