Pinot 'G' Pioneer

Photo: Kevin McCarthy

Kevin McCarthy established renowned winery T’Gallant with wife Kathleen Quealy in 1990. Known as the pioneer of pinot gris and pinot grigio on the Mornington Peninsula, T’Gallant will host T’Gallivant In Gris Paradis at this year’s Festival. Kevin shares a unique insight into his life as a winemaker, marathon runner and family man.

-What can we look forward to at your event at this year’s Festival, T’Gallant In Gris Paradis?

Together, Christian Maier, RACV Club Sommelier, and I are very honoured to host guests that will take you behind the scenes into the wonderful and mysterious world of wine.  When you arrive at T’Gallant, Christian and I will take you for a tour of the T’Gallant vineyards, explain what qualities we look for to create a consistent, quality wine.  Then we’ll sit down for degustation lunch that is a tribute to traditional French Alsatian food, created by T’Gallant chef Bob Coley based on produce from the Mornington Peninsula.

-Why is a cool climate essential in creating premium pinot grigio and pinot gris?

It’s important to understand the origins of pinot grigio and pinot gris. Crisp pinot grigio hails from NorthernItaly whilst the more luscious pinot gris originates from Northern France.  These types of grapes grow best in cool climates, and mature relatively early with high sugar levels. pinot gris and pinot grigio thrive here on the Mornington Peninsula, where our region’s fertile soils and maritime climate are ideal.  The maritime influence provides relatively high summer humidity, vine stress is low, sunshine hours are abundant, rainfall is plentiful during winter and spring.  Then what you get is late ripening and a prolonged gentle autumn result in fully ripe grapes with outstanding fruit flavours and high natural acidity.

-What is your most memorable wine experience?

I’ve been involved in the wine industry for about 20 years, so am at a lucky advantage to have many memorable wine experiences. But I have to say that what I enjoy most is helping create those memorable wine experiences for others. Whether it is introducing someone for the first time to wine, making the wine that toasts newlyweds, the first born baby or a celebrating a sixtieth birthday party – I can’t imagine doing anything else in the world.

-What is your ultimate food and wine pairing?

It would have to be pinot gris and foie gras.  If I were king, I’d have this perfect combination at all hours of the day.  Foie gras perfectly highlights what’s great about pinot gris, balanced richness - it’s mind expanding!

-Outside of Australia, what is your favourite wine region and why?

I am equally inspired by both Friuli in Italy and Alsace in France.  When I went there for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the sheer versatility of styles that you can get from a single variety.  With our range at T’Gallant, we’ve been able to great crisp, fresh pinot grigio that we put into our Cape Schanck, through to our Grace which as longer length, then our Imogen where the pinot gris is a more potent, Alsation style.

-What do you think will be the next big thing / next trend in the world of wine?

Looking into the future, I think we’ll see more varietals from North East Italy. Coming from that region, the Ribolla Giallo has the potential to be the global wine phenomenon. It’s a white Italian grape with origins that are ancient, dating back to 1289.  Although unknown here in Australia, it’s highly revered in Italy and has a magnificent deep colour. Like pinot grigio, it has a great texture, with a power, richness and opulence.  It’s imperative though that winemakers respect the tannins and phenolics which will give you an extra dimension.

-What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Before I’m in the vineyards, I run in the mornings.  On an average week I clock up 30 kilometres and while some people call me crazy, I’m proud to say I’ve completed six marathons.  My beautiful wife Kathleen Quealy and our five children also keep me quite busy!  In a few months’ time we’ll be hosting our son’s wedding at our house.    

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