Pinot Gris on the Rise in Cool Climate Aussie Regions

We had lunch yesterday with a group of friends in Charleston in the Adelaide Hills, who are cool climate grape growers for some very well known South Australian winemakers. Initially when they developed the bare patch of land some 15 years ago, the consultant’s recommendations included Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and a larger proportion of the vineyard to be planted with Sauvignon Blanc.

The recommendations proved visionary, with the demand for Sauvingon Blanc reaching dizzying heights in the mid naughties. As happens, so many growers jumped on the band wagon and now there is a serendipitous glut of Sauvy not only in the Adelaide Hills, but the rest of Australia. Chardonnay is not faring much better, with much of this growers Chardonnay now blackened and shrivelled, still on the vine from the vintage just gone.

Pinot Gris was lambasted by many only a few years ago as only another fad on the horizon, and would go the way of a Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Planted too fast, too much, in too many regions. In consumers’ minds, Pinot Gris is tremendously popular currently, the new Sauvignon Blanc.

If the industry has learnt anything from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, the brakes will be put on new plantings of Pinot Gris and drip fed to the wineries in an effort to build sustainable production and consumption. This is where industry leaders can dramatically begin to control success of the industry in a sustainable way, and begin to develop the systems and structures the old world have had in place for generations. Why is it so hard to envisage here in Australia? How many more crazy tax schemes or fad mass plantings is it going to take?

For the record, the grower we had lunch with was told only yesterday by their contracted winery that if they wanted they could replant their entire 90 acre vineyard to Pinot Gris. Thankfully this grower is smart, and has ensured he has hedged for any new fad that comes the industries way, a nice patchwork quilt of the major varieties currently doing well on the Australian market.

In This Story: Adelaide

Adelaide is South Australia’s cosmopolitan coastal capital. Its ring of parkland on the River Torrens is home to renowned museums such as the Art Gallery of South Australia, displaying expansive collections including noted Indigenous art, and the South Australian Museum, devoted to natural history. The city’s Adelaide Festival is an annual international arts gathering with spin-offs including fringe and film events.

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  • In This Story: Adelaide Hills

    The Adelaide Hills is a rugged area east of Adelaide in South Australia. Known for its cool-climate wines, it centres on the mountain and busy city of Mount Barker. Former German settlements include leafy Hahndorf, with its pubs and galleries, and Lobethal, famed for its handicrafts and Christmas lights. Kangaroos and koalas roam the Cleland Wildlife Park, while Gumeracha town is home to the Big Rocking Horse.

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