We ended this trip the way that most begin—with bubbles. Our day started with a visit to Bay of Fires Winery, one of the larger producers in Tasmania, responsible for some of the greatest New World sparklers under the House of Arras label, made by Ed Carr.
Sparkling wine is an important part of the wine industry in Tasmania. As you venture away from the coast, the inland climate is cooler and vulnerable to frost. This cooler climate creates grapes that are far too lean for dry wine production, but ideal for bubbles. Bay of Fires sources these inland grapes and their chardonnay- and pinot-based cuvées are similar to what you would find in Champagne. They make the typical Brut and Rosé, but the star of the range is their Late Disgorged bottling. They presented us with a 2002 Late Disgorged E.J. Carr from House of Arras and it was tip-top! This is when they captured our undivided attention. The wine was the perfect accompaniment to the local cheese and smoked quail they served with it.
We then ventured out to Sinapius in Pipers Brook, by far the smallest production winery we visited. To call it a winery is a stretch. Vaughn and Linda are literally making wine in their garage. They produce roughly 800 cases a year of pinot noir, chardonnay and a blend called Riesling et al… Vaughn is a former Aussie rules player who caught the wine bug and is attacking the wine industry with the same intensity he used on the field. He’s meticulous in the way he farms the small plot of land surrounding their family home. Unlike others that are fully committed to chardonnay and pinot, Sinapius is experimenting with varietals like grüner and gamay.
Even within their small property, there is a patchwork of soil types. One of his major pinot plots has such a high iron content that the soil sticks to a magnet. The soil of the adjacent vineyard, comprised of decomposed quartz, makes the workers gloves sparkle. He ferments these plots separately and makes polar opposite styles of pinot noir. What a pleasure it was to see such a focus on terroir in the New World.
After such an inspirational tasting at Sinapius, we were headed to Jansz for more bubbles. The Hill-Smith family of Yalumba owns both Dalrymple and Jansz, and with our palates ready for more great sparklers, we were pleasantly surprised to take a side trip into a vineyard high above the winery to taste through the Dalrymple wines with vigneron Peter Caldwell. Dalrymple works as a boutique negociant, sourcing grapes from the Huon Valley, Derwent, East Coast and Pipers River for separate vineyard-designated wines. We had the opportunity to taste through all these major regions from the same vintage, side by side. This flight reaffirmed our findings that Tasmania may have more diversity of terroir among its regions than any other New World pinot zone.
After this confirmation tasting we joined the team from Jansz sparkling to a tasting of their range of stunning sparklers for a last toast to our Tour de Tassie! —Carlton McCoy
This story appears in the print issue of jan 2019.
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