Tassie Pinot zealotry


Our winemaker Peter Caldwell is what some might call slightly eccentric. He loves making wine in Tasmania and is absolutely obsessed with producing Tassie Pinot. So it’s no surprise that when he was left to his own devices in 2012 he decided to make four different Pinot Noirs from all over the Island State.

The result is as we expected, absolutely stunning, a selection of wines that reflect their special spot on the map of Tasmania: the most exciting place to make Pinot in the New World.Enough from us, Peter has explained below.

“At a recent Taste of Tasmania wine tasting I was asked why I make four separate Pinot Noirs at Dalrymple? I mean, wouldn’t it be easier to just make one Dalrymple Pinot Noir?

“I explained that Pinot Noir, perhaps more than any other grape variety, is a very sensitive barometer of the environment in which it is grown. There is a French word for this – terroir – and it was the famous Burgundians who invented the idea of separating the grapes from each little vineyard, so that they could make individual wines which each expressed their very own uniqueness.

“In Tasmania we have an extraordinary diversity of soils and weather patterns and rainfalls but unless you grew up here, or spent a lot of time tasting your way around the island, you’d never get a chance to compare one single vineyard site with another.

“My intention for each of the sites I’ve chosen, is to understand the special influence that perhaps a shallow gravelly soil has over a deep loam, or how the harsh winds from the ocean ripens grapes differently to those in the sheltered lee of a hillside.

“I respect these differences and work with the special challenges they present me with each year. That might mean different management in the vineyard or picking earlier or later or making imperceptible decisions in the winery.

“My only rule of thumb is that each site must have vines which have the age and health to ensure that we are starting from a base quality level that is already very high.

“With the annual release of this suite of Tassie Pinots, I hope that each will be true to its vintage and place and that their identity will hold true over five to eight years of cellaring.

“As the vines age and I garner more experience in managing the vineyards and winemaking I expect to see a strengthening of each wine’s inherent character – a bit like children growing up as individuals.

“For example I can already see that the Cottage Block has a distinctive red fruit spectrum with spicy, herbal elements, finer tannins and restrained fruit concentration. It is an expression of the coolest Tasmanian site we pick from and is loaded with complexity.

“The Coal River Valley site comes from a warmer, drier climate and lighter soils which lifts the wine towards a dark fruit spectrum with an increase in tannin content.

“The Bicheno site is late ripening, similar to the Cottage Block but it generally has a warmer summer and slightly drier growing season, which promotes darker fruit flavours, more tannin extract and a hint of savouriness.

“Then there is the Dalrymple site which ripens easily and produces fruit with more sweetness and texture.

“All different, all unique and all absorbingly interesting in the glass. In fact I recommend people buy the full suite each year and enjoy the comparison as you open them a few years down the track.”

2012 Vintage Releases

Warm, dry Indian summers. It’s what we pray for in February and March in Tasmania and in 2012 the Gods listened. So while NSW and Queensland were underwater (remember the floods) we were donning straw hats and getting a very un-Tasmanian tan, as we carefully selected our sunniest grapes for the 2012 Chardonnay, and our suite of Tassie Pinots before rushing them off to the winery for gentle crushing and patient fermentation.

The 2012 Dalrymple Cave Block Chardonnay is from a single site so despite vintage variations there are some common characteristics. The soils and climate make this Chardonnay naturally restrained in fruit character and it takes time in the bottle and the glass to open up and show its true complexity. Concentration and alcohol are low and acidity and length is high due to the cool site.

The 2012 season gave us much greater texture than normal and I hand picked and whole bunch pressed the fully ripe fruit and matured it in French oak barrels. I like the linear acidity in this wine and the lively fruit – think limes and nectarines and coriander and five spice.

The 2012 Pinot Noirs are united by that warm summer and long, slow ripening autumn. There’s a concentration of flavour and depth of colour across the wines which will make this vintage memorable and collectable – but as with single sites each has its own personality.

The 2012 Single Site Coal River Valley Pinot Noir is all black cherries and plums (very Coal River) with trade mark tannin silkiness; the 2012 Cottage Block Pinot Noir shows off its north-western provenance with red cherry/strawberry/raspberry aromas with touches of white pepper; and the 2012 Single Site Bicheno Pinot Noir is more blackberries and brambly fruits and complex spice with a juicy texture.

All lovely wines for food matching with quail, duck, soft cheese and walnuts this summer.

2013 Vintage Releases

Warm to hot vintage weather meant many of us were fighting terrible bushfires in southern Tasmania in late summer and autumn 2013. But up in the north-west things were a little less frantic as we watched the beautiful interaction that happens when long days of sunlight ripen fruit to its ultimate flavour.

The 2013 Dalrymple Sauvignon Blanc is a stand out – a mouthful of cumquats, passionfruit and guava which is even a little creamy this year from the optimal seasonal conditions. We blend fruit from the Coal Valley (ripe lime and pineapple flavours) with fleshy grapes from the Tamar (that are minerally and spicy) to achieve a Sauvignon Blanc which is dry but textural and complex. This is a really beautiful wine with a long, mouth watering acid finish that will top off a dozen Tasmanian oysters.

The 2013 Dalrymple Pinot Noir also shows off its long slow ripening with a more deeply concentrated black plum and blackberry fruit spectrum. Sweet and opulent this will change your mind about Pinot and is big enough to take on a saddle of Mt Franklin venison.

Peter Caldwell, Vigneron.