Glaetzer-Dixon: of Tasmanian verticals & newbies
Since I last visited with Nick Glaezter in 2012, he has left Frogmoore Creek to focus 100% on his and his journalist wife’s Glaezter-Dixon brand. Currently the wines are made at Moorilla Estate (MONA), but Glaezter was in the process of converting the ground floor of the old Hobart ice factory where he lives into a winery.
The cellar door (pictured), which has an arresting light box tasting table, is already open and super-handy for visitors to the capital. I’d highly recommend visiting because the Barossa boy who made a Jimmy Watson Trophy-winning Shiraz from Tasmania continues to push boundaries, taking his cues from the Pfalz (Riesling), Jura (Chardonnay) and Beaujolais (Pinot Noir).
Funnily enough, when he arrived, the game plan was rather more conventional. “Every winemaker” said Glaetzer, “dreams of making Pinot Noir.” Within a year of mistaking Andrew Hood’s Frogmoore Creek Pinot Noir for Grand Cru Burgundy, this vinous siren had brought him to Tasmania. And the winemaker was pinning his hopes of winning the Jimmy Watson Trophy on Reveur Pinot Noir 2010, not his Shiraz, which is why he describes this momentous win as “a bitter sweet victory.”
Having re-tasted the trophy-bagging Shiraz, I reckon it thoroughly deserved its win, despite the somewhat disgruntled reception in some quarters. According to Glaezter, Shiraz represents just 1% of Tasmanian production which, doubtless, was a contributory factor to an anonymous phone call which Meadowbank’s Gerald Ellis received in the wake of the Jimmy Watson win (Glaetzer sources Shiraz from Ellis). Asked how a Tasmanian Shiraz could win the Jimmy Watson Trophy, Ellis simply replied that it did, upon which his interlocuter retorted “it’s bloody ridiculous,” before hanging up. You can hear Glaetzer’s own take on the controversial win in a video interview which I posted in 2012 here.
Below you’ll find my notes on the tasting, including back vintages, which took place in November, 2016. Glaetzer is an exacting, cerebal winemaker, with a forensic attention to detail. Candid too. It was interesting to discuss the tweaks he has made to his wines over the years, which I have covered in the notes.
The UK importer for Glaetzer-Dixon is Swig.
Glaetzer-Dixon UberBlanc Riesling 2016 (Tamar Valley)
Nick Glaetzer worked a vintage in Pfalz, Germany which I associated with rounder, fruitier styles of Riesling. As is this wine. Technically, it’s off dry Riesling (with 9g/l residual sugar), but it’s not noticeably sweet. Rather the residual combined with the fruit selection and atypical winemaking conspire to produce an unusual Riesling, quite languorous in style – softer, chalkier – yet it retains the grape’s fresh appley, grapefruit profile. I think it should be called Uberdrinkable! It comes from the White Hills vineyard, which belongs to Treasury Wine Estates. The fruit was picked in two tranches (with 1% affected by botrytis, though it dried out), then fermented very slowly over 60/65 days with a German yeast “which doesn’t like fermenting.” It also went through (full) malo. 12.2%
Glaetzer-Dixon UberBlanc Riesling 2009 (Coal River Valley)
The tauter 2009 was made in a more classic style. Glaetzer remarked, “the stylistic change is for differentiation and because I’m feeling more comfortable with winemaking.” Additionally, he would now pick the fruit a little riper “because I don’t want the acid line to be the dominating thing with age.” Fruit came from the warmer, drier Coal River Valley and this youthful Riesling exhibits punchy lime, with some pretty pot pourri development and spicy/pithy lime zest. Great acid line, with enough fruit to flesh it out. Very good but, as Glaetzer observes, probably a bit hard core for some on release. 12%
Glaetzer-Dixon UberBlanc Gold Dots Riesling 2015 (Coal River Valley)
Glaetzer first made this vintage-dependent wine in 2012. It comes from the Coal River Valley’s coolest vineyard in the Tea Tree district, which the winemaker ruefully told me has since been acquired by Sam Connew for her Stargazer label. Long hang times produce riper fruit with the concentration and “more serious acid” which he is looking for in this ‘reserve’ Riesling. Like Red Dot, it spent 6 months on lees, underwent (full) malolactic fermentation and was kept without sulphur on the lies. Great line, with an evenness – lovely balance – to the jasmine-laced lime fruit going through. It wears its texture, acidity and alcohol lightly. Rather, they seem to fuel an effortlessly long finish. A powerful, distinctively supple Riesling; very good. 7g/l Residual Sugar. 13.4%
Glaetzer-Dixon UberBlanc Gold Dots Riesling 2012
The 2012 is a 60/40 blend of Coal River Valley and Tamar Valley fruit. For Glaetzer, Coal River Valley produces limey, floral Rieslings while Tamar Valley produces more tropical, peachy Rieslings. With a few years under its belt Gold Dots 2012 reveals honeyed lime to the nose though the palate is punchier, with citrus drive and quinine/G&T minerality to the dryish finish. Less evident texture; a little more classical in style.
