Ross Hill Pinnacle Series Pinot Gris 2011

For a region to do Pinot Gris especially well may seem like a dubious claim to fame (sort of like the Hunter doing great Verdelho). I think Orange does a great line in this difficult varietal, though. The examples I’ve tasted have, for the most part, avoided the many traps this style can fall into: too neutral, too hot, too fat, and so on. This one is no exception – I like it a lot.

A full nose showing nashi pear, spice and a range of interesting, more herbal notes. It’s certainly not the last word in complexity (nor would I expect it to be) but it’s generous and poised, never tipping over into the kind of coarseness that I find especially destructive with this style. The aroma seems to have texture, which sounds odd but I think results from the way spice is woven through the fruit, creating spikes and valleys of aroma. It’s a very happy smell.

The palate shows controlled body and fullness of fruit flavour, along with sufficient acid to give the wine shape and flow. Entry is cool and subtle, building to a middle palate full of yellow fruits, spice and flowers. The fruit is somewhat one-dimensional in flavour, but it’s correct and well proportioned. I like the way a range of higher toned aromas seem to hit the top of my mouth with each sip. Flavour persists through the after palate, where it remains mercifully unmolested by alcohol (this is only 12.5% ABV).

Good Gris.

Ross Hill Wines
Price: $A30
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Angullong Fossil Hill Pinot Gris 2011

Although I’ve only tasted a few, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Pinot Gris from Orange has a lot of potential, and might be one of the most pleasing white varietals to come from this very cool region. This isn’t to be underestimated; I think in general we’ve struggled in Australia to produce interesting expressions of this grape.

This wine is no exception to the Orange rule. The nose starts by suggesting the neutrality that can plague this varietal, but quickly evolves to release quite rich fruit notes of candied peel, ripe pear flesh and some surprising savoury minerality. Sure, it’s not a complex aroma, but its character is fresh and appealing, quite juicily delicious in fact.

The palate is where this wine really shines, thanks to a tingly acid structure and impressive generosity of flavour. Entry is fresh and quite textural, leading to green pear flavours that carry through to a middle palate that is both expansive and lively; this wine proves that a lot of acid doesn’t necessarily translate to a tight, linear experience in the mouth, partly because there’s a nice viscosity on the middle palate that balances the wine’s acid structure and creates a really interesting tension between the two. More of that savouriness creeps in as the wine moves along, becoming more prominent through the after palate. A decent finish tapers gently away, leaving a residue of savouriness and an impression of fresh fruit.

Price: $A22
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Louee Nullo Mountain Pinot Grigio 2010

I don’t remember ever having tasted a Pinot Grigio from Mudgee, so this wine is a first for me. The back label suggests the Grigio style (earlier picked, lower alcohol) suits this vineyard’s grapes well. Key words are light, fresh and clean. No argument from me there. This is a dry white made in a mode unlikely to cause offence.

If you think that’s a dig, then you’re probably right, although there’s a lot right with this wine. For starters, it’s very cleanly made, showing sharp aromas of quince, white flowers and the heat of Summer on ripe foliage. It strikes me as an aroma profile that lacks character and distinctiveness but which is nevertheless very correct.

The palate shows lovely acidity and really well-judged phenolic bitterness. So, mostly a structural experience, and the flavour, such as it is, serves to illustrate the wine’s foundations rather than take centre stage. The entry is deceptively light, filling quickly through a middle palate that hints at a more satisfying opulence of mouthfeel. Flavour is at its most intense through the after palate, where a nice lilt of honeycomb and florals carries through to a mostly textural finish.

You’ll get more flavour from a good Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc but, as it is, not a bad example of the style.

Lowe Wines
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Patina Pinot Gris 2008

I’m shallow and pretentious; there’s no other explanation for leaving this wine untouched at the bottom of the sample pile for so long. In my defense, some kind of filter is more or less a necessity when there’s so much wine out there; one can’t simply taste it all. And if I instinctively gravitate towards varieties and regions I am experienced with and attracted to, is this really so wrong? 

