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Peter F May's
Unusual Wines

Unusual Varieties
Diversity in Wine
Page 23

Sauvignon Gris
Valle del Maipo
Winelabel       Here's a rarity, not Sauvignon Blanc but Gris, also known as Sauvignon Rose - it's a pink skinned mutation - rather like Pinot Gris (aka Grigio) is a pink skinned version of Pinot Noir.

      It tastes just like Sauvignon Blanc, maybe a little more muted, but that could be down to this particular winemaking. Its the first Sauvignon Gris I have encountered so I don't know enough about the variety.

      The variety originated in Bordeaux where little remains, and I'm guessing this is a descendent of the cuttings that the Chile government brought out from France in the mid 1800's just before Phylloxera devastated Europe's vineyards.

      It is water white, good crisp clean nose which follow through on the palate. It is quite full bodied at 14% abv, some floral and citrus tones. Very nice. I'm not rushing out to buy a case because I prefer the more extreme goosberry and cats pee flavour Sauvignons from New Zealand and South Africa, but if I see another Gris I'll certainly try it.

Nerello Mascalese
Cantina del Coppiere
      Italy is a treasure house of local varieties and it is good to see them being exported.

      Nerello Mascalese makes an enjoyable berry fruited with some lively acidity. Ideal with Italian recipes.

Trentham Estate
New South Wales
      A pleasant walk in the country with lunch at a country pub led to the surprise find of a new variety -- Taminga. It was developed by Australia's science agency CSIRO Merbein Laboratory as a result of crossing Riesling, Farana (a Spanish variety) & Traminer.

      The variety apparently is susceptible to noble rot, and this is a delicious ripe example with apricot and lime flavours and a wonderful non-cloying sweetness. One to look out for....

      Winery website is www.trenthamestate.com.au

Chambers Rosewood Vineyards
Rutherford, Victoria
Winelabel       An almost extinct white grape variety, Gouais, has recently been causing excitement among wine geeks. DNA testing has revealed that Gouais has a most important role as a parent of many of today’s famous varieties.

      Gouais is the parent of many prestigious varieties. It has been said that Gouais has an affinity for Pinot Noir; cross pollination of Gouais and Pinot Noir has at various times in the past produced Beaujolais’s Gamay and the two white Burgundy vines Chardonnay and Aligote as well as half a dozen lesser known varieties

      But Gouais didn’t remain true to Pinot Noir. It crossed with other varieties to create Riesling and Columbard, as well as the rare Champagne grape Petite Meslier.       According to Wikipedia, Gouais is now extinct in France except for examples in a vine bank in Montpelier and can be found growing only in Switzerland.

      To that add Australia, as I found to my surprise when I called into Chambers Rosewood Vineyards in Rutherglen, Victoria. Rutherglen as a whole, and Chambers in particular, are famed for fortified wines, both for sherry and port style and especially for luscious dessert wines made from Muscadelle and Muscat.

      Chambers also make table wines from familiar varieties as well as lesser known ones such as Chasselas, Mondeuse, Cinsault and Durif. And they make a varietal Gouais. “We have two rows of Gouais,” said winemaker and six-generation owner Stephen Chambers. “We received a whole load of different varieties from France in the 1800’s,” he told me. “They were all planted out and we kept growing those that did well here.”

      I tasted the 2002 and 2003 Chambers Gouais, the first at the winery, the latter with dinner.

      Medium dark yellow colour, Subdued nose with a hint of lime-peel. Lychees, quite acidic and some tannins. There’s an oily mouth feel, and it has a clean crisp dry finish. I was concerned about the colour and though it was possibly a bit oxidised.

      Knowing the ties to both Riesling & Chardonnay, one can make a connection - the mouthfeel of Riesling with some Chardonnay character.

     It is not possible to make a generalisation about a grape variety by tasting just one example wine. This particular example was a quite simple, crisp dry wine and not one I’d go back for. I would however love to taste a more recent vintage from this producer and any other examples.

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8 February 2009