Autumn drops

Tony Cox finds some time to share his tips for good autumn wines.

on Tuesday, 08 Mar, 2016

When the editor texts you and says we need another story ASAP it usually isn’t cause for concern. When the preceding weekend on that Monday morning has been filled with your wife’s 50th birthday and an eleven hour recovery on the Sunday, where my new Champagne sabre was unleashed, no amount of Hydralyte, Berocca and Panadol will assist in hitting deadline (in the immortal words of John Laws none of those three products are sponsors of mine).

Autumn usually finds me looking for wines with a little bit of texture as the drop in temperatures from summer allows us to indulge in wine with more weight. Pinot gris/grigio immediately comes to mind. There is a little confusion between gris/grigio. To make it a little easier ‘gris’ translates as grey in French as the grapes usually feature a grey/pinkish tinge when harvested. When you have both pinot blanc (white) and pinot noir (black) it makes a bit of sense to call something in the middle grey. ‘Grigio’ is just the Italian name for the same grape.

The difference is usually one of style with the Italians picking their grapes early, therefore being lighter-bodied, with fresh acidity and lower alcohol, perfect with just-caught seafood. Pinot gris is usually left on the vine to ripen later in France, developing a richer, sweeter, riper flavoured wine with higher alcohol and greater texture, perfect for richer foods such as pork, quail and duck.

Just to summarise, the alcohol level on the label can usually be used to indicate the style. Up to 12.5% alcohol will provide a fresher, lighter-bodied wine made in the grigio style; 14% and above is firmly in the gris camp. For the wines that sit between 12.5% and 14% they will have features of both, but unless you know the wine it is best to seek the advice of the person flogging it to you or as most of you have a smart phone, do a quick search and check out a tasting note prior to purchase.

So let’s now look at three wines that are indicative of the above - one a true grigio, one a true gris, and one which sits in the middle.

The 2015 Primo Estate Pinot Grigio from McLarenvale, SA, is slightly savoury with apple and pear flavours, light bodied with cleansing acidity. Fresh and a great example of the Italian grigio style for around $25.

The 2015 Haha Pinot Gris from Hawkes Bay in NZ sits in the middle stylistically. It has a touch of residual sugar, which provides sweetness on the palate, with the fruit tending to richer pear and quince flavours but finishing clean. At $23 a bottle it represents good value drinking.

The 2012 Famille Hugel Pinot Gris Tradition represents the French end of the spectrum. It is rich and rounded with generous viscosity but fermented to dryness. At 13.9% alcohol it will drink perfectly with a slab of terrine, crusty bread and some fruit chutney and can be found for around $40 a bottle.

Pinot gris/grigio represents a versatile grape variety for that transition into winter. There are plenty out there to choose from just make sure you take a photo of the ones you enjoy and buy plenty of them. ‘Till next time, good drinking!

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