Friday 29 December 2017

Spring Vale 2017 Shiraz Rosé

It's definitely rosé season down south. I enjoyed a glass (or two) of this under the trees at the Taste of Tasmania earlier this week and it was downright delicious. Shiraz vines were planted at Spring Vale, on Tasmania's east coast, in 2014. The 2017 vintage produced a healthy crop of fruit which was fermented close to bone dry. This is vibrantly coloured, floral and red-fruit dominated on the palate with just a hint of spice. This totally refreshing number demands to be served well-chilled with cricket on the TV and some Jason Isbell up loud on the sound system. Add a bad boy if your mood moves you. $30.  

Saturday 16 December 2017

Stefano Lubiana 2010 Brut Rosé

I may be a little late to the party reviewing this outstanding brut rosé bubbly from Stefano Lubiana in the Derwent Valley north of Hobart, but if you can find a bottle or two, made from 100% pinot noir then you will be well rewarded. The fruit here is biodynamically grown and the wines made with minimal intervention, including minimal sulphur. This release has spent four years on lees and couple of years in bottle, producing a lovely sparkling wine that has strawberry and savoury notes living in peaceful co-existence. "Seamless and delicious," was my bubbly-loving wife's verdict. This would be a delight enjoyed pre-Christmas dinner with smoked salmon on blinis with fresh cream. 

Saturday 9 December 2017

Stargazer 2017 Rada

Sam Connew is a force of nature. A qualified lawyer in her native New Zealand and an accomplished marathon runner, she has been chief winemaker at big guns like Wirra Wirra and Tower Estate, as well as being chief judge at the Royal Sydney Show. She is now crafting an excellent range of boutique wines from her vineyard base in the Coal River Valley. The latest wine to join the Stargazer line-up, bring the collection up to five, is a co-fermented blend of pinot meunier and pinot noir from the 2017 vintage. Fresh and juicy red berry flavours ally with savoury/spice notes from the meunier to produce a red that's perfect for summer sipping - and can even be chilled for a few minutes on warmer days. The fruit is a blend of Pipers River and the Coal River Valley. This is a style I'd like to see a lot more of.

Friday 1 December 2017

Bellebonne 2015 Vintage Rosé

Natalie Fryar was the driving force behind the Jansz sparkling wines for several years but after leaving in 2014 has finally launched the first wine under her own Bellebonne label - and its a cracker. Known as the Fizzician (well I just made that up, actually), Fryar is a whiz with bubbles and Bellebonne's first release, a stunning vintage rosé made from 100% Tasmanian pinot noir (from Pipers River), will almost certainly sell out (less than 1500 bottles were made)). A Vintage Cuvée and Blanc de Blancs are also in the pipeline. This is a very pretty wine with delicious fruit, but is also powerful and elegant with plenty of potential longevity. It's been aged in 100% old oak and undergone some lees work for complexity. The name Bellebonne makes "beautiful and good" and the wine is labelled "Made by Tasmania" as a nod to the Apple Isle's unique terroir. Outstanding. I give it 96/100. $65.   

Sunday 26 November 2017

Tasmanian Organic Wines 2016 Bye's Lifffey Valley Pinot Noir

Ian and Caryl Cairns, among only a handful of organic wine producers in Tasmania, make tiny quantities of pinot noir each year from their remote vineyard at 300 metres in the eastern foothills of the Great Western Tiers, a collection of mountain bluffs that form the northern edge of the Central Highlands plateau. With warm sunny days and very cool nights, the vineyard has the diurnal variation that sees pinot noir thrive. The property has been farmed using organic and biodynamic methods since 1991 and the wines are made with minimal sulphur dioxide. The Cairns family has no website, however, and does minimal promotion, so the wines are little known despite a history of excellence. Inky and intense, this has dark fruit notes with wild mushroom and deli nuances and finishes long, fresh and clean. $35. 

