there are some new reviews oozing though here, but we're not deckin em up all pretty til we work out an otherwise unborn style for this sleazy rube we call drankster


that's a George Grainger Aldridge cartoon ... obviously a pre-screwcap man

20 March 2009


Guerrieri Rizzardi Veneto Pinot Grigio 2006
$24; 12.5% alcohol; synthetic stopper; 94 points
As pretty to sniff as a Tyrolean meadow in spring, this makes ALL South Australian grey pinot (grigio; gris) look silly. You can’t grow good grey pinot anywhere that won’t consistently grow good pinot noir, and Ashton Hills is the only local that I suspect can do that. Appetising whiffs of kingston black apples, bosc and rocha pears, prosciutto fat, and the faintest sniff of freshly sliced ginger back up the meadow florals, and the palate that follows just rolls on and on, gradually developing a satisfying butterscotch flavour as it airs. Chook, herbs and capers in white wine.

Kooyong Beurrot Mornington Peninsula Pinot Gris 2009
$30; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; drunk 5-6MAY10; 94 points
Sandro Mosele hits a new peak for this variety in Australia with this lovely austere wine. It has that risky verge-of-cyanic-acid tweak that you taste in apricot or peach kernels, with acrid carbide and cordite, and then that summer dust dryness and perfectly firm acidity: all natural. I drank this wine with a mob of winemakers at the estimable Salopian Inn in McLaren Vale, and they spoke only startled praise for it. It's so lean and brittle that it makes one hungry.

Stefano Lubiana Tasmania Pinot Grigio 2008
$30; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93++ points
I drank this for two days imagining it was feral riesling. So I'd be inclined to call this gris, not grigio. It's austere. Powerful. Tight. Flinty. Then there's a tiny shade of unripe strawberry pith that says the riesling presumption's a dud. Its visco slime should betray it too, but the wine's so steely and tight it does dance like a riesling. You know, stiff. Like an Exclusive Brethren trying to go to the Devil. There's a little furry tannin, too. Gravestone flavours. It needs big tucker: Alsace choucroute with the chilli hunter's snags and plenty of mustard sort of thing. Six people. Argue.

Hahndorf Hill Winery Adelaide Hills Pinot Grigio 2008

$24; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; drunk MAR 09; 93+
If Campari was made from lemons, and not oranges, it’d smell like this. It’s almost limoncello in its precise reflection of lemon pith. Then, this is like garganega, like a really smart, austere Soave without too much trebbiano. Rizzardi. It’s not greasy or slimy, like Kath Quealy’s get-all-over-you slimebombs from Mornington Peninsula. “We deliberately avoided the gris style” said Marketing Marc. No, this is lean, entertaining Alto Adige style grey pinot. Which leads me to ask: “would Australians flock so much to pinot gris and pinot grigio if it was called grey pinot?” Nope. But sauvignon fanatics would like this ravishing palate, that finishes so friggin bone dry it’s like it’s made from smashed up bone china. It’s intensely satisfying, appetising wine.

Paracombe Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris 2008
$19; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93+ points
You’re too young to remember the smell of carbide lamps so just trust me. This wine smells like carbide. I think it’s what a lot of wine tossers call “mineral”, which confuses me. Which mineral? Ice and mercury are minerals; limestone is not. Okay, you want a fruit. Nashi pear. In other words, this is a crisp, crunchy wine with subtle fruit aromas and the sort of acrid carbide/slate quarry chassis often associated with very good sauvignon blanc. It’s also a bit like the best chenin blanc, as in the new dry Coriole. Fun in the sun: Double Bay; Norwood Parade but not King William Street. Too sour for this, them Hyde Parkers. (17 AUG 8)

Paracombe Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris 2007
$22; 13% alcohol; screw cap, 93+ points
Paul and Kath Drogemuller consistently produce one of Australia’s best elegant sauvignons blanc, and their 07 Holland Creek Riesling’s safe in my top four. Now they’re showing everybody how to make pinot gris. This a particularly fine, fragrant, squishy, delightful wine. It smells beguilingly of roses, blancmange, lemon and cucumber, with subtle rainwet slate. The palate has not too much of the slimy texture that marks the grey pinot, but just enough, and plenty of willowy acidity. It’s elegant and pristine. So why didn’t the boofheads give it gold in the Hills show? Why enter? Steamed scallops with garlic and ginger.

