Domaine A - Tasmania's top Cabernet producer
About 5-10 minutes drive from the historic convict town of Richmond in Tasmania’s Coal River Valley, you will find Domaine A, probably the purest expression of a European wine vision in Tasmania. Planted in 1973, the Stoney Vineyard site was taken over by Peter and Ruth Althaus in the early 1990s. The couple expanded the plantings of the vineyard, which is perhaps better suited to its Cabernet and Merlot than to Pinot Noir. The vineyard needs little to no irrigation due to persistent rainfall and good water retention, as well as experiencing a very high amount of sunlight hours. With this combination of good levels of rainfall and long sunlight hours, the scene is really set for the long ripening of Cabernet and Merlot. Pinot Noir probably grows most profitably here because of its proximity to the Coal River Valley, one of Tasmania’s premier Pinot Noir growing regions. I had the pleasure to taste a range of wines at the winery, but sadly missed out on the Lady A Sauvignon Blanc (an oaked Sauvignon Blanc under the Domaine A label), as well as the 2013 Stoney Vineyard Pinot Noir. However, I don’t feel I missed out, as you will see! I visited on the day Cabernet was being picked, and couldn't pass up an opportunity to taste the Domaine's other wines.
Domaine A, unlike most of Tasmania’s wineries, exports about 55% of their wine, mostly to Europe, where Peter’s network of contacts does not take long to buy up their quota of this much loved Bordeaux-style maker.
Peter tells me not to try putting your hand in the destemmer at home.
I could hang out here all day.
2014 Stoney Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
Nice colour, a really cool-ish gold. Smells of ripe lychees, delicate, restrained tropical fruit. Entirely built on stainless steel, and very poised and fine in the mouth. It has such a gorgeous, supple finish. This is a very classy wine, and gosh would it be a huge hit at a group gathering.
2009 Domaine A Pinot Noir
The wine has a deep, red-hearted centre on this wine, and strong colour all the way to the rim of the glass. I expected to be hit with a gobful of full-bodied Pinot, but really enjoyed the refinement here. Cherry and sweet earth on the nose, and gorgeously round cherry fruit on the palate, with a spice undercurrent. Supple and refined finish once again, and on the finish there is a beautiful waft of soft cherry skins. This is full-bodied but wears it lightly – I would more say it is medium-plus in body. It’s at once full and expressive, but balanced and caressing. A strong statement of unique Pinot Noir.
2011 Stoney Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
85% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the rest Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. I’m met with a nose of sweet blackberry and densely woven wood. The fruit matches this, with tightly woven, fragrant fruit on the nose and the palate. The two echo each other faultlessly, and all this in the winery’s second wine. As good as the 2010 of this wine, but a different, more forward kind of wine.
2010 Domaine A Petit ‘a’ Cabernets
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Made with the same winemaking and viticultural techniques of the top wine, this little sibling is very old world in its presentation, while being built to evolve at an earlier stage than the top wine. The wine has a dense colour but not too forbidding, and the nose of the wine shows briar, brambles and clear, luminescent blackberry. Soft, round tannins flow over the palate, and a ripe and sweet finish with mulberry and gorgeous juice. Clearly a different package to the top Cabernet, but equally as clearly has not compromised on what it is.
2006 Domaine A Cabernet Sauvignon
90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. The current vintage of Domaine A’s top wine, made from the ground up in the early 1990s for this specific purpose. The vines, and the winemaking, have now reached a stage of unrivalled Cabernet dominance in Tasmania. This is head, shoulders, knees and toes above all Cabernets that I have tasted from this state. A densely coloured, purple-black nose creates an intriguing impression. An elegant and refined nose of fruit and high quality oak – also very studiously utilised. This is an ultra refined wine, even before drinking. On the palate, there is seamless integration, with soft briar notes, supple oak, and even more clear and quality fruit, with underlying eucalypt notes. Purely expressed blackberry – not overpowering – and tender acid. It wants you to keep lifting that glass to your mouth, and who wouldn’t! I begin to be at a loss for words! Classified ‘Outstanding’ in the Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine VI.
2007 Domaine A Merlot
Only made in the highest quality vintages, and spends two years in 50% new and 50% seasoned French oak. This wine is getting on a bit in bottle age, and what an intriguing wine. I had heard great things, and was not disappointed. Soft and smokey on the palate, this wine is fully mature. Less fruit-rich, and quite lean actually for a Merlot, even of this age. Slight notes of raisin and fruitcake on the finish, begins to tell me that this wine is at its peak and should be held no longer. Drink now.
You can find a very nice little interview with Peter on Youtube, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNLKAgZTd8o