Kathleen Quealy, T’Gallant/Balnarring Vineyard/Quealy Wine, VIC

Kathleen Quealy, T’Gallant/Balnarring Vineyard/Quealy Wine, VIC

Name: Kathleen Quealy & Kevin McCarthy

Expressive and stylish Pinot Gris continues to win fans

My first experience with Pinot Gris was as a winemaking student at the School of Agriculture of the Riverina College of Advanced Education (now Charles Sturt University) at Wagga Wagga in 1980. I spent a lot of time in the college vineyard, which was established under the direction of Dr Max Loder.

I thought Pinot Gris was a beautiful grape in the vineyard with tiny bunches that ripened to various hues of pink to purple. Meanwhile, the college winemakers were critical of Pinot Gris as a variety, unable to understand how to make premium wine with the variety. Wine available in Australia from the Old World in the 1980s was Champagne, Burgundy, Claret and German Riesling. There were very few examples of premium Alsace Pinot Gris to inspire the local winemakers.

In any case, Australia was deeply involved in developing a warm climate wine industry. Wine with plenty of natural acid - Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet held more potential.

At the time I was prepared to accept that, like Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris was site specific and that warmer regions were out of the question.

When my winemaking partner Kevin McCarthy and I established our own business, T'Gallant, in 1990 in the cool Mornington Peninsula, our first viticultural move was to establish three Pinot Gris vineyards under contract.

I must say I was surprised by the immediate condemnation the variety met with in various sectors of the local wine industry. It stood in contrast to the instant acceptance of the wine by both the customer and the wine press. There was a professional belief that Pinot Gris was not a premium grape variety and therefore had limited potential. I think Pinot Gris had performed so poorly in the all-important warm wine regions that the Australian wine industry considered the variety inferior.

Over the last five years there has been a significant program of grafting and planting Pinot Gris across Australia. Suddenly, there is a lot of Pinot Gris grown under all kinds of climates and terroir whilst meeting a range of market demands. It is exciting and totally consumer driven.

The full article and varietal report can be found in the July/August issue of Australian Viticulture.

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