Babich Marlborough Pinot Gris 2006
$??; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points
This baby’s from the Babich tribe, who, like many sensible Jugoslavs, has been busy making wine in New Zealand for three generations. It has the staunch slate and phosphate reek that would normally betray a gris from Alsace. The palate has some of the slime you expect of the variety, but not too much. Overall, it’s an appetising, almost crunchy dry white that’s somewhere between ripe viognier and grassy sauvignon blanc. It’s really good wine. It’d handle the difficult tannins of artichoke hearts, which are so dry they’re hard to match with wine.

Peregrine Central Otago Pinot Gris 2008
$30; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points
Comice pear, and all my favourite melons – water; musk; honeydew; galia – swill about in this elegant, carefully restrained glass. There’s a whiff of freshly-sliced white marble, but not too much. The palate’s dreamily silky and syrupy, perfectly balanced, and with great restraint and length makes obvious the winemaker’s determination not to squeeze out flavours that didn’t want to come. It has some lovely custard apple fatty acid adding an alluring turn to the finish. It’s more raptor on the measured hover than a peregrine in savage stoop. These guys spend heaps helping, a charity set up to assist such birds of prey. We need these in all vineyards, to keep the grape-eating birdies away, but they break their wings on vineyard wires, and have evolved to stay away, so we end up erecting stupid plastic ones on whiprods. I reckon if we put reflective ribbon, like silvery cassette tape, along the trellis wires the real raptors would be able to see them, and return, and we wouldn’t need all those infernal bird-scarers going bang and skurreech. Nice wine! Ist Choice and Vintage Cellars.

Freeman Pinot Gris Plus Fortuna 2008 
$25; 14% alcohol; screw cap; drunk 1 DEC 9; 92+++ points
Grey pinot, plus riesling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and aleatico sounds good. And I just love it when they send me letters to inform me that Max Allen and Tony Love think it's good. Oh, and Nick Stock. I've given it higher points than them, but to save me time, you might just as well look up their reviews. I don't wanna be seen to be putting anybody out of a job.

Thorne-Clarke Wines Sandpiper Eden Valley Pinot Gris 2011
$16; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap;tasted 1-2JUL12; 92+ points
The cold of 2011 was good: it ensured the natural acids held up, and made it impossible for winemakers to pick later, as they habitually do, in pursuit of Bacchus only knows what. The incessant wet was bad: it brought a great wave of mildew and botrytis to vineyards across south-eastern Australia.  The smartest, fussiest winemakers, however, managed to combine this yin with the yang to make wines most unlike their standard produce; many of them very good.  This wine has exceptional aromas: lively, wholesome Anjou pear, corn on the cob, and fresh sliced ginger root, with a piquant peppery edge that smells like somebody chipping rocks in the hot sun up there above the vineyard on the shoulder of Mt Crawford.  The wine has the more generous viscosity which the tiniest amount of botrytis will provide, as it naturally converts some of the grape sugars to glycerol. That buttery Anjou pear flavour dominates, finally getting a neat rinsing with tidy, persistent natural acidity.  And then comes an appetising rise of tannins like the dusty flavour of those rocks getting chipped.  I really like this wine.  I like its price even more.  Adults only, with yellow curry of carp.

