2021 Gris on Skins & Savvy Blanc from Punt Road’s Tim Shand

It’s never too soon to tuck into a bright, sleek and snappy drink-young wine, is it? And if ever there was an Aussie wizard who seems to click his fingers and conjure up a ripper in this vein, that man is Tim Shand.

The runaway success of Tim’s Airlie Bank Gris on Skins means this wine’s many fans have already waited a long time for a refill. Same goes for the Sauvignon Blanc; with no 2020 release of this wine, this ‘21 version is the first to sport the new colours. It looks fantastic, in the bottle and glass.

Spring 2020 was warm and wet in the Coldstream, with enough spells of sunshine to ensure the best flowering and fruit-set in three years.

Consistent fruit-set matched with plentiful ground water led to vigorous canopy development and large crops, which called for meticulous shoot and fruit thinning as the season progressed.  The Punt Road team had to beat off disease pressure throughout, which threatened to become a losing battle with a big dump of rain in late January 2021.

However, that weekend of near despair ceded to a two-month run of glorious weather. The season finished with perfect ingredients: Warm days, cold nights and protracted ripening.

“Tannin concentration and ripeness will be the hallmark of 2021,” says Tim. “ Wines retained good natural acidity and flavours came ripe at low Baumés.”

NV Airlie Bank Yarra Cuvée Sparkling $24

This is a blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir fruit sourced entirely from the Napoleone Vineyard in the Yarra Valley. Each bottling represents a blend, being one part from the grandfather base tank (the oldest element being 2010) along with one part from the current vintage.

The wine sees full MLF, as well as small injections of new oak and brandy spirit. It’s pale gold in appearance with a fine persistent bead. Aromas of citrus fruits and subtle apricot, complemented by a doughy, bready complexity. It’s fresh and vibrant with a focused palate of apple blossom and citrus characters with complex brioche notes. – Tim Shand, Punt Road

2021 Airlie Bank Sauvignon Blanc $24

The 2021 Airlie Bank Sauvignon Blanc fruit was (as always) picked at low baume (10.5) from Block 10 on the Napoleone Vineyard, which was planted in 2009. Juice with all solids was run to old puncheons the day after pressing. After fermentation it was stirred weekly before coming out to the bottling tank in late April. It just gets an SO2 addition and then to bottle in mid-May.

This is a really gentle, refreshing wine. It has hints of passionfruit and baby peas. The wine runs a higher pH/lower TA than most Sauvignon Blanc that’s out there. It’s really succulent as a result, and the fruit finishes with a savoury and slightly phenolic line. – Tim Shand, Punt Road

2021 Airlie Bank Gris on Skins $24

The 2021 Airlie Bank Gris on Skins has its distinctive Redskin (now quite rightly renamed Red Ripperz!) nose, with Meyer lemon and dash of Old Spice. The palate is more restrained than in previous years, musky and floral with a bitter aperol finish. Winemaking was more towards whole bunches this year, and even the skins component had a longer maceration (4 days). Despite all this the wine is refreshing and balanced, restrained even. – Tim Shand, Punt Road

2020 Airlie Bank Pinot Noir $24

This is our second bottling from the bizarre 2020 vintage, which went from ridiculous to sublime. We had very small crops, early tannin ripeness and picked at low Baumé. We avoided disease pressure in a very difficult year in that sense, and ended up with more transparency and freshness in the fruit than 2019.

The Pinot really could have gone either way this year. Ultimately though all factors (inclement spring, mild summer, plentiful rain, elongated ripening) lead us down the quality road – i.e. small crops, humidity and robust vine health, minimal disease, ripe tannins. 

We used plenty of whole bunches (60%) and, as always, no oak. The grapes were picked a fraction underripe for fruit brightness and pop. Minimal SO2, added late. Held on lees until a week before bottling at the very end of June. No fining, and only a coarse filtration.

2020’s Pinot Noir is a more savoury proposition than the ’19. It has more in common with the 2017 Airlie Bank Pinot, though with riper tannins. – Tim Shand, Punt Road

Orange peel, amaro herbs, red fruit, spicy, and very savoury. It’s light, kind of juicy, but bright and complex, sappy and a little bit ‘out there’, slight smokiness, energy and crunch, and all-round deliciousness of drinking. Finish is good. Love this. 92 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front

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