We recently visited Australia for the first time, spending most of our time in Tasmania with a short side trip exploring the Great Ocean Road near Melbourne. Such stunning scenery I have not seen in a long while, and wherever we went the folks we met were quite welcoming and friendly. These regions are definitely worth a visit.
I had heard that “Tassie” pinot noir was definitely up and coming, so was pleased to be able to arrange a visit with Paul Smart, the winemaker at Pressing Matters, a winery in the Tea Tree district. This small valley is often classified with the Coal River district but is geographically separate, being drained by Pages Creek. The winery is owned by Greg and Michelle Melick, both highly accomplished individuals whom I did not have the pleasure of meeting on this occasion. Paul Smart is an extremely affable, gracious young man in his thirties, who holds degrees in chemistry and wine science. He is passionate about and devoted to learning more about making fine wine, and is a natural teacher when it comes to imparting his knowledge to others. The winery vineyard is located on a hillside with excellent natural drainage. Soil is Jurassic dolerite on top of a limestone base. Climate in the Tea Tree valley is cool, which would ordinarily place the vineyard at risk for frost, but a neighboring ridge traps colder air in the winter such that frost is virtually non-existent. The vineyard is planted to 2.9 ha of Riesling and 4.3 ha of pinot noir. The Riesling vines were first planted in 2002 (5000 vines per ha) whereas the pinot noir vines were planted subsequently (4200 vines per ha). Multiple clones and rootstocks are utilized, with a fair amount of research conducted as to which combination of clone and rootstock seems to be best for a given part of the vineyard (a designated trial block exists for pinot noir). Four Riesling cuvees are produced based upon the amount of residual sugar in each bottling: R0 (very dry), R9 (dry), R69 (medium sweet), and R139 (sweet). All are vinified utilizing steel tanks. Several pinot noir rootstock/clone combinations from different parts of the vineyard are vinified all the way to the barrel stage each vintage. The finished wine is a barrel blend. Barrels are French, with a lower percentage of new barrels utilized each year. Presently 10% of the barrels are new. We tasted five wines:
2013 Riesling R0. Pale white gold. Nose of citrus, grass, white flowers, oyster brine, schist. Austere layers of grapefruit, grass, white rock, petrol, and winter melon on the palate. Spiny structure and zippy acidity leading to a long finish of stone and citrus. A singular wine, and per Paul, just about purpose-built for fresh raw oysters. 91 poinrts.
2014 Riesling R9. Pale white gold. Nose of fresh melon, citrus, white stone, alpine flowers. Off-dry on the tongue with brisk, incisive layers of grapefruit, white peach, lychee, and a bit of pear overlying a steely mineral spine. Nervy acidity balancing beautifully tensile structure. Long finish of citrus and flint. Oh my. 93 points.
2013 Riesling R69. Pale gold. Nose of apple core, stone, hyacinth. Sweet on the palate with layers of apricot, peach, and lime surrounded by precise acidity and a perceptible layer of stoniness. Sweet finish, moderately long. Excellently made, although I’m still learning to enjoy sweet wines. 89 points.
2015 Riesling R139. Literally fresh off out of the barrel. Pale gold. Incredibly floral on the nose with extraordinary freshness, laced with elements of lemon, lime, apricot, lychee. Very sweet on the palate but due to the sheer purity of the fruit combined with spine-tingling acidity and unyielding mineral structure of the wine it all works beautifully. Haunting finish of tropical fruit, petrol, and stone. 93 points.
2012 Pinot Noir. Darker ruby color. Nose of red raspberry, cinnamon, honeysuckle blossoms. Savory elements of root vegetables, red raspberry, red plum, cinnamon, and iodine on the palate, which impressed with building persistence and deft delineation of fruit. Fresh acidity and well-managed tannins. Moderately long finish of red fruit, earth, and a bit of soy. This is very enjoyable now, but will undoubtedly improve with time in bottle. 91 points, which is probably conservative.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and purchased bottles of R0, R9, and pinot noir, which we enjoyed on our subsequent road trip. Other wines sampled on our vacation include the following:
2010 Dog Point Vineyard Pinot Noir - New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough (10/11/2015)
Popped and poured. Ruby hue. Nose of violets, stone, red raspberry, fecund soil. Nice combination of weight and freshness on the palate, which featured red fruit and savory notes combined with earth and iron. Ample acidity and structured but nicely managed tannins, leading to a moderately-long finish of red, stony fruit. Balanced and nicely done, particularly for the price, but was just shy of exemplary. (90 pts.)
2010 Kooyong Pinot Noir Ferrous - Australia, Victoria, Port Phillip, Mornington Peninsula (10/5/2015)
Darker ruby hue. Nose of red raspberry, beets, blood oranges, lavender, earth. Very savory and complex on the palate with layers of mulberry, red raspberry, beets again, stalks, iron flecks, schist, and iodine. Gives the impression of great intensity without weight. Driving acidity and stern tannins leading to a long finish of red fruit, brambles, earth, iron, and grip. Outstanding wine pushing the envelope even as an early adolescent. (93 pts.)
2005 Blain-Gagnard Volnay 1er Cru Les Chanlins - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Volnay 1er Cru (10/3/2015)
Purchased off the wine list at Le Provençal, Hobart. Ruby color. Nose of raspberry, lilacs, forest floor, stone. Lovely core of concentrated red plum and raspberry fruit still tangy with primary exuberance, interlaced with fine-grained iron and mineral elements. Vibrant acidity and firm but filed off tannins. Longer finish of mulberry fruit and lacy iron notes. Delicious and brimming with life, this will only get better. What a treat to try a 2005 1er. (92 pts.)
2012 Kooyong Pinot Noir Ferrous - Australia, Victoria, Port Phillip, Mornington Peninsula (9/29/2015)
Purchased off the wine list at Henry Jones Art Hotel, Hobart. Dark ruby color. Complex, powerful nose of savory root vegetables, celery stalks, red raspberry, alpine florals, and earth. Terrific tension and edgy acidity on the palate, which displayed layers of raspberry and black cherry fruit in spades underpinned by iron notes. Strong tannins submerged by fruit. Long finish of tart red fruit, earth, and iron flecks. Really enjoyable, and likely to get better. (93 pts.)
2013 By Farr Pinot Noir "Farrside" - Australia, Victoria, Port Phillip, Geelong (9/28/2015)
Purchased off the wine list at Il Bacaro, Melbourne. Darker ruby color. Nose of red berry, intense cinnamon, musky cellar, hothouse flowers. Dense, potent layers of red raspberry and mulberry fruit laced with plum, cinnamon and iodine. Slightly extracted feel, not a negative. Structured but manageable tannins balanced by ample acidity. Moderately long finish of wide open red fruit with soft grip. Beautiful wine even in its infancy and destined to age very well. (92 pts.)
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