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Oz winemakers anxious to develop own style of Pinot

Published:  23 July, 2008

Australian producers have been keen to point out that they do not want to make Alsatian Pinot Gris nor Burgundian Pinot Noir, but create a distinct Australian style.

At a Pinot seminar held in London as part of the Australia Day tastings, Yarra-based winemaker Phil Sexton said consumers were still unsure about the varieties: Australia is seen as the land of Shiraz,' he said. People ask us what typical Aussie Pinot is, but the two varieties are still evolving.'

Neil Pike of Pikes & Joyce in the Adelaide Hills added: You must remember Australia is a huge landmass, so wine styles from Albany in Western Australia to the Yarra Valley are going to be poles apart.'

As a whole, Australia is attempting a cool-fermented crisp, fresh Pinot Grigio style. Sexton explained why: Perhaps we're seeking to avoid the oiliness of a Pinot Gris because of our reputation as producers of buttery, fat Chardonnays. We want to get away from that image.'

As with Gris, it is still early days stylistically for Pinot Noir. Will Adkins of Tasmania's Tamar Ridge said: We aren't looking to make fleshy, powerful Pinot Noir. I think we should try to make Australian not Burgundian Pinot as we'll just end up disappointed.'

Sexton agreed: We shouldn't be comparing all the time. Australia is already producing distinctive Pinots which will eventually reach the UK market. We should aim towards finer, perfumed and feminine Pinots with less funk.'

Most plantings are currently the long-established clones MV6 or G5V15 (also known as the droopy or Paringa clone). It is believed they come from South Africa probably in a suitcase', said Sexton, and can be traced to Lebanon. Dijon clones are becoming more popular in Australia, and such clonal selection will be crucial to vine improvement.