For a site that grows such a tiny amount of Australia’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Tolpuddle Vineyard receives a surprisingly large amount of national and international attention for the quality of the wines it produces from the two varieties. No, make that ‘disproportionately large,’ says Tolpuddle Vineyard winemaker Adam Wadewitz. It’s no surprise at all. […]
For a site that grows such a tiny amount of Australia’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Tolpuddle Vineyard receives a surprisingly large amount of national and international attention for the quality of the wines it produces from the two varieties.
No, make that ‘disproportionately large,’ says Tolpuddle Vineyard winemaker Adam Wadewitz.
It’s no surprise at all.
“This vineyard is a really super exciting place,” Wadewitz explains.
“Southern Tasmania has such unique attributes, the Coal River Valley and Tolpuddle especially so. The vineyard is set in a beautiful pristine environment, one that’s cool but relatively dry. That’s great for ripening Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
“When you’re there, you know you’re in a really special part of the world.
It’s a great place for a winemaker to want to capture in a bottle.”
Located barely five kilometres south-west of the historic township of Richmond, the 20ha site is owned by South Australian company, Shaw + Smith. Wadewitz is joint CEO and senior winemaker there.
Last Friday week saw pickers hand harvest Tolpuddle’s first Pinot Noir of the 2021 vintage.
“It’s been a stunning season so far,” Wadewitz mused before the forecast showers of recent days interrupted proceedings.
“We really couldn’t be happier. The Coal River Valley this year looks fantastic. Vintage has come off the back of a cool, damp spring and a relatively mild summer. Soil moisture has been good all year and our vines are looking much better for it.”
Wadewitz has just begun his ninth vintage with the vineyard. The University of Adelaide graduate winemaker joined Shaw + Smith in time for the 2013 harvest, almost two years after the company purchased the Back Tea Tree Road property.
The vineyard’s first vines were planted in four stages between 1988 and 1999. They were part of a joint venture between StrathAyr founder Bill Casimaty (now deceased), Victorian winemaker and viticulture consultant Garry Crittenden, and former managing director of Chandon Australia, the late Dr Tony Jordan.
Vintage 1991 marked the start of a small but steady stream of premium quality sparkling wine harvests for Domaine Chandon’s Cuvée Brut. Prior to the vineyard’s sale to Shaw + Smith, it became a source for Eileen Hardy Chardonnay, Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay, Domaine Chandon Tasmanian Vintage Brut, as well as various Bay of Fires and House of Arras wines.
“Because Shaw + Smith doesn’t produce sparkling wine, we’ve had to commit to some pretty major undertakings here in order to fine tune our viticulture to premium table wine production,” says vineyard manager Carlos Souris.
Souris joined the ambitious Tasmanian project in mid-2012.
Working under the direction of Shaw + Smith group viticulturist Murray Leake, Souris and his close-knit vineyard team have succeeded in turning the property into an industry showpiece. Changes to soil, water and vine management have included trellis modifications and the removal of windbreaks as well as under-performing blocks and clonal selections. Meticulous, time-consuming cane-pruning has replaced spur-pruning in the company’s pursuit of excellence.
More recent on-site composting, under vine cover-cropping and the commencement of organic management regimes two years ago have returned significant dividends in wine grape quality.
Media and industry plaudits have come thick and fast. Writing in his 2014 Australian Wine Companion, renowned author and former winemaker James Halliday observed, ‘If ever a new winery was born with blue blood in its veins, Tolpuddle would have to be it.”
In 2018, Tolpuddle was awarded the Kym Ludvigsen Trophy for Viticultural Excellence at the Royal Melbourne Wine Awards. That same year, US-based wine website JamesSuckling.com asserted the property ‘is making arguably the greatest Pinot Noir in Australia.’
And just as Tolpuddle’s vines were setting their crop for the current season, November brought news of another noteworthy award. The vineyard’s 2018 Chardonnay won three major trophies at the London International Wine Challenge, including Champion White Wine 2020.
“Our vine health this year has been phenomenal,” Souris notes.
“That’s exciting, given our moves into organic viticulture. Touch wood, I think this is the best year we’ve had in the vineyard. We’ve really pushed boundaries in order to find out just how good things can get here.”
“This is a wonderful journey for all of us,” Wadewitz adds.
“Getting to know this site has been a fascinating experience. Tolpuddle is such a unique place, with its light silica-over-sandstone soils and its north/north-east facing slopes. It is cool there, but it does tend to stay quite dry, so you get this incredible intensity of aroma and flavour that’s just wonderful to work with.
“When you look at the Adelaide Hills and the Coal River Valley, they’re polar opposites in many ways. What they have in common is that you really have to work hard to learn how to get the best out of the vineyards there.
“We always knew Tolpuddle had great bones to start with and the work we’ve put in over the years means we’ve been able to get so much more out of it.
“It’s amazing what you can do when you set things up well – when you have open leaf canopies, moderate crops and close attention to detail. The organic matter we’ve been able to build up in those poorer soils has really increased biodiversity on the site as well as resilience in our vines.
“Before we started down this path, we probably weren’t the strongest advocates for organic viticulture. But we really love that site and feel humbled to be the custodians of it. Having a more natural and diverse site gives us a far better understanding of the place. We’re just try to be sustainable, to farm the land in the best ways that we possibly can.”
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Promoting vineyard biodiversity is a great way of facilitating the Tasmanian wine industry’s quest for improving grape and wine quality, but there are some life forms you simply don’t want in a healthy vineyard environment.
Think weeds, pests and diseases, to broad brush just a few.
