Tag: Max Allen

Sep 09 2011

Jansz Tasmania: The Poor Man’s Krug!

Posted on September 09, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

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 … Read the rest

Sep 09 2011

Aussie Wine Icons: Giaconda Estate Vineyard Chardonnay

Posted on September 09, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

“Possibly Australia’s greatest modern wine”… “Australia’s finest chardonnay” … “One of the very best chardonnays in the world outside Burgundy.”

Wow!  And that’s just a few examples of the excitement the Giaconda Estate Vineyard Chardonnay has generated since the release of the first 1986 vintage in 1987!

Giaconda is a small winery in the foothills and within sight of the Victorian Alps, just outside the town of Beechworth in northern Victoria. It is run by Rick Kinzbrunner, who was named Qantas/Australian Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year in 2003, and is considered one of the most talented, experienced, thoughtful and inspiring winemakers in Australia. As wine critic Huon Hooke remarked, “He knows what great wine is, he knows what he wants to achieve and how to get there.” (Get serious: One of our finest winemakers does things his own way by Huon Hooke, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 May 2003)

The chardonnay vines were originally planted in 1982 on a cool, south facing slope, which protects the vines from the direct impact of the sun’s rays. Here the soil is granitic loam over decomposed gravel and clay. The nutrient poor gravel keeps yields low, while the clay allows sustained water-release to the vine roots, usually making irrigation unnecessary.

Barrel fermented with wild yeasts in French oak (50 per cent new, 100% Sirugue barrels) the wine is bottled unfiltered after 18 months of barrel maturation. The barrels are now stored in a cool, damp cellar 20 metres beneath the granite hill that was dug out by miners a few years ago. Kinzbrunner told wine critic Max Allen “There’s something very special about turning the fruit from the soil above into wine and then taking it deep into the rock below to mature it.” He believes that the humidity (about 95%) causes the … Read the rest

Jul 07 2011

Wine Gift Ideas: Vintage Sparkling from Tasmania rivals the finest Champagne

Posted on July 07, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Arguably, the finest sparkling wines in Australia come from Tasmania.  Bay of Fires‘ winemaker Fran Austin argues that what distinguishes the cool climate wines of Tasmania from their high altitude, cool climate counterparts on the mainland is the acid structure in the grapes: “A lot of mainland cool-climate regions are cool because they’re high up, not because they’re down south. In high-altitude wines, the acidity can taste hard. But in cool-latitude wines, you get softer, mouth-watering juicy acidity. And incredible depth of flavour – which means you can work the wines more, let them spend more time on lees before releasing them, producing a more complex end result.” (Epithany – Aussie Sparkling by Max Allen, Langton’s Magazine.)

The potential of Tasmania for producing fine sparkling wines was first recognised in the 1980s when the French Champagne House Louis Roederer established the Jansz vineyard in collaboration with Heemskerk in the Tamar Valley. Jansz was Tasmania’s first sparkling wine to be made according to the traditional méthod champenoise. In 2009 the Jansz Tasmania Premium Vintage Cuvee 2004 beat out some serious French competition to claim the Trophy for Best Sparkling Wine of the Show at the Sydney International Wine Competition.

Last year the House of Arras released the EJ Carr Late Disgorged Sparkling 1998, which at a recommended retail price of  $190, made it the most expensive Australian sparkling wine on the market. Wine critic Max Allen described his reaction to a sneak preview over a decade ago of the 1995 Tasmanian vintage made by winemaker Ed Carr: “I still remember tasting these wines and thinking here was Australian sparkling that approached the best Champagne in terms of finesse, complexity and depth of flavour.” Epithany: Aussie Sparkling by Max Allen, Langton’s Magazine.

Taltarni owned Clover Hill in … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

The Return to Terroir Grand Tasting in Melbourne

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In a week when a tragic natural disaster in Japan was compounded by the fear of a potential man-made nuclear disaster, I think many of us were grateful for the opportunity to attend the Return to The Terroir Grand Tasting in Melbourne. Here was a group of biodynamic winemakers, passionate about the benefits of working with the land’s natural rhythms and bio-systems, delighting our senses with superb wines and stimulating discussion.

Organised by Castagna Vineyard’s Julian Castagna, the tasting brought together 61 wine producers from around the world and more than 340 wines! Almost all of these wineries are members of La Renaissance des Appellations, an invitation only group of biodynamic winemakers founded by Nicolas Joly of the famed Coulée de Serrant. Members are invited not only on the basis of their farming practices (three years of biodynamic farming across the whole property is the minimum criteria) but are also judged on the quality of their wine and their commitment to a shared philosophy that great wine is made in the vineyard, not in the cellar.

In the catalogue accompanying the tasting, Australian wine critic Max Allen noted that “A rapidly growing number of the world’s best winegrowers, from Alsace to Australia, have enthusiastically adopted biodyanmics in their vineyards because they believe it helps them produce wines that express a more authentic, more beautiful sense of place in the glass.”

Indeed, some of the most celebrated wineries in the world are members of the group. To name but a few, they include Domaine Zind Humbrecht from Alsace, Araujo Estate from the Napa Valley, Compañía de Vinos Telmo Rodriguez from Spain and Cullen Wines from the Margaret River.

At the panel discussion I attended the audience had a chance to hear first-hand from the winemakers about what … Read the rest

Oct 10 2010

Orange: NSW’s ‘Coolest’ Wine Region!

Posted on October 10, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

First Press reports that this year’s 2010 NSW Wine Awards is shaping up as a contest between the new emerging cool climate regions of NSW and the traditional regions of the Hunter Valley and the Riverina. The emerging cool climate regions of the Canberra district, Orange, Hilltops, Tumbarumba and the Southern Highlands took roughly half of the spots in the Top NSW 40 Wines, Cool-Climate Continues to Captivate Judges, First Press Newsletter 1 October 2010. The top 40 NSW wines were selected from over 800 entries by a panel of highly respected wine judges chaired by Huon Hooke.


The region of Orange has certainly emerged as a clear winner at this year’s Awards regardless of whether it picks up the ultimate prize of 2010 NSW Wine of the Year to be announced at the Awards Gala Presentation dinner at Guillame at Bennelong on Monday 18 October 2010. Five of its wineries are in the top 40 and its wines took out two of the nine trophies: Angullong Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2010 rrp $17 won the trophy for best young sauvignon blanc and Logan Cabernet Merlot 2008 rrp $25 won the trophy for best young red blend.

The Orange wine region is about 260 km west of Sydney. Noteworthy for its very high elevation, it is also one the coolest growing environments in Australia. Orange is dominated by the extinct volcano Mt Canobolas, which provides rich volcanic soils and moderates the hot summer temperatures to create one of the longest ripening periods in Australia – grapes are typically not picked until mid to late autumn. The combination of aged soils, high altitude, cool temperatures, ample sunshine, decent rainfall and long dry autumns, typically produce wines that have been recognised for their complexity, elegance and balance.

Wine critic Max Allen … Read the rest