On Wednesday I attended the Tasmania Unbottled Cheese and Wine Masterclass. The Wine Man’s Peter Bourne led the discussion and was joined by the House of Arras’s chief winemaker Ed Carr, Andrew Pirie, chief winemaker at Tamar Ridge and Pirie Tasmania, and the Bruny Island Cheese Company’s Nick Haddow.
The cheese was excellent, especially the four year old raw milk C2, a cheddar style cheese, which incidentally is the only legally made raw cheese in Australia! But the highlight for me was the opportunity to taste three superb vintage wines: the House of Arras Grand Vintage 2004, the Tamar Ridge Chardonnay 2004 and the Native Point Pinot Noir 2005.
If you’re ever weighing up buying a French Champagne or an Australian vintage sparkling, do yourself a favour and pick up a bottle of the beautifully made House of Arras Grand Vintage 2004. (It retails for around $70 a bottle) This elegant, finely beaded wine with complex nuances of flavour and a slight creaminess to the finish is still displaying great vibrancy and freshness. A blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, Ed Carr explained that the wine had spent seven years on lees before disgorgement. It receives a small dosage of expedition liqueur, which introduces a slight oak and brandy spirit into the complex, balanced blend.
Andrew Pirie was Australia’s first PhD in viticulture and as the founder of Pipers Brook Vineyard back in 1974, he is one of the legends of the Tasmanian wine industry. His Tamar Ridge Chardonnnay 2004 was an absolutely stunning example of Tasmania’s potential to make chardonnay with enough balance and structure to age for a long time.
Pirie explained that Tasmanian chardonnay needs time to evolve. Over time the cool-climate fruit, which is naturally high in acidity, beautifully integrates with the oak treatment to create a wine of impressive body and weight that still retains its bright, clean fruit flavours. In Pirie’s opinion, one of the reasons why warmer climate chardonnays can seem too oaky is because the fruit does not have enough acidity to absorb the oak. It tends to sit on top of the wine, consequently overshadowing the more subtle aromas and flavours. Interesting!
Native Point is a fairly young label, but the fruit was first planted in 1999 by Sheena and Tim High on an ideally sited 5 hectare vineyard in East Tamar. The Native Point Pinot Noir 2005 was only the second vintage and hails from an exceptional year. This bright crimson wine had a wonderfully fragrant bouquet of black stone fruits with a touch of savoury spice. What I really liked about the flavour profile was the slight lingering sweetnees on the mid-palate – a sure sign that the fruit was beautifully ripe when picked. Definitely a label to watch!
Photo:(L to R) Andrew Pirie, Ed Carr, Peter Bourne and Nick Haddow