It is if I miss out on nice wines. This bottle is a lesson in something unexpected (Pinot Gris d’Orange?) turning out to be bloody good. Perhaps not so unexpected, though; Orange has been steadily working its way towards some serious cool climate cred over the past few years, and Pinot Gris is a variety I usually prefer to drink when made into a wine that retains some elegance and shape. Add some clever winemaking and you’re almost there.
The rest comes through on tasting. The aroma is full and lush, with a sharp edge of citrus helping notes of subtle oatmeal and stonefruit to express with fresh vitality. There’s real complexity and depth to this wine’s smell, which is both unexpected and fascinating. I’m not used to tasting a reasonably-priced Pinot Gris with such character. It’s reads as an odd combination of Hunter Semillon and slighty busty Chardonnay, but with its own sense of integrity.
On entry, an immediate rush of fruit flavour and a level of intensity that confirms the nose isn’t a fluke. Flavours are simple and citrus-driven at first, building towards a lees-influenced middle palate that takes several steps up in sophistication. While it’s a bit of a sledgehammer of a wine, and its fruit flavours show a little too much sweetness for my taste, there’s good detail in its flavour profile and several layers to its texture. Mealy stonefruit peaks through the after palate, and the finish is impressively long.
What a pleasant surprise. Went exceptionally well with a simple omelette of ocean trout and goat’s cheese.

Price: $A22
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Viña Morandé Terrarum-Reserva Pinot Grigio 2008

As with the Lapostolle from yesterday, there’s a slight bit of residual CO2 here – is this a Chilean stylistic decision?  Rich straw yellow (no hint of pink that I can tell), the wine smells of fresh Granny Smith apples and musk. Brightly acidic, and yet slightly flabby at the same time somehow, the texture is good but the flavor isn’t much to speak of, blandly appetizing but not memorable. However, it is clean, bright, and well made, which is a real achievement at this price point. I imagine that Tesco could sell containers of this stuff in the UK if they wanted to: it’s the perfect thing to go with a curry on a summer’s afternoon.Viña Morandé
Price: $6
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Gift

Ishtar Pinot Grigio 2008

Yet another hot, humid Brisbane day. My little Queenslander is as open as it can be, windows gaping wide on every side in a rather futile attempt to catch the occasional wisp of breeze. Some liquid refreshment is surely in order. 

This is the first time I’ve seen a wine sealed with a Novatwist closure, which strikes me as a simultaneously downmarket and more user friendly version of the metal Stelvin closure. Certainly did the job here, in any case. I had this wine open last night but it proved disappointingly vague, so I whacked it back in the fridge for later tasting. This rest overnight has certainly improved things and I suspect in its likelier context — lunchtime, restaurant, probably al fresco — it will present to its greatest advantage immediately.

An attractive, straw-like colour, clear as a bell. The aroma is straightforward in a typically Pinot G way; it’s grapey and pear juice-like, with an attractive side of aromatic brown spice. One can’t expect an excess of complexity with this wine style (at this price point), and on that score this wine utterly lives up to expectations. It is, however, well balanced and clean, weighty enough but stopping short of love handles.
The palate shows a full, slippery mouthfeel alongside easygoing fruit flavour. Entry is fluffy and fun, with pale fruit flavours upstaged by the pumped up, viscous mouthfeel. The fruit never gains enormous intensity, settling for a watercolour expression of pear and spice, while the mouthfeel continues on its merry way, slipping and sliding across the tongue, underlined by just enough acidity to provide some shape. The after palate is quite fresh, with really well-judged phenolics roughing up the tongue and adding a twist of bitterness to the flavour profile. Soft finish.
Not bad really; it’s very well made and, while it doesn’t push the variety forward in any respect, should provide good drinking at many a Summer lunch.

Balthazar of the Barossa
Price: $A19.50
Closure: Other
Source: Sample

Mount Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Pinot Gris 2007

I can’t find a region marked on the label, but the Mount Langi Ghiran website suggests grapes for the 2008 version are Grampians in origin, so I’ll presume the same applies here. If I’m right, this is the first Pinot Gris from the Grampians I have tried. And hey, it’s bloody good, better than a swag of local (and imported) expressions of this grape I’ve tasted in the past. 

