Finding yourself stuck in a wine rut these days? Are you reaching for the same old chardonnay or cabernet night after night no matter the occasion? Then it’s time to wake up and smell the Pinot Gris!
This unexplored varietal arrived in South Africa in the early 70’s with the promise of disease resistance, good yields, and wines with deep colour and body. At first pinot gris was only used as a blending wine and it took until the mid-1980s for the first single varietal pinot gris to be released. Today, there’s still only a handful of producers in South Africa willing to tackle this unexplored grape as a single varietal wine. To date, there are only 276 hectares planted throughout the whole of South Africa and this is mostly due to the fact that pinot gris enjoys a cooler climate.
It was an invitation from De Grendel Wine Estate in Durbanville that made me venture into the history of this little known varietal. The weather played along with the occasion and assistant winemaker, Elzette du Preez, welcomed us with a De Grendel Pinot Gris and litchi juice cocktail upon arrival. After admiring the stunning view over Table Mountain it was time to put our senses to the test.
Elzette pulled out a wine aroma kit and asked the group to identify 10 specific smells. This was by no means an easy task and only one person scored a high of three correct answers. It was however a great way to get us ready and focused on the characteristics of the variety before tasting across the four vintages of De Grendel Pinot Gris.
80% of the De Grendel Pinot Gris is fermented in tank and 20% is fermented in barrel. The grapes that goes into the barrel are harvested at a higher sugar level, and spend about 4 months in new French, Romanian, and American oak.
While tasting through the four vintages, starting with the 2009 and ending with the 2012, it became apparent that these are wines with great aging potential. According to Elzette this is due to the high natural acid and low pH found in all four wines.
The 2009 De Grendel Pinot Gris is a beautifully rounded and complex wine, with subtle flavours of ripe pears and lemon zest. The 2012 vintage however offers more flinty elements with flavours of Golden Delicious apple and grapefruit segment. If you can resist temptation and save it for a year or two, you’ll end up with an elegant beauty, ready to please the palate.
The 2012 De Grendel Pinot Gris is available from the cellar door at R75 a bottle. If you planning a visit to De Grendel, why not pop in at the restaurant? The fine cuisine of Chef Ian Bergh is a must try and so is the Pinot Gris!