Cool Tasmania: seven sparkling wines & two Rieslings
Tasmania is Australia’s sparkling wine capital. Or Méthode Tasmanoise as Jansz put it. Riesling also thrives in the apple isle and, funnily enough, fresh cut apple and apple sauce notes oft feature in my tasting notes. I take a look at seven new sparkling wines (the Sinapius a debut) and a couple of Rieslings, which epitomise the island’s cool conditions.
They also demonstrate the range of styles within this small region. This reflects the varied terroir (just for starters, the west and east coast, north and south are very different). Additionally, being an island of largely small producers, individual site and philosophy come into play too.
Devil’s Corner Resolution Riesling 2019 (East Coast)
This cuvée from Brown Brothers’ Devil’s Corner label hails from top blocks from the Hazards vineyard, which enjoys one of the most stunning views out to the Hazards – rocky outcrops – off the East Coast. Despite the vineyard name and the numbers (a Total Acidity of 9.5 g/l and a pH of 3.06), this is a very biddable Riesling – ready to rock and roll, with a honeyed (but dry) nose and palate and body/mouthfeel to the fruit. The juicily persistent acidity is very much part and parcel of the sweet lime and apple sauce fruit, with its lifted apple blossom notes. On day two, it reveals lingering lemon and lime curd and toast notes to the finish. 13.5%
Wellington & Wolfe Riesling 2020 (Tamar Valley)
Wellington & Wolfe’s mission statement is crystal clear – ‘100% Riesling, 100% Tasmania.” As is this limpid, mineral wine, which has a wildness, but also great purity and vitality to its crisp crab apple and grapefruit palate. The wildness is about the quality of the fruit – it’s not, if you like, a sugared up supermarket apple. Crab apple – and grapefruit – have bite, as does this unfined and unfiltered wine. Well-structured (made with extended skin and lees contact and partial fermentation in old French oak barrel), the succulent fruit is cut with vital, racy acidity. Hints of elderflower, mountain pond and cut finger minerality bring complexity. On day two, a jangle of lime joins the party. For some, the acidity will be confronting, in which case the Devil’s Corner is the one for you. Wellington & Wolfe was founded in 2017 by UK-born Hugh McCullough, a graduate of our very own Plumpton wine school. You can listen to him speaking about his winemaking philosophy and the story behind the label here. 12% $35 at Wellington & Wolfe online shop
Sinapius Blanc de Noirs 2017 (Pipers River)
I have been a huge fan of vignerons Vaughn Dell’s & Linda Morice’s estate grown wines since my first visit in 2012. The passion and dedication behind the wines was reinforced on a subsequent visit in 2016 and by the samples of latest releases sent in 2019. I was profoundly shocked to hear of Vaughn’s sudden death just over a year ago. And delighted to learn that Linda is keeping the flame alive. This new estate grown and vinified pale straw sparkling wine comprises 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier, sourced from Sinapius’ coolest east-facing block, originally planted in 1998. The 2017 vintage was low yielding and you feel it in the vinous intensity of this sparkling wine, which spent 2.5 years on lees. It has a biscuity nose, with hints of ozone and a light nuttiness – fresh green almond, but the fruit rather than autolytic or barrel ferment notes are the thing in the mouth. The palate reveals firm just ripe apricot and juicier yellow plum. It is bone dry and persistent, with a fine bead, good backbone and intensity. The biscuit notes and ozone linger on the finish (and in the finished glass). 2g/l dosage, 12.5% 1788 bottles produced. $65 at Sinapius online shop
Jansz Vintage Rosé 2017 (Pipers River)
The Hill-Smith family of Yalumba fame astutely purchased the Jansz vineyard in Tasmania’s Pipers River region in 1998 and their investments in the island have continued apace, culminating in the Pontos Hills winery, where Jansz is now made. The Jansz vineyard already had form for sparkling wine, made by then owner Heemskerk Wines in conjunction with Louis Roederer Champagne house. For Robert Hill-Smith, who engineered the acquisition, the intention was “to make something sensational, but with a truly Australian thumb-print on it. We’re happy to bleed the French dry of information on how to go about it, but its Australian-ness is an essential ingredient.” And so it is with Jansz and the other sparkling wines reviewed here. With Tasmania’s drier conditions and intense UV light, they are quite different from Champagne, with a riper core of fruit. Whilst the acidity is high, 100% malolactic