There’s some definite age on the nose, very attractive in fact, with a sense of delicate caramel overlaying still-vibrant pear fruit. There are some savoury complexities too, a little funky and certainly very interesting. Overall, expressive, flavoursome and shapely, which is not always the case with the variety, and certainly welcome news to this taster.
Oh, I should stop writing as if I’m drinking this Gris under duress, as if somehow the only value it has is its defiance of the plebeian tendencies of the variety — quite simply, this is a very tasty wine, and one I’m very pleased to be consuming right now. On the palate, a sophisticated mouthfeel that is equal parts zingy acid, phenolic texture and luxurious slipperiness. Really well judged. Flavours are of more caramel, pear, perhaps peachier stonefruit too, plus attractive dessert-like spice. Quite complex, akin to a reasonably worked Chardonnay in this respect, yet quaffable too. Dies a bit on the after palate and finish, but that just serves to prompt another mouthful, so all is forgiven.
A very convincing expression of this variety. 

Mount Langi Ghiran
Price: $A21.85
Closure: Stelvin

Rockburn Pinot Gris 2007

As a Canberran, I grew up with the civilised notion of a well-stocked supermarket liquor section. After years of living in other, less advanced cities (Sydney, Brisbane), I’ve largely forgotten this convenience, and it’s a pleasant surprise, when visiting home or, as now, New Zealand, to rediscover the efficiency of purchasing red wine and Berocca in the same transaction. Indeed, popping into the Papakura Countdown supermarket yesterday evening revealed a relative treasure-trove of wine, perhaps not as wide ranging as a dedicated alcohol shop, but quite serviceable nonetheless. I wasted no time in choosing a few bottles to have with dinner.

I’ve had some nice Pinot Gris from Central Otago, tending towards rusticity perhaps, but full of flavour and generosity. Chard Farm and Peregrine spring to mind, and there are no doubt others. This one, though, isdisappointing. Its nose is a largely mute, revealing wisps of grapey flavour, and a higher toned dimension alongside, but nothing especially well defined. On the palate, good acidity, a little rough and ready but firm and lively too. On one level, it’s quite flavoursome. As I sip, though, I find I’m unable to focus on specific notes, not because I don’t recognise key flavour components but because the whole is vague and blurry in character. There’s no significant definition here, no precision or clear framework for the flavours to relate to one another. So, although it has reasonable presence in the mouth, it’s not a wine that rewards close examination or leisurely contemplation. The bottle states 13.3% alcohol, but I wonder if there isn’t a slight alcohol burn on the finish.

Price: $NZ24
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: December 2008

Gunn Estate Pinot Gris 2007

Time for an experiment. I’m not afraid of wine made for the price conscious consumer, perhaps as much out of necessity as anything else. But I tend to stick with tried and true favourites; those acknowledged bargains that, in terms of quality, consistently sit above their price points. I also tend to shop in the $15-20 price range for my everyday wines. Habit can mask new opportunities, so this evening the other half and I decided to visit our local 1st Murphy and purchase one dozen bottles, the total of which was not to exceed $120.

T'Gallant Juliet Pinot Grigio 2007

Cheap Pinot Grigio — surely I’m tempting fate. Nevertheless, this wine is in a super pretty bottle with a label that exists without paper. How could I say no? I’ve not tried either wine from T’Gallant’s budget “Juliet” range, and it’s always nice to see well priced wine from the Mornington Peninsula, so let’s see how we go with this one.

A generous, clean aroma of non-specific fruit that hovers around pear and apple but, dare I say it, is mostly “grapey” in character. Hence, it has the (considerable) appeal of fresh juice rather than anything more challengingly vinous. Quite simple, though. The entry is easygoing and widens to a light/medium bodied palate that shows mostly more of the grapey fruit character seen on the nose. In terms of structure, the wine is quite light on acid, such that mouthfeel is fresh but lacking a little in “zing,” especially as the wine warms. Phenolics are a little more present as the wine progresses towards the after palate, but again these are subtle and contribute a slight savoury note (herbal, perhaps) and some roughening of mouthfeel. Quite a satisfying finish, with phenolics carrying some sweet fruit flavour through with good length.

A well judged wine that is terribly easy to drink. It’s almost entirely lacking in sophistication, but for its intended purpose, who cares? Serve well chilled with food.

Price: $A14
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: January 2008