Take a tour of Tasmania's food and wine scene
Jim McMahon reports back from a trip to Tasmania, where the blossoming food and wine industry is worthy of national attention.
Visiting Tasmania for the first time in 10 years was an eye opener; the quality in terms of local produce and wine has jumped leaps and bounds. But before I embark on a whirlwind tour of this state, let me give you a few facts on the Tasmanian wine sector:
Tasmania accounts for 0.5 per cent of total Australian wine production. Around 50 per cent of wines go to mainland Australia, 40 per cent Tasmania and the other 10 per cent are exports. The key grape varieties are Pinot Noir (41 per cent), Chardonnay (18 per cent), Sauvignon Blanc (17 per cent), Pinot Gris (10 per cent) and Riesling (eight per cent), with nearly all Chardonnay going into sparkling wine production. It has seven official wine regions (see image bottom right).
My visit started in Hobart with a magnificent lunch and matching wines with French winemaker Alain Rousseau at Frogmore Creek Winery. We feasted on all manner of fish (yellow fin tuna, ocean trout, Tasmanian salmon...) and wagyu beef carpaccio. His head chef is Dutchman Reuben Koopman who trained under Heston Blumenthal; I’ll leave the rest to you and your imagination in terms of food presentation and wine matching – simply unforgettable!
My next stop was the ultra-boutique Domaine A Stoney Vineyard winery and a tasting with owner/winemaker, Peter Althaus. Peter is one of a handful of winemakers to make Cabernet Sauvignon together with his Lady A label consisting of a Bordeaux Blend. The quality of his wines cannot be overstated; they’re super premium and are wines of unrivalled intensity and complexity, with only 5,000 cases made.
Dinner was taken at a local Italian institution, Ristorante Da Angelo, in Hobart. We had delectable homemade fettuccini matriciana and calabrese pizza matched with a range of Bream Creek Wines. All this while talking industry talk with legendary Bream Creek winemaker, Fred Peacock, who is a stalwart of the Tasmanian wine industry. The day prior to this dinner, Fred was informed that his 2011 Pinot Noir had taken out the top medal at the China Wine Challenge. As it happened, it was the wine we were drinking with dinner, together with his 2014 Riesling and 2012 Chardonnay – all top shelf wines that were more than a match with the array of Italian flavours and foods on the table.
Day two started with a tasting at soon-to-open tasting rooms in Hobart with young gun Nick Glaetzer, son of Barossa industry icon, Colin Glaetzer. Nick makes cool climate wines by growing grapes on small parcels of land and making the wine at his on-site city winery in the centre of Hobart. His Glaetzer/Dixon wines lead a stand-out cast from his entry point Red Dot 2014 Pinot Noir to his 2012 Reveur Pinot Noir. All his wines, while different, show elegance and purity of fruit, with excellent balance of acid/tannin/oak.
We followed that with a visit to Stefano Lubiana Wines and a tasting and tour of the work in progress at the state-of-the-art winery and cellar door, which also boasts the new 60-plus seater Italian themed Osteria restaurant. This winery is now certified biodynamic; winemaker Steve Lubiana believes that if you look after the soil the vines will flourish. This is truly reflected in his wine range, which he has expanded upon since my last visit and is truly extensive.
From here it was over to Morilla Winery estate for an excellent array of fine Tasmania produce with Canadian winemaker, Connor van der Reest. His whole range of wines – Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Cabernet, not to mention Pinot Noir – all held their own in terms of quality and diversity of terroir. While at Morilla, you must visit the adjoining Mona Museum built and financed by ‘local boy made good’ David Walsh. (It has got the art world talking and quite rightly so.)
That afternoon we drove the 200km from Hobart up to Launceston. Dinner was taken at the famed Brisbane St Bistro with French/Australia fare. An amuse bouche of cauliflower soup and a gigantic steak (aged for 42 days) washed down with a bottle or two of the local cider was just the go.
Day three began at Tamar Ridge Winery in the Tamar Valley (owned by Brown Bothers of Milawa) and a tasting with winemaker, Will Adkins. The tasting consisted of all their wines in the Tasmanian portfolio with the Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir being the biggest selling Pinot Noir in Australia. In fact, all wines tasted, including the Pirie Sparkling NV, the 2014 Riesling, 2014 Pinot Gris, 2012 Mt Amos Devils Corner Pinot Noir and many more, were flawless. A true testimony to good winemaking/viticultural techniques and terroir.
From here it was over to Holm Oak Vineyards and tasting at the cellar door with winemaker Rebecca Duffy. Her 41 hectare property, established in 2014, is planted to Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet and Pinot Noir. Beautifully crafted with purity of fruit.
Winemaker, Peter Caldwell (Janz/Dalrymple) took me on tour of his vineyards while we tasted a number of red wines straight out of barrel. His 2013 Coal River Pinot together with his 2013 Bicheno Pinot are both stunners, as is his Dalrymple 2013 Cave Block Chardonnay.
Next up was a tasting with winemaker Dr Andrew Pirie, a pioneer of the Tasmanian wine industry. Tasting the Apogee Sparkling wines, the entry point NV and his 2009 Vintage are simply striking wines. The quality, structure and finesse of both are par excellence, as is his 2013 Alto Pinot Gris, which is oozing aromatics with a lovely fruit-driven, rounded mouth-feel.
Dinner that night was at Mudbar Restaurant on the banks of the wharf of the Tamar River. Joining us was Josef Chromy, his winemaker Jeremy Dineen and Andrew Pirie. We feasted on a smorgasbord of Tasmanian produce (venison, lamb, beef and bream) matched with Josef Chromy 2011 Riesling and 2011 Pinot Noir. Again, you couldn’t fault the matching of food and wines; exquisite!
A bright start to the morning on day four and a visit to Josef Chromy Wines in Relbia. Dineen is not shy in showing you the whole range of his portfolio, from entry point Pepik to the Josef Chromy range through to the ZDAR range which sits at the very pinnacle of what they do best. This winery is in a beautiful setting and only ten minutes from Launceston.
On my last day, a visit to the world famous Salamanca Markets, with over 340 stalls selling all Tasmanian-made goods and produce, capped off my trip. Besides the abundance of food produce, I did a tasting of local Gin (Four Pillars), and whiskies (Sullivans Cove, Lark, Hellyers,) which were also on offer at the markets.
Tasmania has indeed come a long way in the area of food wine and, in this case, spirits. Remarkably, I didn't tasted one bad wine, nor one that I didn’t like, during my visit. The food and produce is unparalleled and comparable to anywhere in the world.
Jim McMahon is a Sydney based wine consultant and undertakes writing and speaking engagements. Visit www.wine2000.com.au for details.