State of Play Tasmanian Pinot Noir
Plush, pure and prestigious, Tasmanian Pinot Noir comes under the microscope in our latest State of Play.
Tasmania is a special part of the world that feels a million miles away despite being only 250km from the Australian mainland. With its uniquely rich natural resources, pristine environment, edgy arts culture, plus enviable artisan food and beverage scene, its popularity as a tourist destination has soared over the past decade.
Despite its relatively small size, the Tasmanian wine industry has garnered an international reputation for its highquality wines, enthralling wine critics and enthusiasts alike.
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WHERE IT ALL BEGAN FOR TASMANIAN PINOT NOIR…
With its rich history, Tasmania was an early cultivator of vines in the 1820s. Scotsman Dr James Murdoch was a pioneering farmer who planted and sold crops of an English Pinot Noir clone. Early viticulturists inadvertently had found the red grape variety best suited to Tasmania’s climate.
As Australia’s southernmost wine region, the early consensus was that it was too cold to grow and ripen grapes. In the mid 1980s there were just 47 hectares of vines on the whole island. However, recognising that Tasmania will be less affected by global warming, plus the increased demand for aromatic whites and lighter reds, interest accelerated.
Tasmania has attracted winemaking talent and investment from both small and large companies. Fast forward and today there are over 2,400 hectares with nearly 50 per cent of vines planted to Pinot. According to Steve Lubiana of Stefano Lubiana Wines, “whilst vineyard plantings are booming in a relative sense, the fact that you can’t achieve mass commercial scale is a strength. There are no large swabs of land, there are only hilly pockets, so finding the right soils and avoiding frost-prone areas is critical”.
The early pioneers could never have predicted Tasmania would become known as Australia’s “Pinot Isle”, nearly 200 years later.
The early pioneers could never have predicted Tasmania would become known as Australia’s “Pinot Isle"
VITICULTURAL CHALLENGES OF TASMANIA
With a maritime climate creating long growing seasons of warm days and cool nights, the grapes slowly ripen on the vines which helps them develop intense flavours with refreshing acidity, structure and natural balance. According to Peter Dredge, winemaker at Meadowbank wines and Dr Edge, “springtime can be cold and windy so viticulturally, you’re rolling the dice. Pinot is a fickle variety and if it doesn’t get ideal conditions for fruit set, you can end up with uneven bunches. Picking can be like playing ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ because there is so much variation in the vineyard and you need to make multiple passes. Add dry seasons, unpredictable rain, disease pressure from humidity and potential frosts, it means you need to keep your wits about you.”
Jeremy Dinen of Haddow and Dineen agrees. “Ripening is our biggest challenge and we have to do a lot more work in the vineyards. We’re accustomed to challenging vintages, so we are used to taking preventative action”.
When all the pieces come together however, it’s magic. The wines have lovely bright natural acid, abundant colour, vibrant f lavour, moderate alcohol and beautiful elegance.
GEOGRAPHIC DIVERSITY OF TASMANIAN PINOT NOIR
Tasmania has unique Jurassic volcanic rock dolerite and basalt material, which is iron-rich and prevalent in the soils. Whilst Tasmania is considered one GI (Geographical Indicator), it can roughly be divided into the North, South and East Coast. Each area has an abundance of sub-regions including Tamar Valley, Pipers River, Coal River Valley, Derwent Valley, Huon Valley and the East Coast, all with their own microclimates. According to Dredge, “once you are hooked on Tasmanian Pinot, you can geek out exploring sub-regionality that deliver an amazing diversity of styles”.
Breaking it down at a broad level geographically, the north is the largest area under vine with the Tamar River extending around 70km. As the warmer sub-region, the fruit is concentrated and plush creating more approachable Pinot. Vineyards based on volcanic soil, extending down most of the east coast, are influenced by ocean winds and the harsher conditions create robust wines with deep flavours that are higher in acid and tannin.
