2017 HOLLY'S GARDEN PINOT GRIS
Our style has evolved since our first vintage in 1997. We started off with a Zind Humbrich-inspired, super ripe, high alcohol and loads of residual sugar type wine. Today, our pinot gris style is more in line with modern Alsacian producers, like the wines from Domain Paul Blanc.
I have always relied on using lees and barrel fermentation, to bring middle palate complexity to a variety which, doesn’t display a great deal of overt fruitiness. I’ve also used oxidative juice handling and solids fermentation, with the view to bring complexity to the palate.
The constant, has been the extraordinarily high natural acidity our fruit producers, due to the high elevation of the vineyard. Most of us recognise the vital importance of terroir that pinot noir demands – as a fickle variety, incredibly sensitive to soil, aspect and microclimate.
To my mind, pinot gris is even fussier about its terroir – so, where and how it’s grown – and yet this rarely, if ever, rates consideration amongst consumers, sommeliers, critics, and even producers.
The regrettable result? A vast volume of forgettable, flabby, simple gris and grigio; made with little empathy for the demands of the variety and no understanding or consideration of its noble heritage.
My great faith in pinot gris owes just as much to its gustatory charm as it does to my memories of the pleasure of consuming great Alsacian wines. As a baby-waiter through the 80s, I drank poor-man’s White Burgundy, pressed upon me by the likes of Hermann Schneider and Curtis Marsh, as the great white hope. Not only could this wine match the searing spices used by chef David Thompson of Darley Street, but also the classic dishes of Hermann himself.
Pinot gris, like pinot noir, brings a polyamorous charm to any table. It knows its place; in a glass, two or three inches in front of your knife, or chopsticks. Pinot gris doesn’t have to be the loudest voice at the table, its beguiling charm sits happily as the second fiddle to fabulous food.
However, as pinot noir is to duck, pinot gris is to pork.
Perhaps it’s the subtle Golden Delicious, or William Pear fruitiness and ginger spice, that bring pork and gris together so perfectly.
These days we tend to pick fruit across two or three weeks with baumes ranging from 11.8 through to 13.5. TA can be as high as 9.0 g/L and ph is often around 3.2.
The first and usually second pick is whole bunch pressed. The riper final batch is crushed before being pressed to juice. No sulphur is added at the press to allow juice to oxidise.
The free run from the first pick is usually fermented in tank. Remaining unsettled juice is fermented in larger-format oak, these days Remond Allier.
The tank ferment is inoculated with a very low combination of QA23 and Vin7 commercially cultured yeasts. I choose a very small inoculation of these yeasts to produce a large number of generations of yeast (mimicking the effect of ‘natural’ yeast) but doing so with a yeast whose characteristics I desire. QA23 is a Vinho Verde isolate, which brings a fabulous ‘Tang’, Vin7, when used in conjunction with QA23 highlights ‘fruitiness’.
With a large number of generations of yeast and a long slow ferment, the yeast begins to find the ethanol toxic. As a defence, the yeasts produce glucyl poly glycerides and mucyl ploy proteins. These long chain molecules bring an extra dimension of silkiness, usually associated with wild ferments.
The tank ferment is used as a ‘starter’ for the remainder of the juice in barrels, adding about 500 mL to each barrel to inoculate them. Once the various ferments are dry, the wine is sulphured to prevent oxidisation and secondary fermentation. The wine in oak is kept in a cold room between 12 and 16 degrees. On a weekly basis the cool room control is varied from 12 to 16 to encourage movement of the wine in barrel and ‘stir’ the lees without having to open the barrels, exposing them to oxygen. The lees bring brioche and sourdough flavours to the mid palate.
Some barrels ‘stick’, a characteristic of QA23, and fermentation remains incomplete. This provides a hint of sweetness and weight to the wine, and is a wonderful counterpoint to the bright citric and malic (granny smith) acidity.
The phenolics derived from crushing a portion of the grapes and the pressings component of the early picked grapes, add ‘crunch’ to the finish, acting like a picture frame around the wine.
Bottling is usually in October. One day I will be brave enough to not filter!
KILL THE PIG, bring on the Gris!
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