Wine’s G Spot: Australia’s top 20 Pinot Gris

Posted on Nov 7, 2019

Pinot Gris or Grigio – recently abbreviated as Pinot G –  is the George Smiley of wine.

Perhaps “short, overweight, balding, and middle aged” is an unfair description of this popular variety. But it is probably not too harsh to describe most local pinot gris or grigios as being as nondescript as their grey grape colour might suggest.

Which was pretty much the point of John LeCarre’s consciously unprepossessing spymaster. But that’s as far as that analogy goes. Smiley had hidden qualities of brilliance and persipicacity that pinot g mostly doesn’t.

In fact, it could be said that the wine’s appeal lies precisely in its inoffensive qualities. It matches benignly with just about any food or makes for an easygoing chilled aperitif on a warm summer’s day.

Pinot G’s arrival on the Australian wine scene started mainly with a desire to reflect the popular “grigio” styles from north-eastern Italy. Light, fresh and crisp with low alcohol, the wines suit hot Australian summer days when more complex chardonnays, rieslings or sauvignon blancs can simply be too much.

More recently winemakers keen to introduce more textural complexity and length to their wines have followed the Kiwi preference for a more Alsatian “gris” style sometimes described as displaying more oiliness and fruit depth.

The latter style is clearly the critics’ preference. Wine show scores for the variety for the last three years show a pronounced bias towards “gris” styles. Grigio scores typically land between one and two points lower than their gris counterparts. This year the difference has narrowed to slightly more than one point but the trend is the same.

Critics haven’t found a lot to love from the 2019 crop of greys. Perhaps the difficulty of the vintage, in which unwelcome blasts of late summer heat cooked the national crop, has laid bare the variety’s delicate acidity.

Judges’ comments at this year’s National Cool Climate wine show highlighted the problem: “Where are the dry Pinot Gris? Insensitive use of sugar is clearly rife,” they complained about the current crop. The chief judge at the Australian Small Winemakers Show was similarly unimpressed: “The Pinot gris/grigio class was disappointing, with a beautiful gold surrounded by mostly dross,” he wrote.

Average scores for pinots g have dropped to 83 points this year – almost three points lower than last year and 2.5 points below the typical 2017 score. Unfortunately the variety isn’t known for its longevity so fans will get little joy from resorting to the few examples they will find left from the 2018 vintage.

Wine producers have presented 936 pinot g exhibits to Australian and NZ wine shows this year. Of the 519 different labels shown, here are the top 20:

1 Bird in Hand Pinot Gris 2019
2 Nepenthe Altitude Pinot Gris 2018
3 Brown Brothers 1889 Pinot Grigio 2018
4 Peter Lehmann Hill & Valley Pinot Gris 2019
5 De Bortoli La Bossa Pinot Grigio 2019
6 Tamar Ridge Pinot Gris 2018
7 Eddystone Point Pinot Gris 2018
8 De Bortoli “Pinot G” Pinot Grigio 2018
9 Bird in Hand Pinot Grigio 2019
10 Paracombe Pinot Gris 2019
11 Bleasdale Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris 2019
12 Foxeys Hangout Pinot Gris 2019
12 Tar&Roses Pinot Grigio 2019
14 Redbank Sunday Morning Pinot Gris 2018
15 Innocent Bystander Pinot Gris 2018
16 Howard Vineyard Pinot Gris 2019
17 Hahndorf Hill Pinot Grigio 2019
18 Grant Burge East Argyle Pinot Gris 2019
19 Artwine Prego Pinot Grigio 2019
20 Bay of Fires Pinot Gris 2018



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