In the south, Derwent Valley and Huon Valley Pinots are more perfumed and ethereal in style with higher acid and spice, whereas Coal Valley in the rain shadow of Mount Wellington is dry and warm, making it more reliable to ripen grapes.
Dineen has seen fruit from all over the state during his 22 years and is quick to point out that Pinot is a site-sensitive variety. “It’s not just climate or even region specific, it’s site specific. Pinot showcases characteristics of where it’s grown more than any other red variety.”
Pinot showcases characteristics of where it’s grown more than any other red variety.
Penny Jones, Winemaker for Bay of Fires sources fruit from all over the island. According to Penny, “each region is very different. We use the strengths from the fruit from those different districts for blending power to create greater complexity in our wines.”
Small yields, intensive labour required in the vineyard, plus shipping materials from the mainland make Tasmanian Pinot fruit amongst the most expensive per tonne in Australia. Demand outstrips supply and, incredibly, with nearly one in every two bottles consumed in Tasmania, the wines are still a rarity and relatively undervalued.
According to Jones, the future is bright. “Wine show results over the past five years consistently show Tasmanian Pinot dominating and outperforming other Australian wine regions”.
Lubiana confesses that he mostly drinks Pinot and believes the reliability and value of Australian Pinots is worldbeating. “People’s tastes have changed and they want to drink more elegant wines... Pinot entices you with its gentleness, complexity and intrigue. Tasmanian Pinot has a unique juiciness mid-palate that powers right through”.
Dineen is exuberant. “Our Pinots are ethereal, flavoursome, textural, complex and silky with supple tannins. They don’t assault your palate and they are suited to a broader variety of foods. We’re still a young region and haven’t hit our full potential yet. With greater vine age and clonal site selection, things will only get better. It’s quite possible that we haven’t found our best sites yet.”
It was with an air of anticipation that the Selector tasting panel gathered to blind taste 37 Tasmanian Pinots. Upon completion, Paul Diamond, publisher of Selector magazine, summarised thus: “In our 15 years of running these tastings, this was the highest and most consistent quality line-up we’ve ever had”.
It’s a big statement but the statistics don’t lie, with just one wine not achieving a medal-level score and nearly 40 per cent a Silver medal or better. The panel enthused about the unique trademark cool climate power, drive, complexity and attention to detail consistent across the wines. Stylistically there were three main groupings; ethereal wines that had delicate crunchy red fruits, with whole-bunch complexity; those that were bigger and more brooding, loaded with dark fruits and forest floor savouriness; and then the remainder,
Most wines were from the 2020–2022 vintages. The handful of wines from earlier vintages were ageing well, suggesting these Pinots will cellar. With the expertise and resources of the larger companies we found greater consistency, quality and value in their wines, whereas smaller producers showed a more artisan, individualistic diversity of styles.
The 2017 Moorilla Muse Pinot Noir impressed as a bolder style, with rich ripe dark berries, rhubarb, bacon, cedar, clove and forest floor that is beautifully balanced and utterly delicious drinking now, while the 2021 Bream Creek had gorgeous potpourri plus cherry vanilla baked pie aromatics, with red and dark berries, complex forest f loor savouriness and a Chinese five spice lift with lovely length. Gorgeous.
The premium multi-region Hardy’s 2021 Eileen Hardy Pinot Noir showed spiced cherries, plum and cranberry with gentle spice and textural complexity through the elegant palate and a silky, superb length.
The 2021 Eddystone Point and 2022 42 Degrees South both scored well, and at $30-35 demonstrate that there is great value for money to be found amongst Tasmanian Pinot.
The consensus of the panel is that the hype is real and Tasmanian Pinot is just hitting its stride. Peter Dredge’s advice for wine lovers? “Demand is high and supply is low, so just get on board, try then buy as many as you can!”
