VHS Unicorn Club #6 - Pinot Gris

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The story of Unicorn Club #6 from winemaker, Sam Smith

2016 was the last vintage that Adelaide Hill's Pinot Gris made it's way into the VHS vintage cellar. I pushed the envelope as far as it could go that year and macerated gris on skins for a whole 365 days. That parcel of fruit would go on to make up 110% of 2016's 'Rat Shit in Love, Symphony ''Movement #2''.

The vinification methodology was an incredibly direct, and anarchistic response to an almost industry wide practise of early picked and whole bunch pressed wines released very early with almost exclusively zero oak influence. It still blows my fucking mind that the majority of consumers aren't aware that pinot gris is actually a red grape. 

Whilst my feelings on the 2016 gris were mostly positive, I think it's always incredibly important not to attempt to replicate styles, year on year, as instead I look to diversify my oenological skill set and create a spectrum of styles and flavour profiles that a varietal has the potential to acheive. 

In the lead up to the 2019 vintage. I fully intended to let the Birdwood pinot gris hang for as long as mother nature would allow in order to increase fruit concentration, on the vine and potentially allows us to ferment for a lot less time on skins in the cellar. Well...safe to say that mother nature had other ideas. 

Three weeks into the vintage, and as the temperatures soared, it was becoming increasingly evident that the pinot gris block, which was usually on of the last blocks picked in the whole of the Adelaide Hills, amy need to be picked earlier in order to protect the fruit from the sweltering heat. To my amazement the block got through that heatwave and beyond. Of the 4 winemakers who take fruit from that block, other than VHS, all had made the decision to pick fruit on or before March 3rd, in order to alleviate any risk of the vineyard potentially succombing the the elements. 

It would be another 6 weeks before I finally made the call to pick our fruit. They say that the fortune favours the brave, and I think in this particular instance, bravery paid out in dividends. A shaded canopy on the block had seen great acid retention and superb, concentrated fruit entered the cellar. 

We had initially anticipated a 4 tonne allocation from the remaining rows, the truck arrived with 8 tonnes onboard.. This would be the perfect opportunity to ferment the fruit 16 seperate ways and create a 'Spectrum of Gris'. Within 24 hours we had 16 half tonne picking bins of gris covering the cellar floor, all requiring different thought processes and vinification techniques. 

Teh #6 pinot gris, in front of you, is the product of a single fermenter out of the 16 processed. This particular ferment was chosen as I believe it pays the most homage to the style that we set out to achieve. Light, bright, textural and above all else, saturated with aromatics of apple and pear. Extending carbonic maceration out to 6 weeks before a further 2 weeks in an open ferment, with plunges twice daily, have led to a more 'complete' gris than any other. I think that this wine wine reap the benefits of some time in bottle but at the same time, it is ready to rock and roll whenever your hearts desire. 

I also felt that the #6 was the most suited as a blending option, with apple cide, for the 2019 Autumn wine. This wine may challenge some, as it's a style of gris that many of you won't have been exposed to but I'm sure it's a style of gris that you will start to see a lot more of. 

Vinification - 

1 tonne (80% wholebunch + 20% whole berry), 6 weeks carbonic maceration, 2 weeks plunged daily, 8 weeks total skin contact, pressed into stainless steel, racked off gross lees after 72 hours, racked back and locked down under C02

Additional Information
Adelaide Hills
Pinot Gris