This island state has less than 1% of Australia’s vineyards and just 0.1% of wine is exported, but that hasn’t muffled the huge buzz surrounding its cool-climate potential. Huon Hooke finds very good things come in small packages...
Six Tasmanian wine producers to watch
This 7ha vineyard was established in 2002 at Middle Tea Tree in the Coal Valley by Hobart barrister Greg Melick. He planted only Riesling and Pinot Noir, thereby doggedly declaring his personal preferences. Since the first vintage, 2007, the Rieslings – at four sweetness levels declared on labels as R0, R9, R69 and R139 – have been prolific award winners in Australian wine shows. The Pinot Noir is getting there more slowly. All are vinified by highly influential custom-crush winery Winemaking Tasmania.
Established in the Cambridge district of the Coal Valley in 1991, under the shadow of a giant radio telescope, this meticulously managed vineyard with water frontage is owned by Hobart lawyer Ian Roberts. There are 20ha of vines and a large olive grove. The wines are made in the Barossa Valley at Cellarmasters, which buys a proportion of the grapes for its own wines. The Crater Chardonnay is a pure, hauntingly perfumed iteration of Tasmanian finesse, and a multiple trophy winner. Pinot and Riesling also impress.
Enterprising Czech migrant Joe Chromy has owned three successful winemaking ventures, this latest eponymous one having 60ha of vines at Relbia, south of Launceston. A modern winery, restaurant, cellar-door sales and function centre are all thriving. The main varieties are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the latter a DWWA 2013 International Trophy winner. Sparkling wines, Riesling and fumé-style Sauvignon Blanc are all successful – the wine style idiosyncratic within the Tasmanian gamut; more mineral rather than fruity.
The Bull family fortuitously chose a bowl-shaped sun-trap site for its 9ha vineyard planted in 1980, near Bicheno on the central East Coast. The relatively warm and dry climate enables remarkable year-to-year consistency of quality in Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Winemaker Claudio Radenti married the owners’ daughter Lindy, hence continuity of direction has been a key advantage. Both are trained winemakers. Freycinet’s Pinot Noir achieves greater flavour depth, colour and structure more consistently and earlier than other Tasmanian wineries.
Arras/Bay of Fires
Arras is the premium sparkling wine brand of Accolade, formerly Hardy’s. The Grand Vintage spends 10 years on its lees and the EJ Carr Late Disgorged Vintage (named after the winemaker) is left for 12 years. Since becoming purely Tasmanian in the late 1990s, Arras makes Australia’s leading bubblies. Derwent Valley and East Coast are Ed Carr’s favoured regions, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir the grapes. Bay of Fires and Eddystone Point are the Tasmanian table-wine brands, vinified in the company’s Pipers River winery but sourced throughout the island. Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir all excel.
Tamar Ridge/Devil’s Corner
Brown Brothers’ purchase of Tamar Ridge in 2010 was the biggest investment yet in Tasmanian wine; the company sees its future in this island state. Sub-brands include Pirie and Devil’s Corner: the latter has since become the focus of a major push for volume at the A$20 (£11) price point – Devil’s Corner Riesling is outstanding value. Tamar Ridge dry and sweet botrytised Rieslings have been exceptional, and Tamar Ridge Reserve Pinot Noir was often superb in pre-Brown days. The takeover dust is still settling but a luscious, profound A$65 (£36) Devil’s Corner Mt Amos Pinot Noir 2012 is an exciting harbinger.