Tasmania is often the butt of antipodean humour, but their wine culture is no laughing matter. Many Australians would agree this tiny wine region produces some of the most exciting wines in the country. Wine production is not new to Tasmania – bottles of sparkling wine dating from 1827 were recently unearthed in a Hobart wine cellar – but this region’s wines are little known on international markets, in part due to the small size of its many boutique-styled wineries. Admired first and foremost for its sparkling wine, Tasmania also produces an array of crisp white wines. With over 175 wineries, this cool climate region has managed to duck some of the critical issues facing Australia’s warmer wine regions in recent years: drought, excessive heat, and strictly limited water allocations. In light of global warming trends, the Tassie’s might have the last laugh.
It was the bubbly produced by Piper Brook Vineyard that first put Tasmania on the international wine map in the early 1980’s. The winery’s founder, Andrew Pirie, is still drawing attention to Tasmania through his latest venture called Pirie Estate, a winery he established in 2004. Pirie “South” Tasmania Sauvignon Blanc offers a nose-full of fresh citrusy fruit with light freshly-cut grassy notes. This is a fresh, clean, easy drinking wine that finishes with a grapefruit spritz and a twist of orange peel, which readily suits seafood, but the Pirie “South” Tasmania Riesling 2007 pleads louder for steamed Garoupa to compliment its citrusy lime fruit, floral accents and petrol notes. This is a crisp, palate-cleansing wine with mouth-watering acidity.
Most winemakers use sulphur to help protect the grape juice from oxidation or discolouration during the winemaking processes. According to Export Manager Anthony Woollams, in the Pirie “South” Tasmania Pinot Gris, Andrew refrains from using sulphur until completion to keep his sulphur levels low, which makes it an attractive choice for sulphur-sensitive noses. Instead, look for light white fruits on the nose and some quiet white peach on the palate. This is a delicate, light-bodied wine that could easily become overpowered, so serve with simple dishes.
The Pirie ‘’South’’ portfolio is crafted for immediate drinking whereas the Pirie Estate wines can benefit from bottle aging and are a step up in quality. The Pirie Estate Tasmania Chardonnay offers a very quiet, understated nose with a plush body. Only a small portion (15%) was fermented in new oak so as to avoid riding roughshod over the delicate Tasmanian fruit. Pinot Noir, which excels in cool climates, is the favoured Tassie red grape variety. The Pirie Estate Tasmania Pinot Noir is a classy wine, offering ripe, elegant red-raspberry fruit with herbal and spicy hints supported by juicy acidity and a firm tannic structure. The wine finishes slightly warm, but overall a lovely example of Andrew Pirie’s talent in the vineyard and the winery.