The ‘SKINS’ project was initiated back in 2012 when I did a harvest at Passopisciaro on Mt Etna in Sicily. It was quite interesting to look at the native varieties grown on Etna and also their philosophy. It really was a light bulb moment when it came to some varieties. Back then with Pinot Gris, I would have put it in the same category as Sauvignon Blanc. Being quite boring to grow, simple to make and not a wine I would want to drink. Then came that moment on Etna, where the belief is that some varieties the flavour is in the skins and not in the pulp. With Pinot Gris being a shade lighter than Pinot Noir in colour, why didn’t we use the skins to get some flavour that the variety was desperately lacking.
Coming back to Australia, I was determined to try something different with it. For the 2013 vintage, I made Gris three different ways. First of all, conventional which was hand picked, pressed and settled. Another batch we foot stomped, let it soak in bins until started to kick then we pressed to old cask to finish off the ferment. The last batch I made like a red wine. Destemmed with whole berries, then hand plunged for about 14 days. On completion of ferment, it was then pressed to barrel for élevage.
Over the next nine years we have fine tuned how we make the last component and we thought it was time to release quite a unique wine. Over the years, it has only been small changes to further improve the original trial wine. Most have these changes have come from doing things a little different in the vineyard such as playing with fruit exposure to sunlight prior to harvest and also a change in trellis design. Winemaking is the easy part!
For the 2021 vintage, it was a delight making this wine. A cooler season, meant we could keep the Gris out in the vineyard longer without the risk of sunburn or excess alcohol. Having the fruit hang longer, gives you better tannins. When a wine is fermented on skins, it’s the type of tannin that influences how you treat it during fermentation. A cool long season results in fine tannin, as they reach a greater level of phenolic ripeness. Sometimes in a hot year, the tannins can be coarse because they haven’t had enough time to achieve ripeness. Hence, you have to be very careful with extraction as you pull out too much green tannin.
This wine was picked in the morning, left in the cool room over night to chill then destemmed to an open pot. Gently hand plunged for about 12 days, then pressed straight to cask. In regards to winemaking, that’s about it. No additions for acidity or yeast, settled in tank and straight to bottle.