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.