Glaetzer-Dixon Sixteen Chardonnay 2016
This, Glaetzer’s first Chardonnay comes from an Upper Derwent vineyard (the Dunrobin vineyard) for whose owner Glaetzer has made sparkling wine. In 2016, he got some Chardonnay to play with for his own label and play he did, fermenting it on Riesling yeasts and ageing it sur lies for six months with no sulphur. Its yellowish hue points to a nutty (light green almond), oxidative Jura-like style with an aldehydic note, some body and fruit sweetness for balance. Going through the palate is spicy, with a chalky texture and good underlying acidity. Daring stuff, well executed. 13.3%
Glaetzer-Dixon Sixteen Nouveau 2016
“I like borrowing things,” says Glatezer and Sixteen Nouveau looks to another French region, Beaujolais. I’ve tasted some very promising Gamay from Tasmania, including the Meadowbank vineyard from when Glaetzer sources Shiraz. But this is made from 100% Pinot Noir – 80% of which is a sparkling clone from the White Hills vineyard. Half the fruit underwent a full carbonic maceration for 8 weeks, the balance being de-stemmed and finishing the ferment on skins “for a bit of tannin.” It has lovely, lifted nose with delicate strawberries, peonies and spice. In the mouth the fruit is surprisingly creamy (given its delicacy). The whole bunch makes for a fine spine of spicy tannins and a touch of mushroom, lending a touch of grip – as serious note – to the finish. Very good.
Glaetzer-Dixon Avancé Pinot Noir 2016
This vintage featured around 10% whole bunch ferment. It has a lovely swathe of strawberry, red cherry and blueberry fruits with some kirsch on the back palate. Fine tannins support a long, persistent finish with mushroom and sea shell nuances. Delicious. Lovely balance and complexity. 13.6%
Glaetzer-Dixon Avancé Pinot Noir 2015
The fruit is sourced 80% from Derwent River Valley (Glaetzer likes the bright blue fruits and tannin structure), 20% from Coal River Valley (which he says tends towards chocolatey tannins and dark fruits) and features around 30% of clone 777. In a cooler year this paler wine features less stalks and whole bunch. The fruit is fresh, with bright red cherry to the fore and gently tactile tannins. Very good.
Glaetzer-Dixon Avancé Pinot Noir 2009
This vintage was 100% sourced from Coal River Valley. It’s in very good shape with lingering plum and berry fruit with savoury mushroom notes, the whole well supported – teased out – by a fine backbone of tannin and persistent acidity. It wears its alcohol really well. 13.9%
Glaetzer-Dixon Rêveur Pinot Noir 2015
For this super-premium Pinot Noir, Glaetzer looks to the Coal River Valley for fruit with plushness, richness and concentration and takes inspiration from Burgundy – “having a Pommard character, that leathery savouriness.” I tasted within a week of bottling, so the oak (it spent 19 months in barrel, 40% new) was quite assertive, but it is abundantly clear that this generously fruited Pinot has lots of palate presence and savoury, leather undertones. I was intrigued to discover the same sea shell oyster character I’d found in the Avance 2016.