It’s little more than three years ago that grape growers and winemakers in the state were alerted to the unwanted presence of Queensland fruit fly larvae in northern Tasmania.
In January 2018, the larvae were found by a member of the public on apricots growing in a domestic back garden just kilometres from La Villa Wines in the quiet, apple and pear growing township of Spreyton, south of Devonport.
By mid-February, Biosecurity Tasmania was confirming additional larvae detection in a backyard orchard in George Town. With that news came advice that January’s Spreyton-centred control zone was being extended further east, taking in properties located both sides of the Tamar River estuary north of the Batman Bridge.
According to Wine Tasmania CEO Sheralee Davies, around 30 wine businesses at the time were impacted by the biosecurity initiative.
Fortunately, thanks to the prompt and proactive work done by the federal and state governments – most particularly, by Biosecurity Tasmania and the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment – no additional larvae were detected in subsequent months.
Like many other grape growers and orchardists in Tasmania, Marcus and Gail Burns at La Villa breathed collective sighs of relief at having survived such a close call with a potential vineyard visitor. As major players in Spreyton’s high-quality apple and pear industry, the couple had more than just wine grapes at stake during the crisis period.
“It happened at the most critical time of the year for our orchard business,” Gail Burns recalls.
“We didn’t have larvae on our property but we quickly found ourselves in the epicentre of one of the affected zones. It took a whole year before control zone restrictions were finally lifted. The job of picking our apples and pears was particularly laborious that season as we had to fumigate our harvests at the end of each day. That alone cost us $300,000.”
The La Villa owners are glad biosecurity measures across the state are due to be beefed up on March 31 when the General Biosecurity Duty (GBD) comes into effect to support the State Government’s landmark Biosecurity Act 2019.
The GBD is set to operate as a statutory ‘duty of care’ and reinforces the principle that everyone in Tasmania has a role to play in protecting our primary industries and the natural environment from a multitude of biosecurity risks.
According to Biosecurity Tasmania acting general manager Rae Burrows, “this will mean that all Tasmanians will have a duty to take all reasonable and practicable measures to prevent, eliminate, or minimise biosecurity risks when dealing with any biological matter or carrier, if they ought to know that there may be a biosecurity risk.”
Planning to visit a Tasmanian vineyard in 2021?
* Head straight to the cellar door via roads and walkways.
* Heed all vineyard signage and take care around working vineyards.
* Be sure to ask permission before entering vineyard rows. Clothing and footwear can easily harbour microscopic pests and diseases that could destroy our world-class wine industry.
Hobart’s Mark Smith wrote his first weekly wine column back in 1994. Now more than 1700 features and 25 years later, he continues to chart the successes of Tasmania’s small scale, cool climate wine industry with regular contributions to some of Australia’s leading industry publications.
PICK OF THE CROP
Mark gives you his honest opinions about the best wines available right now from Tasmania’s wine makers.
NV Josef Chromy Tasmanian Cuvée $34
Back in February, visiting Champagne expert Tyson Stelzer noted the rise and rise of Relbia’s Josef Chromy sparkling wines. My recent tasting of the 2008 Zdar provided ample evidence of the superb quality of these ultra-premium releases. More important to everyday wine consumers is the joy and sheer drinkability provided by the company’s entry-level, multi-vintage blend. It’s a smart bubbly at a relatively friendly price. Subtle citrus, red apple and biscuity notes are supported by verve and freshness on a nicely sustained palate. Residual sweetness and acidity are neatly balanced. Bravo. www.josefchromy.com.au
NV Bream Creek Brut Rosé $36
Bream Creek on Tasmania’s south-east coast is one of the State’s oldest commercial vineyards. A challenging site viticulturally, it’s long been the source of award-winning table wines. Since 2005, high quality sparkling wines have also entered the frame. This sparkling Rosé is a welcome new addition to the portfolio. Pale salmon in colour, it’s as easy on palate as it is on the eye, offering smooth, nicely rounded flavours with plenty of vigour. Pinot’s red berry fruit comes with a hint of bread dough and an attractive creamy texture. Affordable Easter indulgence. www.breamcreekvineyard.com.au
2020 Apogee Tasmania Alto Pinot Gris $44
Some 35 years have passed since Dr Andrew Pirie gave his name to one of the state’s most consistent, high quality sparkling wines. Less well-known is his small-scale Apogee Tasmania project, based at Lebrina in Tasmania’s north-east. Its world-class fizz is completed by stylish Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. This 2020 Alto was inspired by its maker’s experiences of Alsace in the 1970s. It’s little wonder the wine is beautifully aromatic, dry and neatly textured. A generous mix of ripe pear, red apple and quince flavours is balanced by great acidity. Delicious. www.apogeetasmania.com
2020 Hughes & Hughes Pinot Noir $30
Acclaimed as Australia’s Best New Winery in the 2019 Halliday Wine Companion, Mewstone Wines is kicking goals in the cool D’Entrecasteaux Channel, south of Hobart. The company’s Hughes & Hughes products are made from bought-in fruit and include some very stylish wines from 2020. Indeed, this red blend comes from five different parts of the state. It’s a very attractive, juicy wine, with sweet fruit adorning a light-bodied framework constructed around fine ripe tannins and vibrant acidity. At the table, it’s a versatile match for smoked salmon, light curries and game-derived smallgoods. Value-plus. www.mewstonewines.com.au
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Source: Tasmanian Times https://www.tasmaniantimes.com/2021/03/tolpuddle-small-site-great-deeds/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tolpuddle-small-site-great-deeds