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Wine of the Week for week ending 15 September 2002
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Bilancia Pinot Grigio 2002
Marlborough, New Zealand

When tasting wine at the huge Wine New Zealand Trade Fair in Auckland a couple of weeks ago, I spent one afternoon of the three days tasting Pinot Gris. While there were a number of disappointing wines, there were also some terrific ones and three or four took my fancy. Of course, being able to indulge in a whole bottle over a couple of nights rather than a small sample in a rushed and crowded atmosphere really proves the drinkability or not.

The Bilancia Pinot Grigio 2002 was one of my favourites and indeed its class and drinkability was endorsed this weekend with time to relax and enjoy the wine in a particularly non-hurried atmosphere.

There's a good intensity to the straw colour of the wine while citrus, pears drops and honeydew melon combine to give an attractive lifted fragrance. But the best part is the wine in the mouth. It's rich, but not overpoweringly so and its got a bit of sweetness which is nicely in balance with the acidity. But I love the vibrancy of the freshness and flavour. Its a spicy number, a fruit salad of a wine with upfront lemon then lots of ripe and fleshy pear, melon, nectarine and subtle nutty, leesy flavours. It's wonderfully ripe with terrific palate weight, excellent concentration, a lavish lushness and a clean fresh finish. Mmmm, hints of baked apple perhaps, as well.

Don't let the 'Pinot Grigio' on the label fool you into thinking this is going to be a steely Italian pinot grigio look-a-like, because it is not. The pinot grigio is used, I'm sure, to keep the Italian theme in the name. For bi'lancia (be-larn-cha) is an Italian word meaning balance, harmony and equilibrium. I am certainly finding these qualities in the Bilancia Pinot Grigio 2002. Bilancia also means the scales of the zodiac (libra) as illustrated on the label.

The wine is the craftsmanship of Lorraine Leheny and Warren Gibson, who reside in Hawkes Bay where they are developing their terraced hillside vineyard. The main emphasis there is Syrah and Viognier.

So the grapes for the Pinot Grigio come from Marlborough as they have done for the previous two years. Lorraine travels to Marlborough to supervise the hand harvesting and the whole bunch pressing, then the juice is trucked to Hawkes Bay where it is lightly settled prior to cool fermentation in stainless steel. The resulting wine has 13% alcohol and 6 grams of residual sugar.

When originally tasted at Wine New Zealand I thought the wine was quite rich and needed food. Thai was recommended so several Thai delicacies were bought to try with the wine. The chicken satay was definitely the best. But really the wine can stand on its own and that is how I am enjoying it right now. But we've a roast of pork and apple in the oven and I know that will just be perfect.

Bilancia Pinot Grigio 2002 costs around NZ$28 a bottle in New Zealand. Fine wine stores should stock this wine and it will be found on some restaurant lists.

Internationally it will be exported to Belgium and hopefully to Ireland. It may also turn up in one or two London restaurants.

Contact Lorraine or Warren at for more information.

© Sue Courtney

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