Meet the winemaker

Winemakers on Australian pinot gris and grigio

By Halliday Promotion

22 Jun, 2023

We asked three winemakers what they love about pinot gris and grigio, and exactly how they make it their own.

Whether you call it pinot gris or pinot grigio the white wine is approachable, vibrant and versatile. While grigio is the Italian name, and gris the French, Australian expressions (which can be named gris or grigio), can range from light to medium in body and fresh to rich in flavour. The carefully balanced acidity in Australian gris and grigio means it can stand up against spicy food, but can also pair with your favourite seafood.

We asked three winemakers – Dave Whyte from Buller Wines, Vanessa Bagot from Barringwood Estate, and Michael Aylward from Ocean Eight – what makes their gris or grigio so special and exactly how they approach the winemaking process.

Dave Whyte

Dave Whyte – Buller Wines, Rutherglen VIC

H. What makes your pinot grigio unique?
DW. The Nook Pinot Grigio lets us step outside our comfort zone and experiment with a varietal that is not typically grown in the Rutherglen region. This vineyard is one of the older plantings in the King Valley, so it's interesting to see how the wine evolves with each vintage, and how it withstands changes in weather. We have also incorporated some barrel fermentation to add complexity to a style of wine that has the potential to be quite neutral at times.

H. How do you approach the winemaking process?
DW. We like to make a style of wine that is reflective of the region it comes from – pristine, crisp and clean. The King Valley is one of the highest grape growing regions in Australia, and its cool climate allows us to retain the crisp acidity of the wine while still holding an incredible fruit profile.

After producing this wine for a few years, we now understand the vineyard really well. We know the right time to pick and the right flavour ripeness under its growing conditions. The winemaking doesn’t change, but as the season changes, and from vintage to vintage, we will always pick according to fruit ripeness and flavour.

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Vanessa Bagot

Vanessa Bagot – Barringwood Estate, Tasmania

H. What makes your pinot gris unique?
VB. Our vineyard has a very mild climate, with summer temperatures rarely creeping over 28 degrees, which allows us to take our pinot gris through to full ripeness without losing its natural acidity, making it rich but with a wonderfully crisp backbone of cool-climate acidity.  

H. How do you approach the winemaking process?
VB. The key to our pinot gris is the fruit. Our long, slow ripening season allows us to hold the fruit on the vine longer to accumulate flavour, while retaining its natural acidity – meaning there is no need for additions in the winery to create a perfectly balanced wine.

Our wine is always dictated by the vineyard. Pinot gris is very disease prone and our site is very late to ripen so there can be hairy times in cool years. Sometimes the full, rich palate we aim for can be elusive, but I am yet to be less than pleased with the end result of our pinot gris. 

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Michael Aylward

Michael Aylward – Ocean Eight, Mornington Peninsula VIC

H. What makes your pinot gris unique?
MA. The vines grow on deep red soils that bring a softness that is noticeable in comparison to wines from other parts of the Mornington Peninsula. Our grapes ripen slower in comparison to the lower parts of the Peninsula, which can be riskier as they hang at the mercy of the elements. But it's worth the risk as the fruit is exceptional.

H. How do you approach the winemaking process?
MA. The barrel fermented unsettled juice lets the wine show the full gamut of flavours from each summer. Being matured with lees helps the wine show off the beauty of the pinot gris grape and the vineyard site. 

We have 16 years experience making pinot gris now and we also grow pinot noir and chardonnay. These varieties require great attention to detail in the vineyard, and those viticultural practices rub off on the nurturing of our pinot gris vines as well.

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