Following a classy 2016 vintage, Dalrymple Vineyards’ vigneron Peter Caldwell could not be more positive about the future of the Tasmanian wine industry.
Not only buoyed by idyllic Pinot Noir making conditions, and some of the largest crops he’s seen in ten years, Pete’s also excited about the emergence of the state’s sub-regions – born of a uniquely Tasmanian subculture.
“Tasmania has always been seen as a place for escapism – its isolation has inspired a way of living that has attracted a lot of people from big cities over the years, particularly those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle and live in a different way,” Peter said.
“Almost like a hippy-movement, a lot of them came to Tasmania with the idea of buying a small, inexpensive piece of land in the mountains, and decided to be self-sufficient – which also meant they started growing their own grapes and making their own wine.
“Some of Tasmania’s most exciting new sub-regions have cropped up from this movement – rather than coming from a solely viticultural perspective, or established vineyards – these sub-regions were born from a subculture.”
Because of this, Peter said that of the 150 wine labels produced in Tasmania, only 60 of them have ever made it out of the island state.
“There is a massive amount of little Mum-and-Pop operations in Tassie, making some really high quality wines, but most of it never sees the tasting bench or the store shelf – it’s wine made for self-consumption,” he said.
“It’s also interesting how unconventional the sites are – many are established in areas that would be seen by many vignerons as less than ideal, but are producing some really interesting and exciting wines.”
Popular sub-regions born from this counterculture approach to growing and making wine include the Coal River Valley and Tamar Valley, but there are new sites being established every year.
“Vineyards are now even popping up in Devonport, which was traditionally an area where potatoes and vegetables were grown, but as vineyards can be quite small you can find little isolated patches perfect for vines in this region,” Peter said.
“The Coal River Valley has become a real hot spot for vineyards; it’s a true cool climate, the soils are great, there’s plenty of sunshine, and they’ve recently completed the final piece of the puzzle by ensuring there is now access to water.” through a new irrigation scheme supported by the Tasmanian Government.
“It’s great for Tasmania – we’ve seen employment growth as a result of vineyard development both in terms of production and tourism – and now these sub-regions are putting Tassie on the map as major food and wine destination.”
Back at Dalrymple Vineyards, in the stunning and long-established Pipers Brook region, Peter said he’s had a year of “kinder conditions” for his Pinot Noir, describing the 2015 and 2016 vintage as “chalk and cheese”.
“In 2015 there wasn’t a summer to speak of, with February delivering rain, high winds and cooler temperatures,” Peter said.
“This year we had a fantastic summer – it stayed really dry, so there were no issues with the grapes ripening or diseases, such as botrytis that can occur with wet warm autumns.
“Another remarkable feature of the 2016 vintage was the warm dry spring, which provided perfect conditions for flowering to occur, resulting in fully formed bunches of Pinot Noir,” Peter said.
“Our 2016 Tasmanian Pinot Noir, will see summer red berries at the fore of the wine – I’m also envisaging a more vibrant and complex palette than the 2015 vintage because it won’t have the concentration of tannins from the smaller berries, which has driven the style in previous years.
“But as any Pinot Noir producer will tell you, this may change – I’m constantly being proved wrong by this notorious variety!”
This September, Pete says Pinot Noir fanatic’s will also be spoilt with the release of Dalrymple Vineyards’ 2014 single site wines – sourced from Tasmania’s most exciting sub-regions, Bicheno and the Coal River Valley.
“We haven’t released these wines yet because we want them to relax a little more in the bottle, for further expression and complexity,” Peter said.
“We’ve sourced these grapes from some of the finest single sites we could find in Tasmania, but instead of keeping them all to ourselves (like the hippies), we’re looking forward to sharing them.”