fermentation adds to the (relative to Champagne) sense of ripeness, bringing complexity too. Jansz Vintage Rosé 2017 is pale blush pink, with uber-delicate pot pourri florals, wild cherry, strawberry and pomegranate, with a lick of spice to the nose and palate. Going through, it reveals sweeter apricot glaze and a creamy, savoury leesiness. But it does not detract from the delicate impression of flowers and red fruits, nor the freshness. An attractive, subtle dry rosé, with flattering mineral acidity. No edges. Pinot Noir (100%) from the low yielding 2017 vintage hails from Jansz’s finest estate blocks. The base wine was barrel-fermented and aged for seven months; it was disgorged after two and half years of ageing on lees. 12%, T.A. 6.44 g/l, pH 3.18 residual sugar 6.3 g/l £146.58 for 6 bottles at VinQuinn
Jansz Single Vineyard Vintage Chardonnay 2013 (Pipers River)
Pale yellow, with ozone and creamy nougat hints to the nose and palate. In the month, it has a rich, nutty/nougat, creamy leesiness – more pronounced autolytic notes, as you would expect having spent over six years ageing on lees in bottle. Lees being an anti-oxidant, this eight year-old Chardonnay retains primary fruit flavours – succulent poached white peach and pear, with preserved lemons and a hint of cardamom spice and toast (the base wine fermented and aged in mature French barriques and hogsheads for eight months). I’d have liked to see a little more acid drive on the palate (perhaps this bottle?), but the acidity has an attractive lemony tang, which melds nicely with the fruit. 12% T.A. 6.7g/l, pH 3.08 residual sugar 5.5 g/l Corking Wines UK
Jansz Vintage Cuvee 2015 (Pipers River)
From the finest estate blocks of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (54% Chardonnay 46% Pinot Noir) on deep free-draining ferrasol soils overlooking Bass Strait; the base wine was part-fermented in aged oak barrels for six months. A rich, creamy, autolytic nose and palate – a much drier, less fruity profile than the 2013 Vintage Chardonnay – with spice-licked strawberry ice-cream, layered with mushroom, roasted hazelnuts and toasted brioche nuances. Lovely depth and richness with a lively bead and backbone of acidity to balance. Lingering and complex full-bodied style, with a creamy mousse, it was aged for four years in bottle on lees. 12.5% T.A. 6.9g/l, pH 3.10 residual sugar 5.0 g/l. A good buy at Fraziers Wine – £23.99 down from £26.00
Jansz Late Disgorged 2012 (Pipers River)
A complex, tertiary nose and palate, with sea spray, mushroom, miso, dried fruit – apricots, strawberries and red cherries – pot pourri and cardamom, dried honey, truffle and cognac nuances. Full-bodied, but well-structured, with firmness/freshness. In a word, serious! It comprises 55% Chardonnay 45% Pinot Noir; the base wine was part barrel-fermented in French oak for seven months. This wine was aged on lees in bottle for just under eight years. 12% T.A. 7.0g/l, pH 3.10 residual sugar 4.0 g/l Corking Wines.
Arras Grand Vintage 2013 (Derwent Valley, Coal River Valley, East Coast & Pipers River)
The 15th release of the wine is a blend of 62% Chardonnay and 58% Pinot Noir. It was partially fermented (10%) in first use French oak barriques, followed by 100% malolactic fermentation (as is the practice at Jansz). The blend spent seven years on lees. It is dry and firm, with lemon posset and sea spray to the tight, biscuity nose. In the mouth, you find lemon posset and hints of strawberry ice cream, together with complexing savoury layers of mushroom, toast, miso (subtle), toasted brioche and dried and bruised apple fruit, with lemony counter-balancing acidity. A fine bead, with tension and snap to the finish – more tightly wound than the Jansz style – even a touch of (attractive) sappy greenness. 12.5% T.A. 7.7g/l, dosage 2.6 g/l, pH 3.02 RRP £49.99
Arras E.J. Carr Late Disgorged 2006 (Derwent Valley, East Coast)
First made in 1998, this 9th consecutive release is a blend of Chardonnay (67%) and Pinot Noir (33%). It has a distinctly savoury quality to the nose and palate, with miso, truffled honey, roast peach, sweet mandarin. It is fuller bodied than the 2013, with some almond cream/calisson, which brings mouthfeel and texture. Persistent acidity (and fine bead) teases out cognac and mushroom nuances – great retro-nasal ‘ying and yang’ complexity – flavour-wise (savouriness and freshness) and texture-wise (the creaminess with, to the finish, hints of sesame seed tuille – a tension). According to the technical fiche, only the high quality ‘heart’ juice selected for this blend. The 2006 was aged on lees in tirage for 14 years. 12.5%, dosage 2.6 g/l, TA 6.8 g, pH 3.1 RRP £99.99