The potential in Tasmania, specifically around pinot noir in Tasmania, is something we’ve all heard much about. And for a while there it felt as if the train was never going to reach the station.
But it’s fair to say that Tasmania’s journey has finally ended, or more likely just begun, as the quality of pinot noir across a whole range of regions and producers is an enthralling thing to taste – the 2009 vintage wines leave little doubt that we’re finally seeing the excitement we’ve been waiting for.
This impending moment has drawn a steady crowd of admirers and new participants. Samuel Smith & Son recently expanded on their sparkling wine project Jansz with the purchase of the Dalrymple Vineyard, with the specific aim of making great pinot noir. Both their 2009 and 2010 wines are outstanding.
Then the purchase of Tamar Ridge by long-established family winemakers Brown Brothers heralded this New Year and a new era for Tasmanian wine. Worthy of all the fanfare it stands as a vote of confidence in Tasmania, largely carrying an agenda of making great pinot noir. Their ability to produce and popularize Tasmanian pinot is unquestionable.
And now comes the announcement that the ink is drying on Shaw + Smith’s purchase of a prime 20 hectare plot of mature Tasmanian vineyard, taking the excitement up another gear.
Yes folks, that dynamic duo of the Adelaide Hills Shaw + Smith has just bought the Tolpuddle Vineyard. Established in 1988 by the Casimaty family, Tony Jordan and Gary Crittenden and planted to pinot noir and chardonnay, it’s a jewel in the Coal River Valley that quite simple shone out and caught their eye on a road trip from north to south. “Martin saw the vineyard and was instantly impressed – much of the vines have been there for 20 years and that’s an absolute blessing,” Hill-Smith says.
The public quest to make great pinot noir at Shaw + Smith began in the Adelaide Hills with the release of their inaugural 2007 vintage pinot and gathered pace and conviction with the impressive follow-on 2008.
But this marks a serious step in the direction of what has always been an Adelaide Hills-focused brand (save for a brief dalliance with Barossa shiraz under the Elixir label) and a significant one for all of Tasmania’s wine producers.
Having just spent a weekend in Tasmania tasting pinot and presenting masterclasses on the same topic, it’s fair to say the leadership that Martin Shaw and Michael Hill-Smith have demonstrated across many fronts is an asset that could not have arrived at a better time for the greater Tasmanian cause.
Tolpuddle Vineyard has long been the supplier of high quality grapes to a number of wineries and their intention is to continue to serve those arrangements, whilst starting to select parts of the vineyard to make their own wine from vintage 2012. It’s very early days, but they say the plan is to vinify the wines in Tasmania from the get go.
The Adelaide Hills pinot noir will continue as planned and it’s likely the Tasmanian wines will be branded under another name, so as not to distract from Shaw + Smith’s affiliation with the Adelaide Hills region. “I think it’s the way forward, people are more interested in regional and single site expressions and that’s more in keeping with our established philosophy rather than stretching the Shaw + Smith name across multiple regions,” Hill-Smith said.
Tasmania – you just got lucky. And then some.