Holly’s Garden Pinot Gris
Our style has evolved since our first vintage in 1997, from Zind Humbrich inspired, super ripe, high alcohol and lots of residual sugar to the 2015 and several preceding vintages, more in line with modern Alsace producers like Domain Paul Blanc.
A series of experimental wines have informed this evolution in style. ‘Ramato’, skin contact with phenolics and a beguiling pink hue. ‘Reverse Cowgirl’; in various forms of cloudy, unfiltered, free-wheeling explorations of texture, viscosity and stability. More recently; ‘. after Kathleen’ doffed its cap to Kathleen Queely as a pioneer of Pinot Grigio and Friulano in Australia as well as acknowledging the influences of Gravner, Radikon and the classic Jermann ‘Vintage Tunina’. An unfiltered tart, ‘minerally’ yet viscous exploration of white blends from the top right hand corner of Italy.
I have always relied on using lees and barrel fermentation to bring some middle palate complexity to a variety which doesn’t display a great deal of overt fruitiness. Oxidative juice handling and solids fermentation have also always been ‘tools’ in my attempts to bring complexity to the palate.
The constant has been the extraordinarily high natural acidity bought by the site. Most people recognise the vital importance that terroir brings to Pinot Noir and the demands this fickle variety places on site selection, soil, aspect and micro climate. To my mind Pinot Gris is even fussier about where and how it’s grown, yet this rarely, if ever, rates consideration amoungst consumers, sommeliers, critics or even producers. Sadly, the result is a vast amount 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 Alsatian wines. As a baby waiter through the ‘80’s ‘poor mans White Burgundy’ was pressed upon me by the likes of Hermann Schneider and Curtis Marsh as the great white hope matching a huge array of food styles, from the searing spice used by David Thompson at Darley Street to the classic food of Hermann. Pinot Gris, like Pinot Noir, is polyamorous in the charm it brings 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 is as second fiddle to fabulous food.
Yet, as Pinot Noir is to duck, Pinot Gris is to pork. Pork in any form. Perhaps it’s the subtle Golden Delicious and William Pear fruitiness and hint of Ginger spice that bring these two together so perfectly when Pinot Gris is at its charming best?
These days we tend to pick fruit across two or threee weeks with baume’s ranging from 11.8 through to 13.5. TA can be as high as 9.0 g/L and ph 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 yeast. I choose a very small inoculation of these yeasts to produce a large number of generations of yeast (mimicking the effect of ‘natural’ yeast) yet 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 the 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 cool room and temperature is kept between 12 and 16 degrees. On a weekly basis the coolroom 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 and bring in 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 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 of the palate, acting like a picture frame around the wine.
Bottling is usually in October. One day ill be brave enough to not filter!
Then; KILL THE PIG, bring on the Gris.
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