Tasmanian Pinots, Baby Grange and musings
This week I attended a tasting of a diverse range of wines, and it also raised a few questions. One of these was about terroir vs. winemaker. Another interesting question was the amount of wiggle-room a winemaker has when sorting grapes. While one wine in my tasting draws on a wide selection of grapes and vineyards, others are limited by weather but also grape harvest. Our host also raised the point that a couple of the bigger-name mainland wines in our tasting also had something of a history behind, hence their selection. How much does reputation matter when choosing a wine? And label design?
Our tasting started with the 2014 Moores Hill Riesling, a variety which is gaining really great traction and notoriety out of Tasmania. I recently attended a tasting where the Moores Hill Chardonnay was an absolutely fantastic wine, and the Riesling also delivers. First planted in 1997, the Moores Hill philosophy includes low-intervention vineyard management, and cane pruning to two vines per cane, meaning greater concentration of flavour in grapes. The vineyard is located in the West Tamar, and is planted to 1ha of Pinot Noir, 1ha of Chardonnay, 0.5ha Cabernet Sauvignon, 0.5ha of Merlot and 1.5ha of Riesling. Vines are managed with extreme diligence, including shoot and tip thinning, leaf plucking, and bunch thinning. The 2014 Moores Hill Riesling is a fruit intense dry Riesling, with medium body and medium plus acidity. It is based on crystal clear acid, and brings rounded fruit but with a great cutting, straight-line acid. Great thin globs of zest and white flesh fruit, but also lime, decorate the palate. 90 points (great value). Screw cap, 12.1% alc. Will cellar well for up to a decade.
Our varied tasting next came across an early-drinking style Tasmanian Pinot, the Third Child Jack Ryan Pinot Noir 2013. Located in Tea Tree, right near the convict town of Richmond. It’s often said that vines need to struggle to survive, and while many vintages on the mainland report good quality of fruit and fruit selection, Third Child reckons they have a very tough site, with low rainfall (need I remind everyone that Tassie has very low rainfall, despite popular rumour!). The vineyard is planted to 2.5 hectares of Pinot Noir and 0.5 of Riesling. It has a reflecting, purple-red colour. Gentle oak treatment has really been very kind to this wine. Good balance and intensity of red fruits for the price range and the style, and sweetish, tongue-licking acid. Slight savoury notes hint at the future development of the wine, but I would not wait too long, and you should really drink it now. 90 points. 13.5% alc, screwcap.
Going back to my question at the start, how much role should terroir play in the wine, and how much of the winemaker? The next wine in the tasting polarises many, as Brian Franklin’s style at Apsley Gorge is said to be very ‘Burgundian.’ Having tasted and loved the 2008 Pinot, I was very keen to see this latest release, now about 3 months old, of 2010 Apsley Gorge Pinot Noir. This is a divisive wine, and extremely different to the Third Child. They couldn’t be further apart, actually. Brian Franklin recommends decanting the wine, and I can really see why. It needs air and space, and a new perspective on Pinot Noir, especially Tasmanian Pinot Noir. The colour is closer to a brick red than a purple-red, now having spent four years aging. There is an oak power to the nose, which is highly coated in vanilla essence. Extremely powerful on the nose. Brian Franklin says the ’09 was the blockbuster style, but if that’s so, then I wonder what this is! Rather powerful tannins, but sticky and round, and they will subside over time. I found it hard to access the wine, it simply needs more space and decanting, probably for a couple of hours at least. This is a very different beast to most Tas Pinots. Coming in at 14.7% alc, this beast needs respect. I did find it hard to access the fruit – might have to wait for the oak to subside. 90 points, screwcap.
Next we moved to the Seppelt 2012 Chalambar Shiraz. This was a change, and it took a good breather and a glass of water after the Apsley Gorge to gear up for this. Our host also says this wine is a throwback to his wine drinking days in the 1980s, and has since been revitalised. Hence my question about the history of a wine – would you stick with a wine made by a certain winemaker based on name and reputation alone? I do hear people saying ‘oh the such and such a year was great, but they haven’t done much since.’ Sourced from the Grampians, this wine has the presence and poise to really assert itself, and at such a fantastic price. Interesting spice and softness on the nose, but it tells me that it wants more inspection. Blue, black and red fruits, all ripe and beckoning. Incredibly fruit-rich on the palate, with an array of varietal flavours pinging around. Does need decanting and air and would reward it. Made by Adam Wadewitz (now at Tolpuddle Vineyard here in Tas), this winemaker is surely one to follow. This is a wine to be respected. 93 points. 14% alc, screwcap.
Lastly was the illustrious and much-vaunted Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2012. Champagne, caviar and plaudits have rained from the heavens for this wine. Penfolds has an absolutely huge array of fruit, vineyards and expertise to draw from and again, this is a wine that our host recalls falling in love with in the 80s. I have since been very keen on acquiring 389s from the nineties, having heard great things about them. Cabernet-Shiraz is also a quintessentially Australian blend, and speaks volumes for the power and brilliance of South Australian Cabernet and Shiraz. To the wine! Crimson-black, very much deeper than the Seppelt (though that is a single-varietal). Soft, silky and balanced on the nose, with pepper, sweetness, black and blue fruits – ripe, ripe fruit. Balanced, peppery tannins that will get richer and more complex with time. The wine comes in at 14.5% alcohol. This wine scores 95 points from me, and was easily at the top of my tasting. Price and reputation will make you consider buying this wine, and the Bin 389 and St Henri prices are both at a very attractive level.
So all in all, consider these wines when you next buy, and consider the standing of Tassie wines among these!
Good drinking to you,
Banner image: http://travellingtwo.com/gallery2/d/35139-1/Tasfreecampingmap.jpg