Glaetzer-Dixon Rêveur Pinot Noir 2014
The current release – a big hitter – shows plenty of texture, layer and intent. It has lovely intensity to its deep core of red cherry fruit – fresh cherry and headier kirsch. Long with a firm but ripe backbone of powerful tannins. It was aged for 21 months in 40% new oak.
Glaetzer-Dixon Rêveur Pinot Noir 2013
This then current release comprises 90% Coal River Valley fruit and 10% Derwent River Valley fruit, 30% of which was whole bunch fermented, the balance being de-stemmed, but the stalks were “chucked back in.” This is a boldy fruited, generous Pinot Noir with lifted cherrystone/almond and vanillin notes, damask rose too. In a word, heady. But it has great backbone too – those firm, powerful tannins, which suggest this wine has some years ahead of it. The finish has a touch of warmth, but it sits well with this heady wine – it’s part of the generosity. 13.9%
Glaetzer-Dixon Rêveur Pinot Noir 2012
The 2012 vintage is a different animal. prettier, more precise, though it shares the 2013’s enticing cherrystone/almond lift to nose and palate. With the fruit dialled back, it reveals more savoury layers of charcuterie (a touch smoky) and mushroom on a poised, tapered finish with vanillin oak and firm, powdery tannins. Lovely structure. Youthful still.
Glaetzer-Dixon Rêveur Pinot Noir 2011
Sourced 100% from the Coal River Valley. The vintage is reflected in a more evolved hue, but the palate is tightly clasped and holding well, if more savoury and austere than the others, with pronounced oyster shell and mushroom notes to its firm red fruit and chalky tannins. I like this pared back style (though I think the sweet spot 2012 pitches it just right) as does Glaetzer, who told me he has kept 16 dozen for himself.
Glaetzer-Dixon Rêveur Pinot Noir 2010
Compared with the 2011, the 2010 is more squarely focused on the fruit, with concentrated red cherry/cherrystone and sweet vanillin. This was the first year in which Glaezter stopped filtering the wine and left it on full malo lees. Ideally he’d have left it on skins for more than 4 days but Frogmoore’s ferments took priority. Still, this retains depth, layer and length, putting me in mind of the 2012.
Glaetzer-Dixon Reveur Pinot Noir 2008
This, Glaetzer’s first vintage, is raisined, with baggier fruit. It very much reflects a vintage, in which Coal River Valley experienced a massive drought but, says Glaetzer, his evolution too, which has seen a greater emphasis on acid and tannin structure.
Glaetzer-Dixon Mon Père Shiraz 2015
This vintage is 100% Shiraz (Glaetzer used to co-ferment it with a small percentage of Pinot Grigio skins but is now getting the tannin structure he wants from whole bunch and stalks). Half comes from the Meadowbank vineyard in the Derwent River Valley – his original source. The balance comes from a vineyard next to Shaw & Smith’s Tolpuddle vineyard in the Coal River Valley. Back in November, it was spicy and quite grippy, a little elbowy and, we agreed, needed time to settle. I re-tasted it this month for a Decanter feature (scheduled for publication in November) and it has come together beautifully. The spice and grip are still there – it has lovely whole bunch black pepper lift and earthy, savoury tannins. But the fruit has come up to meet it. Fresh, elegant strawberry, red cherry and plum fruit, which is a delicious counterpoint to this medium-bodied Shiraz’s savoury, slightly rustic rasp of tannins. The finish is peppery and persistent. Immensely drinkable; quite the Rhône Ranger. 13.3%
Glaetzer-Dixon Mon Père Shiraz 2013
This Shiraz was mostly sourced (70%) from the Tamar Valley in northern Tasmania. It is quite different. Dry and firm, with earthy, spicy back-palate resonance and iodine and kelp undertones. More feral and a touch lean on the fruit for me. But interesting nonetheless.
