Harvesting of the Pinot Grigio is booked in for Tuesday. Lillian Carter, Australia & NZ Oenologist at The Flying Winemaker, has been closely watching the weather and keeping in close contact with the vineyard manager, here at the glorious Chrismont Vineyard in King Valley, to check if any parcels are behind in ripening terms. She had to make what she calls “a highly educated guess” regarding picking date a few days ago, and at least one week ahead, so that the winery could be informed, and bottlenecks avoided. Grapes need to be harvested at their optimum baumé (sugar reading) at which point sugars are not too high and natural acidities are retained. Once picked, the grapes have to be processed at the winery as soon as possible. There are certainly a lot of logistics to take care of in the wine industry!

In the last 10 years or so, King Valley – a wine region of great scenic beauty, the landscape dominated by the mountains and granite boulders of the Great Dividing Range – has emerged as a premium location for white grape growing. This is particularly the case with Pinot Grigio and Prosecco, for the production of lighter, crisp, and refreshing wines: a style very much in demand in the market, now.

Once the processing of the grapes has begun at the winery, Lilian, who is from nearby Rutherglen and was raised in the wine industry, will be checking the extraction rate of the free-run juice, making decisions about skin contact, tasting juices during fermentation, checking the fermentation charts, checking the numbers, looking at the analysis… the list goes on.

Weather-wise, this year has been a ‘typical’ year, and typical doesn’t come along often now. In general, the King Valley folks are contending with cooler, wetter weather; conditions which are challenging and erratic. Everyone has had to learn to respond quickly to the demands of changing weather patterns and understand what is happening in the vineyard. Lilian singles out cane pruning which, while costly, allows for more dynamic canopy management. “I have more tools in the toolbox now!” she laughs. As she explains, viticulturists and oenologists have to have a deep knowledge of what the other does; but personality-wise they are exactly the same: “a bit mad!!”


February 16, 2024 — Kyle Oosterberg