Why Tasmania’s Cool-Climate Wines Deserve a Toast

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There’s a buzz about cool-climate Tasmania and some of it has been bottled.

Over the past decade, Tasmania has earned a particularly cool reputation, thanks to its restaurants, culture and, of course, wine. So what makes Tasmanian wine special?

The Apple Isle is the best place in Australia to grow the cool-climate grapes (chardonnay, pinot noir) needed for stellar sparkling wine. Both also perform admirably as table wines. And let’s not forget its red varieties: shiraz, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. They’re good, sometimes brilliant, reds but grown in tiny volumes with little mainland distribution.

More prolific and consistent are the state’s whites, especially sauvignon blanc and the Alsace trio of riesling, gewürztraminer and pinot gris. These varieties benefit from Tasmania’s distinctive microclimates (as do chardonnay and pinot noir), with the cool maritime influences yielding grapes of intense fruit flavour, moderate alcohol and vibrant acidity. These subtle wines reveal their charm after a year or two in bottle.

Tasmanian sauvignon blanc is the polar opposite to the upfront, passionfruit-laden Marlborough style or the cut-grass smells and snow-pea flavours of Adelaide Hills savvys. Typically, these sauvignons smell of white nectarine and honeydew melon with a whiff of fresh gooseberries and white pepper. They’re wines of depth and length, braced by the variety’s telltale zing of acidity.

Riesling also performs admirably in Tasmania. The tight, steely wines, sometimes made in an off-dry style, echo the nervy kabinetts of Germany. There are oodles to choose from: Freycinet, Stargazer, Bream Creek and Frogmore Creek. And the rieslings from Pressing Matters cover the gamut, from bone-dry to sweet dessert wines.

Gewürztraminer also does well, though few consumers fall for its slinky, perfumed charms. It’s a shame, as ’traminer works so well with spicy Asian dishes. Try a Pipers Brook or Spring Vale with your pad Thai.

Tasmania’s rising stars are undoubtedly pinot gris/grigio, with both styles vying for centrestage. Those carrying the grigio moniker convey fresh nashi-pear and honeysuckle aromas; the richer gris styles speak of poached pears and wild honey. Ninth Island and 42 Degrees South wave the grigio banner, while Native Point, Ghost Rock and Apogee (from regional stalwart Andrew Pirie) fall into the luxurious gris camp.

A growing band of producers is favouring richer – yet more savoury – dry whites. These are often blends of the Alsace trio with plenty of character. Brian Gris, Domaine Simha Lotus Amphora Riesling and Moorilla Cloth Label White all challenge the palate (and, occasionally, the pocket). 

Tasmania is reaping the bounty of its isolation, pristine environment and sheer physical beauty. Its produce and wondrous wines make it even more special. 

2015 Devil’s Corner Pinot Grigio $20

Brown Brothers has taken a serious stake in Tasmania with Tamar Ridge and the economical Devil’s Corner label. Clean, and zesty, with white nectarine and Pink Lady apple flavours, this is ideal with Caesar salad.

2014 Stefano Lubiana Pinot Gris $35

From the banks of the Derwent River, this is a deep, thoughtful gris with a yellow-peach, custard-apple and leatherwood-honey bouquet. Its compact palate has a full- flavoured, intriguing finale. Pan-fried scallops, please. 

2015 Pooley Margaret Pooley Tribute Riesling $60

A trophy winner from the 2016 Tasmanian Wine Show with fresh lime and Gala apple aromas and a zest of lemongrass. It’s pure and precise, long and lingering and will cellar well. Enjoy it with flathead fillets.

2014 Bay of Fires Sauvignon Blanc $35 

This brand is associated with Arras, Tasmania’s top sparkling house. This fuller, more textural style (that benefits from some bottle age) has melon and kiwifruit flavours and an opulent, juicy finish. Perfect with Barilla Bay oysters. 

2013 Moorilla Cloth Label White $110

A complex blend of white varieties, this wine pushes all the boundaries – there’s some pinot noir, too. It’s multi-layered, mouth-coating and infinite and needs time to open up. Serve it cool, not cold, with roasted pork belly.

Shop these wines at Qantas epiQure

SEE ALSO: The Rise of Australia’s Pinot Noirs

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