Cantina Tramin Alto Adige Pinot Grigio 2006
$22; 13.5% alcohol; synthetic stopper; 92 points
From away up the southern Tyrol comes this crunchy grigio, fresh and breezy in atmosphere, but steely and staunch below. Now THIS is cool climate wine! It smells like drying meadow blossoms, maybe everlasting flowers, with appetising shots of strawberry pith, pink grapefruit and lime. The palate’s beautifully balanced, slender - call it glacial acidity - and vivacious, with grainy, mealy tannins that set your salivatories dribbling for tucker. Coles buys it direct from the winery, so there’s no middleman, and it lobs at a price that few local makers could match. Lighter scaloppini dishes. Exclusive to Vintage Cellars/Liquorland (16.2.8)

Hahndorf Hill Adelaide Hills Pinot Grigio 2006
($22; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points)
When so much Hills sauvignon blanc tastes like a lawn doused in battery acid, it’s a relief to drink a masterly wine like this grey-skinned pinot. It’s white juice of course, crisp and zippy, like savvy b can be, but with a perfect degree of grigio’s trademark slime. This neatly counterbalances the wine’s crunchy Chinese gooseberry/rhubarb/oxalic acidity, and lubricates rather than cuts. It’s perfect summer sipping for that shady veranda, with fetta, figs, and artichoke hearts. (4.11.6)

Tiefenbrunner Alto Adige Sud Tirol Pinot Grigio 2006
$19; 13% alcohol; cork (!); 91 points
We tend to forget the proximity of northern Italy to Austria. This classy, inexpensive Italian is very much akin to the grunervertliner variety from across the border. Crunchy dry pepper and slate mark the bouquet of a wine that tastes like a cross between packham and nashi pear, and finishes with pithy tannins reminiscent of lemon and cantaloupe peel. That tight, lingering aftertaste makes the drinker twitchy for food. Fortunately, I was within arm’s reach of an oyster and daikon omelette at T-Chow. Mm. Call Negociants - 8112 4210.

Angove’s Nine Vines South Australia Pinot Grigio 2008
$14; 12% alcohol; screw cap; 89 points
This little honey could have been made from Anjou and Rocha pears – that’s precisely what it smells like. It’s a testament to the nous of the new atmosphere at Angove, that such a variety can be grown in the hot Murray Valley and still taste this good, although it includes fruit from far cooler sources, like Wrattonbully. The flavours are creamy and pear-like, just as the bouquet hinted, and the finish is neat, velvety and dry. It’s much better wine than most of the more expensive pretenders from, say the Adelaide Hills or Marlborough. Chook, onions and herbs, cooked in cider.

Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Pinot Gris 2008
$25; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 89 points
Jackfruit. The pith of lemons and pale strawberries. The baked, slightly acrid smell of wild Australian upland at the height of summer. I dunno if that's what pinot gris is supposed to be like; I can never quite understand the fascination in it. But this seems to be a polite, if slightly wild model of the thing, all the more interesting because of Louisa Rose's politely feral winemaking. She's used some old French barriques, and its made a wine of it. Mind you, it's hardly intensely anything; just a pleasing relatively neutral dry white with insinuations of those aromas I started out with. MAR 09

New Yealands Marlborough Pinot Grigio 2008
$15; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 88 points
With all the hearty fleshy aromas you’d expect of anything from the pinot family, this wine is immediately attractive. Strawberry and lemon pith abound. Maybe honeydew; some ripe sweet pear. The palate’s thick and syrupy, with what Mornington Peninsula’s grey pinot queen Kath Queally affectionately and quite accurately calls “slime”. It’s not a bad drink. Simple, but good for char-grilled lobster tails with chilli. Vintage Cellars only.

Innocent Bystander Yarra Valley Pinot Gris 2008
$20; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 87 points
I may simply be that I've got shit on my liver today, dirty water on my chest; whatever. But there are occasions like this when I can't understand why pinot gris exists. Euthanasia comes to mind. The grape, not me. I mean IT should have been euthanised, not used for it, although you probably could euthanise me with it today, but you'd prefer to shoot me if you had any skerrick of sensibility. I reckon it became highly yearnable in Australia according to the late great Mark Shields' passionate unrequited lust for Kath Quealy, of T'Gallant, on Mornington, in the early 'nineties. Mark never seemed to notice that Kath was always pregnant at vintage - well four vintages - which wouldn't have indicated to to the lovelorn Shields anything to do with the lass's relationship with the good bloke with whom she lived, who happened to be fathering those little lovelies. Anyway, dear Rough Marc praised those T'Gallant PGs in The Age until all Melbourne was into 'em big time, and now you have people addicted to 'em regardless of what they're made from. This one's nice enough, smelling, as it does, of white peach fur and pear, maybe even pear poaching in modest sauternes with a little ginger, indicating 100% fair dinkum grey pinot, well made, and it's a pleasant drink, too. It's not slimy, as Quealy's were/are, but, well, maybe more fluffy, or even very slightly oily, but I can't work out, today, anyway, exactly what it's for. Friday 13th March 2009

