Winemaker’s Fantasy come true: Small & Small’s Pinot Gris block update

Published by Tamara Harrison - 28th May 2019

Every year Naked Wines runs a promotion called Winemaker’s Fantasy. It’s where three talented winemakers have the chance to win $80,000 funding to go towards crafting their dream wine.

The premise is pretty simple – and enticing! Three winemakers get chosen to pitch their fantasy project, and if enough Angels vote for it, Naked will make it happen by providing the funds. Here’s winemaker Bill Small from Small & Small talking about his Winemaker’s Fantasy experience.

In the running this year was Tom Hordern who wanted to get his hands dirty with some Californian fruit, Paul Nelson, who hoped to travel to Italy to make wine, and Claudia and me. Our proposal was a little closer to home. We wanted to rejuvenate a forgotten Pinot Gris block in our beloved Rawiri Vineyard. We purchased the vineyard last May and knew that it had great bones – but these particular vines had been a little neglected and needed an injection of cash and TLC to allow them to reach their full potential. In time we hope we’ll be able to produce a Pinot Gris that’s among the best our region can offer if we’re able to get the vines humming.

All three projects got the thumbs up and for us, it’s all coming together nicely. We’ve spent a fair bit of time in the block and with the extra cash we’ve been able to give each vine the attention it needs to produce top-shelf fruit, along with cropping at a modest yield.

We had a great spell of weather in the run-up to harvest and the fruit came off in tip-top nic on the 15th of March. Here are some pictures of the harvest.

In the winery, it’s been smooth sailing. We crushed the fruit and gave it some extra skin contact (Pinot Gris is one of those varieties with lots of flavour in the skins) and fermented the whole lot in old oak barriques. It’s dry now, and it pretty much wine, but we’ll let it mature on the used yeast cells (sur lie, as the French say) until early summer, which will help add fullness and texture. But even now it’s looking lovely – a big mouthful of flavour, with elegant acidity and terrific length.

Thanks to everyone who voted for our pitch – we’ve loved this project and we’re really looking forward to getting the wine to you!

Cheers, Bill