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Read the full tasting notes on Tasmanian Pinot Noir below:
MORILLA MUSE PINOT NOIR 2017
This ethereal, velvety wine was a highlight. Dark and dense with wet forest floor aromatics, the palate is complex and laced stewed fruits, spice, strawberries and milk chocolate.
BREAM CREEK RESERVE PINOT NOIR 2021
Energertic and balanced, this wine exudes class. Wild strawberry and raspberry aromas advance seamlessly into finely textured clove and pepper-tweaked raspberries and blackberries.
HARDYS EILEEN HARDY PINOT NOIR 2021
A skillfully crafted wine that dances on the edge of power and grace. Earthen blackberries, cherries and potpourri wafts to a creamy mouthful of stewed cherries, plums and dried herbs.
BROOK EDEN PINOT NERO 2017
Ageing beautifully, this fresh and dangerously delicious wine has earth-driven cherry berry aromas and a mouthful of fresh/sweet cherries and strawberries. A delight to drink.
FREYCINET VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2020
This exotic wine has harmony and balance to burn. Complex dark cherry, roses and tobacco-laced aromas lead to silky, slippery plums, blueberries and pomegranates.
EDDYSTONE POINT PINOT NOIR 2021
Punches well above its price point. Layers of earthen rose, strawberry, raspberry and herb aromas slide into an appealing mouthfeel stacked with crunchy cranberries, plums and cherries.
MOORILLA PRAXIS SERIES ST. MATTHIAS VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2020
Seductive and elegant with fine strawberry, raspberry and rose petal aromas f lowing onto a fine, silky palate of crushed strawberries, tea and herbs.
DR EDGE PINOT NOIR 2022
A dynamic 80/20 blend from the Derwent and the Tamar. Wild raspberry, cherry and spice aromas lead to a well-textured palate of cranberries, cherries and raspberries. One to watch.
42 DEGREES SOUTH PINOT NOIR 2022
Youthful and superbly valued from the Frogmore Creek stable. Silky, complex and savoury with layers of dark cherries and plums, and wild aromas – raspberries, bramble and thistle.
GHOST ROCK ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2022
Ethereal with stacks of complexity sans the weight. Redcurrants, cherries, raspberries and plums, cloves, and bramble stack the palate, with earth tinged raspberries and baked plums.
RIVULET GLAZIERS BAY PINOT NOIR 2022
Dark and brooding with a beautiful sweet and savoury balance. Silky lines of blackberries, plums, cherries and spice, with appealing aromas of stalks, mocha and vanilla.
APSLEY GORGE VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2019
Ripe, rich and bold with complex aromas of dried red currants, ripe cherries and blackberries, and a plush palate stacked with juicy blackberries, cherries, mulberries, dried oregano and pepper.
DELAMERE BLOCK 8 PINOT NOIR 2021
A fine-boned Pinot with silky, finely textured layers of raspberry, blackberry and cloves, and wild aromas of thistle, dark raspberries, cedar, star anise, cherries and strawberries.
HADDOW & DINEEN PRIVATE UNIVERSE PINOT NOIR 2021
Complex and tighly wound, characterised by raspberry and just-baked rhubarb aromatics. The palate is detailed with fine, powdery tannins, strawberries, raspberries and spice. A keeper.
BROOK EDEN NERO 2015
Gracefully aged with a long future ahead, this lovely wine has toasted nut, herb and forest f loor aromas that lead to a generous, rounded palate of rich sweet/sour plums and red berries.
GHOST ROCK ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2021
A smooth yet powerful wine. Ripe, f leshy aromas of baked red and black fruits, and a fine yet complex palate with generous layers of plum, cranberries, redcurrants, spice and forest f loor.
BREAM CREEK RESERVE PINOT NOIR 2021
Energertic and balanced, exuding class. Wild strawberry and raspberry aromas advance seamlessly onto finely textured clove and pepper-tweaked raspberries and blackberries.
