At the Tasmania Unbottled tasting I bumped into a friend who’s in charge of buying wine for his wine society. I really value his opinion, and he thought the pick of the show was the Jansz Tasmania Vintage Cuvée 2006. I also thought this sparkling was a standout. It was a deliciously textural wine with a finely beaded mousse and a vibrant complex nose of citrus, biscuits, honeysuckle and toasted almonds.
I’m always excited when my impression of a wine is confirmed by a seasoned critic. British wine critic Matthew Jukes said that the 2006 Jansz Tasmania Vintage Cuvée was the finest offering from this specialist producer to date. Tyson Stelzer, author of the Champagne Guide 2011, referred to the Premium Vintage Rosé 2007, which I also enjoyed, as a poor man’s Krug Rosé. (Matthew Jukes, 100 Best Australian Wines – 2011)
The comparison to one of the greatest names in Champagne seems apt given that Jansz was originally launched in 1986 as a specialist sparkling producer by Graham Wiltshire and Bill Fesq of the Tamar Valley’s Heemskerk Winery and the famous Champagne House of Louis Roederer. The head of Louis Roederer, Jean-Claude Rouzard, was personally involved in establishing the vineyard, planting it with the classic varieties of chardonnay and pinot noir. Today Jansz is owned by Yalumba’s Hill Smith family, and since 2001 Natalie Fryar has served as Winemaker.
Heemskerk and Louis Roederer were the first to recognise that the ultra-cool climate of Northern Tasmania’s Tamar Valley was ideal for growing grapes for sparkling wines. The maritime influence of Bass Strait keeps temperatures low and creates enough humidity for a long and gentle ripening period, enabling the wines to develop intense, delicate and refined flavours and a lingering, mouthwatering juicy acidity that is essential for the creation of premium sparkling wine.
Jansz was Tasmania’s first sparkling wine to be made according to the traditional méthode champenoise. Fryar believes that because the wines have such astounding flavour and structure, they can take the kind of techniques that are common in Champagne, such as barrel-fementation for the rosé, lees-stirring and extended ageing before disgorging.
Fryar is also very much of the view that great wine is made in the vineyard. Just prior to pruning, for example, each vine is assessed to ensure that is ideally balanced for perfect, even ripening. And in the winery each block is treated individually with a range of winemaking techniques applied to best express the flavours of the single blocks.
In his book, The Future Makers: Australian Wine for the 21st Century, Max Allen remarked, “Every year since Nat started at Jansz at the turn of the century, the wines have improved, becoming deeper, more complex, more satisfying.” Given the developing age of the vines in a terroir that already proven its potential for world-class sparkling wines, I’m guessing that the best from Jansz Tasmania is yet to come!