Saturday 18 November 2017

Mania 2016 Chardonnay

Winemaker Jim Chatto may well be the busiest man in the Australian wine industry. In addition to overseeing the McWilliam's Mount Pleasant operation and associated brands, he's also the chief winemaker for Kreglinger, across the Pipers Brook and Norfolk Rise brands, as well as making pinot noir in southern Tasmania under the Chatto and Isle labels. This is a side project with Fourth Waves Wines; an excellent Tasmanian chardonnay made using fruit from the Iron Pot Bay vineyard in the Tamar Valley in the north of the state. It's very good, too, with whole-bunch, wild fermentation and 100% barrel ferment upping the funk ante. Matured for 12 months in mainly older oak puncheons, this also underwent post-ferment battonage. Think elegance, minerality, citrus and stone fruits with plenty of zippy acid. Luvverly. $35.  

Friday 10 November 2017

Bream Creek 2016 Riesling

There is a sure-fire way to ascertain whether a wine is a winner. That is when you suddenly see a bottle with much lower levels than any of the wines you are tasting alongside it. This wine has that quality - and was recently named top Tasmanian riesling at the International Riesling Challenge in Canberra. It's a little masterpiece from vigneron Fred Peacock and his team on the Tasman Peninsula, crisp and dry with bright lemon, lime and Granny Smith apple notes along with terrific length and acidity. The vines producing fruit for this wine are up 40 years old - and are reflected in the intensity of the fruit. Riesling is well suited to the Tasmanian climate, and is a good match with the seafood, shellfish and Asian-accented dishes. 

Sunday 5 November 2017

Bay of Fires 2016 Chardonnay

With Penny Jones and Ricky Evans having seaminglessly continued the winemaking excellence of the now departed Peter Dredge, the new-release 2016 Bay of Fires is once again among Tasmania's finest chardonnays; cool-climate and beguiling in style. This is a blend of fruit from three different regions of Tasmania; the Coal River Valley, the Derwent Valley and the East Coast and offers classic notes of stone fruit and bright citrus. It has undergone natural ferment and been matured in French oak but the bright fruit is the star on a long, intense palate, with quality oak playing Robin to the fruit's Batman. Beautifully balanced, dry with a crisp acid backbone, and absolutely delicious. $45.

Sunday 29 October 2017

Stefano Lubiana 2016 Estate Pinot Noir

You will rarely go wrong with wines produced by Stefano and Monique Lubiana at Granton, just north of Hobart. The Lubianas are obsessed with quality above all else and farm organically and biodynamically, producing wines with flavour intensity and quality. Compost teas, natural minerals and plant-based preparations are not a guarantee of success - but here everything comes together beautifully to produce a pinot noir that sings with its elegant composure and impressive structure with fruit and savoury characters knitted together. This is 100% estate grown, vinified and bottled and has impressive balance. A simply lovely cool-climate pinot. $50.

Sunday 24 September 2017

MacLean Bay 2017 Pinot Rosé

A deliciously fresh, crisp and dry rosé from a vineyard just north of Bicheno on Tasmania's east coast. I first tasted this is a sample and was hugely impressed. I then had a couple of glasses at the East Coast Wine Weekend in September - and enjoyed it again. Goodness knows how impressive it will look when the days are warmer and it can be slurped chilled on the deck late in the afternoon. MacLean Bay was formerly known as Diamond Island and is now owned and operated by go-ahead duo Simon Will and Scott Williams. This was made by Alain Rousseau at Frogmore Creek and is lip-smackingly good. Pair with a Middle Eastern mezze plate, or a humble kebab. $28.  

Monday 11 September 2017

Wellington & Wolfe 2017 Session Riesling

This is the debut release from a new label, the brainchild of winemakers Hugh McCullough and Natalie Fryar. It is a delicious, lip-smacking young riesling made using fruit sourced from the Pipers River region in the north-east of Tasmania. Self-confessed "riesling nut" McCullough says his wines are "made for the outdoors, for friends, for deliciousness: reisling for any session". From a very good vintage, the fruit saw some skin contact before being basket pressed. Lees contact added texture and body to a palate that ranges from stone fruit to grapefruit flavours and features enticing crisp natural acid.

Saturday 29 July 2017

Beautiful Isle 2016 Red Delicious

Many Tasmanian wines are deadly serious; economies of scale making it difficult to produce cheap and cheerful bottles on the Apple Isle. Much kudos then to Cynthea Semmens and David Feldheim, who have managed to produce a range of bright, quaffing wines under the Beautiful Isle label that offer immediate drinking pleasure and won't break the bank. The Beautiful Isle range is labelled as a tribute to the vibrant apple crate art of Tasmania’s Apple Isle hey day. This is made from a blend of cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir, with some merlot, shiraz and cabernet franc thrown into the mix, a field blend from the fruit salad vineyard that is Marion's Vineyard in the Tamar Valley. It is a fun and juicy red wine designed for enjoying with pizza, pasta or whatever comes to hand. $

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Dr Edge 2016 Southern Tasmania Pinot Noir

Peter Dredge, known as Dr Edge to those in the wine industry, is a vastly experienced but still youthfully energetic winemaker who worked at Petaluma among others, before being made chief winemaker at Bay of Fires in Tasmania - and establishing a reputation for excellence. Dredge now works in cahoots with Gerald Ellis at Meadowbank in the Derwent Valley, for whom he is producing some enticing wines, as well as making his own range of four Tasmanian pinots, all from the same vintage, as well as his Dr Ongo "pet nat" bubbly. This pinot from Tasmania's south (Derwent Valley) was my favourite, edging out one made from east coast fruit, one made from Tamar fruit and a blend of all three regions. They range in style from Iggy Pop to this more classic style that's still got a lot of rock 'n roll in its soul, say Bruce Springsteen. Floral aromas, juicy fruit-driven palate with power and elegance. Outstanding. Be quick.  

Monday 3 July 2017

Milton 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé

This is one of the best rosés to emerge from Tasmania each year - the product of beautiful Freycinet Coast pinot noir fruit. It is as vivacious and tempting as a strawberry ice cream cone of a hot summer day. This is made in a dry, pale, European style from vines that were first planted 25 years ago. Good work from the Dunbabbin family and a delicious companion to salads, picnics or a Lebanese mezze platter. $26. 

Saturday 24 June 2017

Tolpuddle Vineyard 2015 Chardonnay

Tolpuddle in the Coal River Valley is one of the finest chardonnay vineyards in Tasmania. Planted in 1988 (which makes it an old vine site in Tassie) it was purchased a few years ago by the savvy team from Shaw+Smith in the Adelaide Hills. Lavished with care and attention ever since, it is producing wines of style and distinction. This new release is a stunner; combining structure and elegance. Think citrus and Ganny Smith notes, flinty minerality, a fine line of precise acid and, most of all, glorious drinkability. I'll give this 97 and it's worth every cent of $67.  

Monday 27 March 2017

Sailor Seeks Horse 2015 Chardonnay

Paul and Gilli Lipscombe have made a huge impact since landing in the Huon Valley a few years ago. Not only have they crafted a Jimmy Watson Trophy winner for Home Hill at Ranelagh, they've also converted a derelict vineyard at Cradoc into one of Tasmania's finest pinot noir vineyards. Having sold out of their first three vintages of pinot (2012, 13 and 14) at $45 a bottle, this is their first crack at chardonnay from their own vines and it is an absolute ripper, justifying their faith in the Huon as a first-class arena for chardonnay. This is beautifully put together, linear and crisp, minerally and textural and taut; think tightly-coiled ballerina in style. Great drinking now, but with cellaring potential. I'm happy to give this 93/100. Be quick. Sales have been brisk. $45.

Monday 20 March 2017

Radenti 2011 Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir

Tasmania is the "go to" state for Australia's finest sparkling wines and Freycinet Vineyard's Radenti is one of the standouts, if and when it is available. Claudio Radenti only makes sparkling wine in rare years (the release before this was 2002). This a traditional blend of chardonnay and pinot noir fruit from Tasmania's east coast, and offers a glorious amalgam of citrus and brioche aromas. Elegant, long and intense, with a lightness of being, this also has yeasty complexity after four years on lees. A very classy companion for canapes and seafood. $66.

Saturday 4 March 2017

Pressing Matters 2016 R9 Riesling

A new vintage from the much-acclaimed Pressing Matters collection of high-quality rieslings at various grades of residual sugar; from R0 to R139. This dry wine (9 grams of residual sugar per litre) is singing a beautiful tune right now, with just a hint of sweetness making it a perfect partner for Thai and Vietnamese dishes and an affordable Australian alternative for lovers of classic German Riesling styles. Beautifully balanced at 12.23% alcohol. Pressing Matters is based in the Coal River Valley and is family owned and operated. Well worth seeking out. $36.

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Home Hill 2015 Estate Pinot Noir

Home Hill rose to national fame with its Jimmy Watson Trophy win a couple of years ago, but within Tasmania it had been known for a decade or more as a benchmark for quality pinot noir. This is the No.2 wine in the Home Hill pecking order behind the acclaimed Kelly's Reserve but it offers complexity, immediate drinking pleasure and cellaring potential. Owner Terry Bennett is obsessive in the Home Hill vineyard at Ranelagh in the Huon Valley and Paul and Gilli Lipscombe do a great job in the winery. This is dark and intense, with rich blackcurrant fruit notes, spicy oak and beautiful balance. Gloriously good drinking. Tasmanian pinot at its best. $45.

Sunday 12 February 2017

Holm Oak 2016 Arneis

Holm Oak is the only Tasmanian winery to produce wines made from the textural northern Italian grape variety arneis. and one of only a handful in Australia. This is aromatic and appealing - another successful arrow to the quiver of husband and wife team Rebecca and Tim Duffy, winemaker and viticulturist respectively. All their wines are estate grown, made and bottled at their farm at Rowella in the Tamar Valley. This is well worth seeking out next time you feel the need to try something different. Pair with whitebait or flathead and chips. $25. 

Saturday 4 February 2017

Domaine Dawnelle 2016 Riesling

Michael O'Brien has worked as viticulturist at several vineyards in Tasmania and clearly has a keen eye for a good one; sourcing some excellent fruit for his Domaine Dawnelle label against fierce competition. This is a new-release riesling - his first - and it is mighty impressive. Made from fruit from several (cooler) southern Tasmanian vineyards, this is made from lightly pressed whole bunches, cool fermented and matured in stainless steel. It's all about the fruit; intensely citrusy with crisp natural acid. Great with Thai dishes. $36.  

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Milton Dunbabin Family Reserve 2012 Pinot Noir

From an exceptional vintage in Tasmania, this is the first family reserve pinot noir from the Dunbabin family at Swansea on the East Coast. A small parcel of fruit from (relatively) old vines was put away for mature release and the end result is an absolute ripper. I don't expect to see many pinots better than this over the next 12 months; it is still young at almost five years of age, intensely flavoured but soft and silky with rich, sweet, dark fruit notes and plenty of length. The family reserve wines are only released in special vintages and this is certainly a special occasion wine with 40% whole bunch in the pressings and time in quality oak. Poised and elegant with hints of earthy sophistication. Only 34 cases were made so speed is of the essence. 

Friday 6 January 2017

Stoney Rise 2016 Gruner Veltliner

Joe Holyman, former first-class wicketkeeper turned winemaker, is an eccentric and an iconoclast. From his natural wine, known as "Brian", to Tasmania's only version of the Austrian white grape variety gruner veltliner, Holyman's wines can be relied upon to challenge and entertain. This is the sixth gruner release from his Tamar Valley vines, unfined and unfiltered, a little off the wall but certainly well worth sampling. Think fresh lemon, rose petals, chicory and refreshment. Holyman recommends, tongue-in-cheek, pairing it with chicken pho or pork tacos. In fact, it is very versatile. He describes it as "the most gruner-like gruner we have made". $32.