If you’re looking at superior sweet wines, the botrytised role models are German Riesling or Sauternes. If you’re reasonably broad in your experience, then Hungarian Tokay is on the radar, but the style is funky. We tend to forget that sweet wines made from desiccated grapes are a major style, but recognition has paled into insignificance. But it shouldn’t be the case, as such wines are just as valid, and a much larger amount of sweet wine is made this way than is realised.
In Central Otago, making high quality sweet wine just isn’t feasible in the usual parameters. Botrytis just doesn’t appear with the regularity that is desirable. And even just hanging the fruit out longer isn’t viable due to the extreme conditions that often prevail at the end of the growing season. So Paul Pujol of Prophet’s Rock drew on his experience making sweet wines overseas, and talking and tasting them, and decided it was quite likely that a dried-fruit style would be possible in Central Otago. So for 2016, he made a Pinot Gris Vin de Paille – a straw wine where the grapes are dried on straw mats, in this case in the shed at Prophet’s Rock. He was very aware of how easily things could literally turn sour, so great care and cleanliness was critical.
The result is an absolutely delicious wine. The 2016 Prophet’s Rock Central Otago Vin de Paille is pale golden-coloured, and has aromas and flavours of ripe tropical fruit with honied notes. There’s a touch of nectar. And the mouthfeel has viscosity and unctuousness. There’s marmalade, exotic spices and some caramel. And if one thinks hard, maybe a touch of straw. The Pinot Gris grapes were dried for 45 days and fermented over 13 months. It’s 11.5% alc. and 170 g/L RS. Only 765 bottles of 375 ml capacity were made. SWMBO and I had to share it, and it was the I-Spy Man and the Plate Licker who were the beneficiaries. Straw wine – bring it on!