Grape varieties

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is the prince of black grapes. However, outside its ancestral home in the Burgundy region of France where it produces some of the world’s finest red wines, Pinot Noir is renowned for being fickle. It demands a cool climate, the right soils, diligent viticulture and careful winemaking, and maybe then will it unfold its charms. But when it does the angels start to sing.

Those who spend their lives exploring the world of red wine inevitably gravitate to Pinot Noir. One attribute of this noble grape that fascinates wine lovers is how its wines from nearby vineyards all taste subtly different. Hence Pinot Noir is said to express its ‘place’ more than any other red variety.

At their best, Pinot Noir red wines combine just light-to-medium body with intense aroma and flavour in exquisite balance. In their youth Pinot Noir wines are often quite soft and approachable, tasting of red fruits (cherries, strawberries, raspberries). But as the wines age more complex aromas and flavours emerge, sometimes described as ‘forest floor’, fungi or truffle.

At Colmar Estate we have three clones of Pinot Noir – MV6, 777 and 115, each bringing its own unique personality to our wines. The original Block 1 plantings are now well over 20 years old and produce wines of great colour, aroma and character. All of our pinot noir is hand-picked.

Although Pinot Noir is a black grape it is also one of the principle grape varieties used to make Champagne, where it is usually blended with chardonnay.

Pinot Gris

Pinot Gris is a pale-skinned version of Pinot Noir and the grapes appear grey-pink on the vine – much darker than most grapes used to make white wines. Consequently, Pinot Gris wines typically have a slightly coppery colour, in stark contrast to the ‘water white’ colour of young wines made from riesling or sauvignon blanc.

Pinot Gris (the French pronunciation) and Pinot Grigio (the Italian pronunciation) are the same grape variety. The use of either name on wine labels usually indicates the style of wine the winemaker is striving to make – Pinot Gris being full, rich and flavoursome like the wines from Alsace in France; Pinot Grigio being lighter and crisper, with more neutral flavours, in the Italian style.

Colmar Estate is ideally suited to making the gris style as our cool, continental climate allows the full ripening of Pinot Gris grapes while retaining plenty of natural acidity. When Pinot Gris is allowed to fully ripen the wines have a heady but subtle aroma akin to poached pears and apple strudel, sometimes with a whiff of honey.

Full-flavoured Pinot Gris is wonderful on the dinner table and is able to handle robust foods. This is the style we love and will strive to make every year, Mother Nature permitting. Our Colmar Estate vineyard has the potential to make truly great Pinot Gris.



Many of the world’s great white wines are made from the Chardonnay and Australian cool climate Chardonnays are right up there with the best of them. Every year at the Orange Wine Show a new group of judges turns up and comes to the same conclusion as those that have come before – the Chardonnays are stunning. The synergy between the Orange region and this famous grape variety is something special.

At Colmar Estate, the sunny, cool, continental climate enables Chardonnay to develop its delightful ripe ‘white peach’ flavours, while retaining plenty of balancing natural acidity. This fine acidity ensures elegant wines and enables our Chardonnays to develop slowly and well in the bottle over many years.

At Colmar Estate we have three clones of Chardonnay, including a patch of the original P58 clone planted in 1991. Recently we grafted some vines to the renowned Dijon clones 95 and 96 – the pick of the crop of many clones trialled in the Burgundy region of France. These new clones are ideally suited to our cool climate and bring something special to our chardonnays.

Chardonnay is also one of the principle grape varieties used to make Champagne. When used alone Chardonnay makes fine Blanc de Blanc sparkling wines, though it is usually blended with the richer pinot noir.



Ask a dozen of the world’s top wine experts to name their favourite white wines and you can bet that about half of them will nominate a Riesling. This ancient, aristocratic grape intrigues and fascinates like no other white grape.

For many enthusiasts Riesling is the white wine equivalent of Pinot Noir in that it tends to taste of its ‘place’ – the district in which it is grown. Rieslings from Germany taste different to those from Alsace in France which are different again from Australian Rieslings. The Orange region is developing a reputation for fine Rieslings and wines from our vineyard have received high praise.

Depending on where the fruit is grown, Riesling wines may smell fragrant and flowery or citrusy – like limes and lemons. Sometimes the aroma is even spicy. On the palate the fruit flavours are often combined with a minerally, mouth-puckering quality which helps to make Riesling such a great wine to drink with food.

When the season is good at Colmar Estate we like to ripen our Riesling until the citrusy flavours subside a little and lovely soft stone fruit flavours emerge. Few regions in Australia can make Riesling with this flavour profile and still retain the crisp, natural acidity that enables the wines to age and develop with distinction over many years. Special wines from a special place.

Colmar Estate Riesling will be available from the 2015 vintage

Sauvignon Blanc

While some grape varieties may be a bit shy and reticent to reveal themselves this can never be said of Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a wonderfully accessible, easy-to-appreciate grape variety and it is no surprise that Sauvignon Blanc is enjoying such popularity at present.

Once experienced, the aroma of a fine Sauvignon Blanc is impossible to forget – zesty and grassy, with a distinctive gooseberry quality. If the fruit is ripe these characters may be joined by scents of tropical fruits. The palate is typically fresh, fruity and lively, with citrusy acidity on the finish. Alcohol levels are usually moderate giving wines that light-to-medium in body yet full of flavour and character.

The Orange Region of New South Wales is one of the few regions in Australia that produces high quality Sauvignon Blanc – most areas are just too warm for this cool climate grape to perform at its best. At 980 metres above sea level our Colmar Estate vineyard is ideally suited to Sauvignon Blanc and the grapes develop beautiful aromas and flavours as they ripen. We hand-pick the fruit in batches at different stages of ripeness to capture the full spectrum of flavours our Sauvignon Blanc offers us.

Sauvignon Blanc wines are an ideal aperitif and go well with oysters, other seafood and all white-fleshed fish.

Traminer (Gewurztraminer)

Traminer is one of the ancient grape varieties that gave rise to so many of the familiar varieties found in Europe today. Having been around for a thousand years or so Traminer has had ample time to mutate and consequently it has many clones or genetic variations, but one stands out. Gewurztraminer, or ‘spicy’ Traminer, has exotic lychee and rose petal aromas that are unique among wine grapes.

The world’s most highly regarded Traminers come from the cool region of Alsace in the north-east of France where it shares the stage with two other noble grape varieties – Riesling and Pinot Gris. While Riesling has a long been recognised for its quality in Australia and Pinot Gris is a rising star, we hear little about Traminer.

The reason is simple. As one of the earliest ripening grape varieties Traminer needs a very cool climate to show its best and there is hardly anywhere in Australia really suited to the variety, just a few spots near the Victorian alps, some parts of Tasmania and … the highlands of Orange. Some stunning wines have been made from Traminer grown in the Orange high country.

Traminer grapes are usually picked ripe and the resulting wines are full-bodied and full flavoured, with a rich, textured palate. These are not sip-on-the-patio wines – they are wines of substance that demand hearty foods.

Traminer makes some of the world’s most distinctive white wines and just needs a suitably sited vineyard to unleash its potential. That vineyard is Colmar Estate.