Wines from Tasmania are having their day in the sun, with investment from the big players on the mainland beginning to pay off. Harrow at Little Bedwyn owner Roger Jones looks at some of the star performers
Tasmania is experiencing something of a gold rush when it comes to wine, with a flurry of investment from the mainland. Big players, such as Treasury Wine Estates (Penfolds), Brown Brothers, Hill Smith (Yalumba/Negociants) and Shaw & Smith have all been speculating in the region in the past few years and many have struck gold with some highly celebrated Chardonnay. The Josef Chromy Chardonnay 2011, for example, was named the best Chardonnay in the world by Decanter.
A major part of the Tasmanian story is the cool climate and the benefits this brings to the local produce - not just the wine, but across the food sector. Exports of seafood and beef are significant, bringing in nearly AUD$300m (£160m) a year. The whole island is engrossed in the food and wine culture and it is a haven for foodies.
On the northern tip of Robbins Island, the Hammond family has been farming Japanese pure-bred Wagyu cattle since the early 1990s. The prized cattle are grazed naturally without supplements on lush pastures right next to the sea, and during the annual muster, bands of horsemen swim the cattle through saltwater channels at low tide to move them between grazing areas. Much of this beef is exported to Japan.
Also important for export are shellfish, such as Southern rock lobsters and the prized abalone. Some 2,600 tonnes of wild abalone is harvested every year, with the majority going to China. It's not the easiest shellfish to deal with, which I realised some years ago in Bicheno Harbour on the East Coast after my son had dived for some and expected me to cook them for him.
Tasmania is the new trendy Australian wine region, so it's a great idea to include some Tassie wines on your list.
If some of the prices seem high, look at by-the-glass servings. Remember, pouring 125ml servings will yield six glasses from a bottle and allow you to charge for what looks like a good value glass of wine. Smaller measures also encourage more sales and allow the customer to experiment.
A good tip is to use larger glasses with extreme contours - a smaller measure will not look out of place, just more elegant.
Southern England might be in the lead with sparkling wine in the Northern hemisphere, but Tasmania rules down under - its sparkling wines regularly receive the country's top wine awards.
Top names include Jansz, especially the Vintage Rose, Clover Hill and Ed Carr's House of Arras range, which are comparative with top Champagne cuvées.
The vintage sparkling wines offer a lovely deep biscuit and brioche nose with bright berry overtures. The non-vintage offers great value for money and is comparative to standard Champagne.
MATCHING FOOD WITH TASMANIAN CHARDONNAY AND PINOT NOIR
The Chardonnays we are looking at are delicate and light. They would be a perfect match for rich dishes, such as poached lobster with a carrot and saffron risotto. The brightness of the wine will cut through the richness, and the creamy risotto will enhance the wine.
For Pinots, as they are so fresh and fruity, there is a wealth of food-matching opportunities, from traditional roast chicken
or lamb to meaty fish dishes, such as bass. My favourite would be tempura Cornish cod with black pudding and mushy peas. The Pinot would be a great refreshing hit to the black pudding and earthy mushy peas, while the sweet, tender Cornish cod would not be overpowered by the wine. The food combination would temper the fruity Pinot and together both of the elements would shine.
TASMANIAN DEVILS: TWO TOP PRODUCERS
This vineyard, based in the Coal River Valley in Southern Tasmania, was established in 1988 by Tony Jordan & Gary Crittendon. It was purchased by Shaw & Smith in 2011. Definitely a vineyard to watch.
Tolpuddle 2012 Chardonnay (Liberty, £27)
With a restrained nose, fresh lime and citrus flavours on the palate and hints of minerals, this is a wine evolving all the time and perfect for early summer drinking. It offers a clean, finessed taste without the baggage
of buttery or toasty flavours. It's a great way to introduce an elegant, premium Chardonnay to your clients.
Tolpuddle Pinot Noir 2012 (Liberty, £30)
This has a wonderful perfumed nose of rose petals and rhubarb ice-cream, and delicate, luscious berry fruit on the palate. It is a silky smooth wine that continues with a clean, fresh mouth-feel of summer pudding.
The Hill-Smith family (owners of Yalumba) took control of the Dalrymple property and brand in December 2007, 20 years after it was established by Bertel & Anne Sundstrup. It is based in the Pipers Brook region.
Dalrymple Estate Chardonnay 2011 (Negociants, £15.25)
This has a light straw colour with lemon and lime on the palate, which deepens to a lemon curd. It is refreshing and flinty with soft stone fruit.
Dalrymple Estate Pinot Noir 2011 (Negociants, £21.23)
With a delicate perfume of violets and cherries, this wine has concentrated flavours of luscious raspberries and cherries with a touch of liquorice.
Dalrymple Cottage Block 2011 (Negociants, £26.06)
This wine has a lovely perfume of raspberries and redcurrants and some cinnamon. It's richly textured and lingers on the palate with intensity. It is drinking well now and will get even better.
TASMANIAN WINE STYLES
Chardonnay The style is classic cool climate with a pale, golden hue and a fresh, citrus aroma. It's very much a Chablis style: elegant and restrained. Often the wines do not jump out, but evolve in the glass and with food.
The Pinot Noir from Tasmania is all about elegance. It has a sensual perfume of rose petals and summer fruits and ripe, lingering flavours - sometimes silky, but always clean and moreish. These Pinots are a great way to entice customers to drink another glass as they are such easy-drinking wines.
VALUE VINTAGES: TAMAR RIDGE, TAMAR RIVER, NORTHERN TASMANIA
Tamar Ridge is a great winery, which produces not only very fine premium wines, but also great value wines of exceptional quality. These include a well-balanced, crisp Sauvignon Blanc (perfect with fish and chips) and Pinot Noir under the Devils Corner Label (from £10.25).
Recently acquired by Brown Brothers, this winery will no doubt be enhanced by this new partnership and continue to excel. From its premium range, Kayena (from £12), there is a fantastic dry Riesling, a wonderful ripe, forward Chardonnay that ages well, and a consistent, quality-driven Pinot. Its Botrytis dessert wine is also worth looking at.
These wines offer great quality and value for Tasmania, are easy drinking and perfect for establishments looking for a good return.