Reviewer:

Travis Schultz
02 October 2019

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Punt Road Yarra Valley, Punt Road 2018

Global warming has been prominent in the headlines and a topic of dinner table conversation for the last few years and I suspect that it won’t be long before those with pulling power in the wine industry confront the reality of climate change for viticulture and winemaking practices. With temperatures across the globe forecast to increase gradually over coming decades, it’s only a matter of time before threats emerge to cool climate wine regions and conversely, opportunities emerge in areas where it was once too cold to successfully produce fruit for table wines. And if you are looking for evidence of opportunities from the climate change phenomenon, I’d point to the success of emerging wine producing areas like Poland, Michigan in the USA, Sweden and Denmark. Even Nova Scotia in Canada is beginning to make decent cabernet franc and chardonnay! Is it just better technology and vinicultural practices, or is it the handiwork of greenhouse gases and holes in the ozone layer?
 
In Australia, I suspect that the real winner out of global warming will be Tasmania. There, the local wine industry is starting to kick goals globally and a few extra degrees and a longer ripening season would probably open doors for winemakers to successfully make a wider range of varietals. But another interesting region that might actually be a surprise winner from a warmer climate is the Yarra Valley in Victoria. Currently, it’s considered to be cool climate by definition with a seven-month growing season and cool, dry and humid summers, but it’s all relative. By way of comparison, it’s cooler than Bordeaux but warmer than Burgundy and is currently famed for its chardonnay and pinot noir. But I’m guessing that all of that might change! Where presently cabernet sauvignon doesn’t do so well in the cool-ish region but cabernet franc does, perhaps we will soon see a time when cabernet also excels and the Yarra Valley becomes the Bordeaux of the Southern Hemisphere? Or maybe I’m dreaming?
 
I’ve always thought that the Yarra Valley was a touch too warm for pinot noir to do its best work, but the quality of their pinot gris and chardonnay is world class. Chardonnay is a grape that is very versatile and can do well in cooler climates but can also cope well with a bit more heat and a longer ripening period. Pinot gris on the other hand does tend to present at its finest in the cooler regions. Perhaps it’s a case of get in and enjoy the Yarra pinot gris while it’s still being produced in a near perfect climate?
 
I recently caught up with one of the rock star winemakers of the Yarra, Tim Shand of Punt Road fame, who was on the Sunshine Coast showing off his current crop of exceptional wines. I’ve visited his winery a few times in the past and kept a watchful eye on his chardonnay as each vintage was released, but I have to admit that his pinot gris has until now, slipped under my guard somewhat. The 2018 Punt Road Pinot Gris is currently on the shelves and selling at a surprisingly affordable $20 - $23 price point. If you’re the type of wine consumer who likes to find value, I don’t think you’ll do much better than this one, it’s a pearler of a white; just ask Tim Shand, he’ll tell you!
 
According to Tim, “A victim of our own success, we have added to the Napoleone vineyard a batch of Pinot Gris this year with fruit sourced from a block on the Beenak vineyard, located near Gembrook. Nearly 30 years old, on red dirt and as southerly as the Yarra gets, the latter is probably the best block of gris in Victoria. The Napoleone portion is all about texture, barrel ferment, crisp line and nashi pear. Beenak brings opulence, mid-palate presence and weight, with a nod to the old country. The two have blended happily, making our most exciting release to date.”
 
To my palate, the Punt Road stable star is all about pear and stone fruit and a juicy viscosity. I love the phenolics and a creamy edge to the texture as the fruit weaves its way through a finish that smacks of lychee and even stewed Granny Smith apple. There’s enough acidity to control the fruit but not too much to suck in your cheeks.  A great drop at the ask. But unless you’re a climate change sceptic, I reckon you’d want to stock up soon as the Yarra might not always produce a pinot gris this good!
 
The 2018 Punt Road Napoleone Vineyard Chardonnay is also on the shelves at the moment and is an absolute steal at the humble price tag.  It’s everything that you’d expect of a Yarra chardy but over-delivers on opulence of peach, pineapple and well-rounded fruit for a wine that lists at around $22. It’s a terrific drop, but my tastebuds are stuck on the pinot gris; it’s absolutely delicious, but I suspect that we’d better stock up before greenhouse gases do their dastardly work!
Price: $24
Wine Category: Chardonnay
Winery Website: www.puntroadwines.com.au
Travis Schultz is a wine reviewer for the Sunshine Coast Daily and The Grape Hunter extend their thanks to the Sunshine Coast Daily for allowing re-publication of his reviews
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