Glaetzer-Dixon Mon Père Shiraz 2010
This was the Jimmy Watson Trophy winner and the fruit – Shiraz with a dash of (co-fermented) Pinot Gris – was sourced from Derwent River Valley (Meadowbank) and two Coal River Valley vineyards. It retains good depth of colour and spicy resonance to its earthy beetroot, plum and balsamic palate, with riffs of black pepper, liquorice and anise aplenty from nose to lingering tail. Impressive still.
Glaetzer-Dixon Mon Père Shiraz 2008
This first release was sourced from the Meadowbank Vineyard (Derwent River Valley) and Marion’s Vineyard in Tamar Valley. “It was made like an Aussie Shiraz,” says Glaetzer, that is to say fermented for a week with no stalks before being aged in 50% new oak. It was racked after malo, then racked out of barrel after 10 months. It is nowhere near as compelling as the 2010. It’s interesting to see that iodine/kelo note surface again given that the 2013 also had Tamar Valley fruit.
Glaetzer-Dixon Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
It’s very hard to get Cabernet but, in 2014, one of Glaetzer’s Coal River Valley Shiraz suppliers offered him half a ton. He originally thought he would blend it away in the Pinot Noir but, since the fruit was so great he decided to bottle it as a single variety. Though it had just been bottled that week it was expressive, with savoury green peppercorn (attractive), mint to its nose and palate of tightly coiled blackcurrant fruit. Fine, ripe but present tannins support the finish. Promising.
Glaetzer-Dixon La Judith Pinot Noir 2013
The weight of ambition is evident from the bottle. Nil points for eco-friendliness. While Mon Pere pays tribute to Glaetzer’s dad, the famous Barossa winemaker Colin Glaetzer, La Judith is a tribute to his late mother whom I learned spent 18 months in Bristol making Harveys Bristol Cream, while Colin worked for Averys. The idea behind this small batch cuvee (which is bottled under cork) is to maximise the intensity of the fruit and tannins, whilst reflecting Tasmania’s cool climate. The fruit came from a single vineyard in Coal River Valley. It spent almost 3 years in brand new oak barriques, which makes for a pronounced veneer of vanillin which currently sits on top of the fruit. Still, the velvety, chocolatey red cherry and kirsch almond-inflected fruit is concentrated, ripe and powerful, with the broad shoulders to carry no little oak. I would not guess that this Pinot came from Tasmania. And since it flies in the face of the prevailing trend in favour of less extracted, lower alcohol wines with more emphatic perfume and acidity (which style I generally prefer), I am not sure where I would place it. Maybe the clue lies in Glaetzer’s mention of Gippsland’s Bass Phillip, which he admires for its power and longevity. I have never tasted a young example, but it certainly ages exceptionally well. This bold, no holds barred Pinot is not for everyone, but has yet to properly tell its tale. One to review, though with only 574 bottles, that chance may never come!
Glaetzer-Dixon La Judith Shiraz 2013
The Shiraz comes from one of the Coal River Vineyards with which Glaetzer works. It was planted around 1992 to the Tahbilk clone, which has big, olive shaped berries (the South Australian clone typical of the Barossa tends towards smaller berries). Once again the oak dominates this wine – it’s a huge step (stride) change from Mon Pere and, I must admit I prefer the latter’s ‘less is more’ approach. It has a loud and clear Tasmanian voice. Still, it cannot be denied that Glaetzer has produced a brawnier Shiraz than one might have thought possible from Tasmania. I’d like to see this down the track. It has a concentrated core of black fruits, yet to be mined and some interesting savoury nuances escape the clutches of the oak – white pepper and an intriguing grassy note – not grass grass, but the grassiness that you can get with olive oil. Just 583 bottles produced.