MANIA PINOT NOIR 2021
Elegantly crafted with bright, aromatic layers of dried berries, strawberries, and cherries. Long, complex, juicy and viscous with perfectly ripe raspberries, cherries and spice. Value!
CHARTLEY ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2020
Savoury red and black cherries, strawberries and forest f loor drive the aromatics of this well-weighted Pinot. Fresh summer berries, gentle layers of spice and a soft mouthfeel characterise its generous palate.
MEADOWBANK PINOT NOIR 2022
Fresh, zippy and crunchy, this wine has characters that are driven by red cherries, Allen’s Redskin (now Red Ripper) raspberries and herbs and stalks. The palate and the aromas are aligned beautifully. Lovely.
TOLPUDDLE VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2021
Densely packed with layers of mixed red and black berries make this wine one of the more powerful wines of the tasting. Silky and moreish with spiced cherries and leafy herb aromas.
SUPERNATURAL PINOT NOIR 2022
A gentle, delicate wine with wet earth, sweet and sour cherry and plum aromas. The palate is fine, lithe and silky with delicious lines of strawberries, cherries and violets.
HOLM OAK PINOT NOIR 2022
One for the purists, with an appealing aromatic mosaic of dried strawberries, raspberries and savoury black cherries. The palate is complex, serious and silk lined with cherries, plums and herbs.
STEFANO LUBIANA PINOT NOIR 2021
Built to last, elegant and muscular, with silky lines of roses, cranberries and plums, perfumed with an amalgam of forest floor coated in raspberries, strawberries, cherries and herbs.
BAY OF FIRES PINOT NOIR 2021
Complex and dark fruited, this wine has time on its side. Fleshy, sweet and savoury, the palate is dense and silky with aromas of strawberries and cherries spiked with star anise and cinnamon.
RUSSELL & SUITOR CAZADORA PINOT NOIR 2021
Exotic and fine-boned with heady lines of musk, rose petal, cherry and cranberry aromas, in a mid-weighted, silky wine. Well shaped with soft lines of dark cherries and baked herbs.
DELAMERE VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2021
Wild aromatic layers of violets, cinnamon and pepper, seasoned red and black cherries, and a textured palate of savoury red and black fruits, cloves, pepper and thyme.
CORRYTON BURGE CORNELIAN BAY PINOT NOIR 2020
A classic iron fist in a velvet glove! Mouthfeel is finely textured and silky with robust and complex layers of mulberries, blackberries, cherry, raspberry, and baked beetroot.
SPRING VALE ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2019
Elegant and well balanced with black and red cherry, lavender, mulberries and dried herb aromas. A viscous, slippery palate lined with mocha and liquorice-tinted cherries
HANDPICKED COLLECTION PINOT NOIR 2020
Delicate yet complex with earthy and exotic aromas of black cherries, mushrooms and raspberries. Palate is light but delivers a fine textural mix of black cherries and strawberries.
DOMAINE A PINOT NOIR 2017
Rich and ripe with juicy appeal. Raspberry, strawberry and vanilla notes lead to a full-bodied mouthful of concentrated and ripe mulberries, cherries, cedar, sage and tobacco. Another food favorite.
BROAD ARROW PINOT NOIR 2022
Fresh and energetic, this wine has charry aromas of raspberries, cherries, cooking spice and stalks. The palate is savoury and well weighted with ripe cherry, mocha oak and spice. Another great value option.
RUSSELL & SUITOR SON OF A BULL PINOT NOIR 2022
An expressive, powerfully driven Pinot with a palate full of dark plums, rhubarb and earthy herbs. The aromas are ripe and f leshy with black cherries, tobacco and coffee – one for the barbeque.
HOLM OAK THE WIZARD PINOT NOIR 2020
Aromas of wild cherries, raspberries and charcuterie lead to a juicy and generous palate that has a zippy lick of acidity, adding a slurpy appeal to characters of cranberries, redcurrants and herbs.