A pocketful of gems by Rocco Esposito »
Vue de Monde's Wine Director reminisces on some Tasmanian wines
By Rocco Esposito
There’s been much coverage on Tasmania of late, mostly of course on the bushfires that raged through a corner of what is one of the best ‘go-to’ places for its picturesque surroundings, great food and wine. My thoughts are with you all in Tassie…
A while ago when at Wardens Food and Wine at Beechworth in NE Victoria, a dear customer of ours (John and his better half Joan) came along to our BYO night. Pull the cork, pour the wine and John goes: “Every year I get on the Spirit of Tasmania, and when I land in Devonport I get in the Spirit of it all.”
John gets on his bike, cycles through pretty roads, occasionally stops for a coffee and eventually arrives in the Coal River Valley near Richmond in Southern Tasmania. John told us about one year when vintage was under way for his dear friend and (now retired) winemaker Andrew Hood, from the then Hood/Wellington Wines.
Hoody (as John calls him) was the local hero, the man who turned small parcels of precious berries from tiny vineyards into award-winning wines. He was the Pinot King, and made a significant imprint in Tasmania for his dedication and his love for the land and what the land is capable of doing.
Now Frogmore Creek have taken over Hood Wines, and the Wellington label no longer exists. However, these wines may still be found at auction, or packed away in a few cellars around the country; it is very much the case of ‘who you know, not what you know’ (here I have a smile on my face!)
Nowadays Hoody is a winemaking consultant at Frogmore Creek with a CV full of Gold medals and Trophies, and his mantle is carried forward by ex-Moorilla winemaker Alain Rousseau, ably assisted by the winning winemaker of the 50th Jimmy Watson Trophy, Nick Glaetzer, plus a team of crack winemakers and consultant viticulturalists.
The wine sector in Tasmania is very small on the world scale. There is no ‘mass-production’; winegrowers in Tasmania establish small vineyards that optimise the expression of terroir that defines their wines. So, there are several makers like Andrew Hood was – Julian Alcorso and his team are another – producing many small batches of wines from fruit from different locations, each with their own distinctive characteristics.
Long summer days, cool nights and the careful tending of the vines provide exceptional high quality fruit. This enables winemakers to craft sparkling, white and red wines of finesse and elegance.
Varietal expression is integral to Tasmanian wines. Yet there is also something else that makes the Tasmanian wine experience special: a deeper sense that the wine comes from a special place – an ancient, beautiful and unique landscape.
The sparkling wines are notoriously good in Tasmania. Many producers seem to have identified great areas for the production of pinot noir and chardonnay; most importantly though, a lot of research and an interminable amount of hard work have been carried out into the effects of the separation of different press fractions (fractionation) on the characteristics of musts and wines destined for sparkling wine.
The result? Take a look at the powerful ‘House of Arras Grand Vintage 2004’, or at the refined ‘Kreglinger 2008’.
The other Tassie gem is pinot noir. Cost of production is high in cool climates, so it is very important to maximise the quality and ensure good economic returns. The primary source of quality is the fruit – vineyard management is critical in a cool climate.
Of course the production of pinot noir is also strongly influenced by the winemaking process. A few gems? Yes please: ‘Glaetzer Dixon Reveur Pinot Noir 2008’ is still one of the best I’ve tried from the Coal River Valley; another classic is the ‘Dalrymple Single Domaine Block T36 Pinot Noir 2009’; and then there’s the funky ‘Goaty Hill Pinot Noir 2011’, both the Tamar Valley in the north of the state – the latter I could easily drink every day.
I must go back to the local hero though. Albeit hard to find, I have had the pleasure to drink some Wellington wines in the past. Hoody’s wines neither are simply amazing; they are not ‘try-hard’ nor pretend to be similar to the Old World.
His Germanic-style rieslings were fun and delicious to drink. They were about texture, good wine-making and most of all about provenance.
But what John had me pouring in the glass that night at Wardens was a cracking chardonnay, full of energy and subtle fruit. It was certainly a stellar wine, to the point that even Andrew himself called it the ‘Hoodstar Chardonnay’. It is without a doubt a wine that comes from one of Australia’s best terroirs.
I don’t think his wines are easy to find – shame. Lucky, John has a few bottles stashed somewhere in his cellar… “Life is too short to drink bad wines!”
Good motto, I think I need to visit John and Joan pretty soon. And I urge you all to support Tasmania’s recovery from the bushfires and put some Tassie gems in your glasses, too.
The hospitality game has been home to Rocco Esposito for more than twenty years, and he has specialized in wine expertise and service from the beginning.
Born and raised in Italy, he moved to Australia in 1998 and chose the path of wine by working in restaurants such as Cecconi’s in Melbourne, and as a consultant and wine buyer for private enterprises. In 2004 he set up his own restaurant/wine bar in Beechworth: Wardens Food & Wine.
In 2009 Rocco was the recipient of ‘The Age Good Food Guide Wine Service Award’ as well as rated by ‘The Age Melbourne Magazine’ as one of the top one hundred influential people.
Rocco is currently at Vue de monde Group working as Wine Director – he ‘extremely enjoys’ working with such a professional and iconic group. He also is the director of his own business, Drink Wine Consultancy.
Being very particular and selective about wine, Rocco also enjoys judging in various wine shows; he recognizes and values the importance of the rigor, which goes into show-judging methodology.
Rocco is particularly excited by his new project in Beechworth where the main aim is to establish and run his own vineyard and make his own wine. Read more about Rocco Esposito in this interview by Jeni Port here »
We are delighted to welcome Rocco as a contributor to VisitVineyards.com
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