White Wine Varieties
Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the same grape variety, but made in two different wine styles. The variety is a white mutation of the Pinot Noir grape, which came from Burgundy, but the spiritual home of Pinot Gris is north-eastern France’s Alsace region, with Pinot Grigio’s being northern Italy. Plantings of Pinot Gris began in Australia in the 1980s but it wasn’t until 2000 that production increased to significant levels. The Mornington Peninsula set the trend in Australia, with T’Gallant in particular championing the grape making wines in both styles.
Pinots Grigio and Gris are relative newcomers to the Australian wine scene, but they have been embraced by sommeliers who find them food friendly. Distinguishing features of both include stone fruit and nectarine aromas and flavours along with honey and hay characters. Pinot Gris is typically picked later and riper, and is rich, spicy and full-bodied, with a rounded, glossy texture. Pinot Gris will often have high sugar content with low acidity that will regularly produce wines with complexity, displaying pear, spiced apple and stone fruit characters. Pinot Gris is sometimes made with oak and has the ability to develop into richly textured wines.
While this variety is in its infancy, it appears that Victoria is the epicentre. The Mornington Peninsula has long been the leader here, particularly with the pioneering work done by T’Gallant. The King Valley with its cool, alpine climate and Italian community is producing some excellent Pinot Grigios. There are also some great examples coming from the Yarra Valley and Grampians.
In South Australia, the cool climate and high altitude of the Adelaide Hills is proving to be an ideal environment to produce Pinot Grigio. Various producers throughout New South Wales are producing good examples, including the Hunter Valley, the cool climate, high altitude vineyards of Orange and Mudgee, which has a solid history of producing wines with Italian varietals. The cool climate of Tasmania has an affinity with Alsatian whites and is also looking like it may have a good future with both Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio.