Saturday, 16 December 2017
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
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.
Sunday, 26 November 2017
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, 18 November 2017
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. www.fourthwavewine.com.au.
Friday, 10 November 2017
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
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. www.bayoffireswines.com.au.
Sunday, 29 October 2017
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. www.slw.com.au.
Sunday, 24 September 2017
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. www.macleanbaywines.com.au
Monday, 11 September 2017
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
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. $25. www.beautifulislewines.com
Wednesday, 26 July 2017
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
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 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
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. https://sailorseekshorse.com.au
Monday, 20 March 2017
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. www.freycinetvineyard.com.au.
Saturday, 4 March 2017
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. www.pressingmatters.com.au.
Wednesday, 1 March 2017
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 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. www.holmoakvineyards.com.au.
Saturday, 4 February 2017
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. www.domainedawnelle.com.
Tuesday, 17 January 2017
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
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. www.stoneyrise.com