Expert insight: Winemakers talk pinot 'g'

By Halliday Wine Companion

We consult three of Australia’s preeminent makers of pinot gris/grigio, who share how they approach it, what to look out for and examples of the wine to try.

Jamie Hewet at T’Gallant: Multiplicity in the making

T’Gallant is a pioneer of pinot gris/grigio in Australia. It was the first winery to plant the varietal in its vineyards in the 90s and it paved the way for pinot 'g' to become a Mornington Peninsula star, with the cooler climate providing ideal growing conditions for the grape. We get the lowdown on T’Gallant’s style from viticulturist Jamie Hewet:

Q: Tell us about your approach to pinot gris/grigio.
A: While gris and grigio are the same variety, they’re typically picked at different times and made in different styles. Pinot grigio is the crisp, earlier picked style typical of northern Italy, while pinot gris is the riper, luscious style common in northern France. At T’Gallant, we make wines reflective of this broad spectrum, showcasing the versatility of the great variety on the Mornington Peninsula.

Q: How do the decisions you make in the vineyard impact the resulting wines?
A: We plant our pinot grigio grapes on the cooler, easterly slopes of our vineyard and pick them earlier, bringing out lime and flint aromas. The pinot gris grape is planted on westerly slopes and picked later, resulting in a rich, multilayered wine with notes of almond and pear.

Try: T’Gallant Mornington Range 'Grace' Pinot Grigio and 'Imogen' Pinot Gris

Matt Kilby at Michelini Wines: The Italian route

North-east Victoria’s High Country is renowned for its natural beauty, family-run cellar doors, and vibrant wining and dining – the latter thanks in large part to a wave of post-war Italian migrants to the region. High Country has several vineyards picked for the Italian-style pinot grigio, which is well suited to its cool, elevated sites. Michelini Wines, located in the Buckland Valley at the base of Mount Buffalo, is a perfect example of the influence of Italian families here. We talk with winemaker Matt Kilby about what this means:

Q: How does Michelini’s heritage influence the approach to pinot gris/grigio?
A: It’s very much made in the Italian [grigio] style, which means we aim to preserve the fruit purity achieved in the vineyard and highlight the variety’s distinctive minerality.

Q: What can people expect from High Country pinot gris/grigio?
A: As a cool, mountainous area, our vineyards allow full flavour development while still retaining high acid levels. The resulting wine has the right balance of richness and definition for the pinot grigio style.

Try: Michelini Italian Selection Pinot Grigio

Darren Burke at Leura Park: A modern Australian style

Why go for an either/or approach when you can take the best of a zippy grigio and a luscious gris to create your own super wine? This is the thinking behind Leura Park's style. Picking across the spectrum of ripeness and puzzling these together to create a well-rounded starting point, winemaking techniques are then used to build complexity – a fine example of the freedom to innovate Aussie producers are privileged to. Winemaker Darren Burke explains:

Q: How are winemaking methods employed to achieve your particular pinot gris?
A: We use a combination of tank and barrel fermentation, including a small percentage of new oak, plus lees stirring across the board to build richness and complexity in our gris. Our goal is to produce a profound, exotic example of the wine.

Q: What makes Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula perfect for pinot gris/grigio?
A: The maritime climate on the Bellarine Peninsula, enjoying the cooling influence of the ocean, allows the variety to thrive, so it’s no surprise that a significant proportion of vineyards here are planted to pinot gris/grigio. Our region is sought-after for this fruit and wine.

Try: Leura Park ‘25 d’Gris’ Pinot Gris

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