Tamar Ridge Devil’s Corner Tasmania Pinot Grigio 2007
$17; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 87 points
The spinsheet repeats those inimitable words: “fruit driven”. Now, dear co-bibulant, tell me what in the name of outright buggery would drive a wine other than fruit? Wood pulp? Wood chips? What, prithee, is a GRAPE? Are all other wines devoid of grapes? Settle down, Philip. Okay. This is a meadow-grassy, pasture-floral, simple, easy squirt for those who will never be caught drinking sauvignon blanc, whatever the brand of fluffball pooch at the end of the fake gold chain. Sufficiently acidulous to pass as a green savvy-B, it’s from Gunns’ vineyards in the Tamar. Squid, stupid. Oops. Sorry. Calamari.

Holly’s Garden Whitlands Pinot Gris 2008
$??; 15% alcohol; screw cap; 83 points
Way up on the Whitlands high plains (where wombats and currawongs are the viticulturer’s main threats, and the soil is deep and free flowing, so the wombats can dig in it as easily as the vine roots can penetrate it), you get sweet clean mountain flavours like this cuteness. It still seems quite sweet (at such high alcohol for such a high cool joint), but there’s some fairy floss fluffiness in the texture, as much as classic pinot gris slime. It’d be perfect with a sabayon poured over a nashi pear poached in this very wine with one clove and one juniper berry. 19 NOV 08

Ninth Island Tasmania Pinot Grigio 2011
$19; 13% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 10-12FEB12; 79 points
Clean,  simple, waxy, thin.  I probably gave it an extra 9 points for its harmlessness.  Which is unfair, as a drink so bland immediately reduces the value of any product bearing the name Pinot.

Lucien Albrecht Alsace Reserve Pinot Gris 2006
$??; 13% alcohol; synthetic plug; 78 points
Australians aren’t the only ones to have reserve wines which cannot possibly be their best – this Alsace reserve is full of estery peach and banana whiffs, leading one to wonder precisely whom it’s reserved for, and why. The palate’s creamy and fluffy, like some strange tropical stone fruit confection, made to drink harmoniously with yellow carp curry, and that alone: this is neither appetising nor particularly typical of anything from a cool climate. It’s certainly not crunchy with typical Alsace acidity. And from a winery founded in 1425? You bet. They’ve been doing this for a very long time. (17 AUG 8)

Isabel Marlborough Pinot Gris 2007
$??; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 78 points
Reedy and weedy, this wine smells more of creekline vegetals than berries. The palate’s light and lettucey, and may well provide a neat savoury counterpoint to, say, drunken chicken, or flounder steamed with shallots and shredded ginger. (17 AUG 8)

Pizzini King Valley Pinot Grigio 2009
$25; 13.4% alcohol; screw cap; drunk 7-8MAY10; 76 points
Sometimes Barossa Semillon reeks of petiols, the slender stalks of the vine leaves. This smells like that. There's a sinister glint of cordite, like the quarry's about to go up, and then the fruit rises, a little like musk melon or honeydew, but that vegetal petiol green seems to reign supreme. The finishing natural acids and phenols are forceful and redeeming, but those greens are annoying.

Nepenthe Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris 2007
$23; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 73 points
Machine harvesters bash a lot of leaves off as they whack berries from their stalks. The stalks of leaves are called petiols. This wine smells like petiols. It also reminds me of Cape Weed. There’s a pleasant acrid whiff of something like oxalis and phosphate, and a thin weedy aftertaste that I can’t imagine learning to love. (17 AUG 8)

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