WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot from Tasmania (Tamar Ridge 2005)

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WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot from Tasmania (Tamar Ridge 2005)

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Jan 22, 2007 2:27 pm

Pinot from Tasmania

Tasmania, Australia's smallest and most isolated state, occupies a strikingly scenic island off Australia's southeastern shore. Australia's closest point to Antarctica, Tasmania lies exposed to the ocean gales and cold currents that old-time sailors called "The Roaring Forties," endowing the island with a four-season climate that brings winter frosts and deciduous forests that turn brilliant colors in the fall.

Populated by humans as long as 40,000 years ago, Tasmania was "discovered" by a Dutch explorer named Tasman in 1642 and later settled by the British, who placed a penal colony for exiled convicts there in 1803, only 15 years after the first penal settlements on the Australian mainland.

Cold, isolated and lightly settled to this day - fully one-third of the island is set off for parks and preserves - Tasmanians sometimes endure the same kind of teasing from their compatriots as Americans deal out to the Appalachians and the South.

But there's no joking about Tasmania's wine. Tasmania has grown and produced wine for local consumption since the early days, but it's only in the past decade or so that the island has begun to make wine seriously for export. Tasmanian wine (not to mention its excellent Boag's beer) is becoming commonplace in the rest of Australia and now, still in smallish amounts, around the world.

That process will likely accelerate since Tasmania's wine industry, like much of the rest of Australia, has recently undergone a wave of corporate mergers, acquisitions and development by the country's major wine corporations. The producer of today's wine, for instance, <B>Tamar Ridge</B>, was recently acquired by the larger Gunns Ltd. and is undergoing quick expansion.

While it's early going to generalize about Tasmania's wines until more of them come our way, the Tamar Ridge 2005 Pinot Noir from their "Devil's Corner" portfolio - named after a hazardous rapids in the Tamar River - shows the character of a cool-climate red wine: It's rather light in color, not unusual for Pinot Noir, and boasts a light-bodied, lean and acidic, apparently un-oaked and very food-friendly profile with notes of earthiness that bespeak a kinship with the Old World. It's a far cry from the stereotypical South Australian blockbuster reds, and I like it the better for that. [url=#TN]See below for my tasting report[/url].

Want to learn more about Tasmania? Here's a link to a quality tourism Website sponsored by the state tourism organization:
http://www.discovertasmania.com/

<table border="0" align="right" width="150"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/tama0121.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Tamar Ridge 2005 "Devil's Corner" Tasmania Pinot Noir ($15)

Clear ruby, not overly dark. Light and fresh, restrained wild-cherry aroma carries over on the palate as tart red fruit, light-bodied but well structured with mouth-watering acidity. A distinct red-clay earthy nuance develops with time in the glass. Surprisingly for a wine from Down Under, its lean, cool-climate style almost suggests a light Burgundy - or perhaps a fine Beaujolais - more than a New World Pinot. U.S. importer: Robert Whale Selections Ltd., Washington, D.C. (Jan. 21, 2007)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> A good food wine, capable of standing up to red meat, but well-suited to poultry or salmon. Fine with chicken dark meat in a veloute with onions and green peppers.

<B>VALUE:</B> If you enjoy this light, acidic and moderately earthy "Old World" style as I do, then you won't quibble about a mid-teens price. If you're more attuned to riper, heavier New World styles, however, be aware that this one is <i>different</i>.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> Its relative lightness supports the winery's suggestion that it's a wine intended for near-term consumption, but good balance and acidity - and the sturdy metal screw cap - suggest that there's little risk in holding it for a year or two.

<B>WEB LINKS:</B>
The Tamar Ridge Website is colorful and attractive but requires the Flash plugin and shows best with a high-speed connection. It may not be accessible to text readers.
http://www.tamarridgewines.com.au/
Here's a more accessible tasting note and spec sheet from the U.S. importer:
[url=http://www.robertwhaleselections.com/tastingnotes.cfm?tastingnotesid=212&ourwinesid=34]http://www.robertwhaleselections.com/
tastingnotes.cfm?tastingnotesid=212&ourwinesid=34[/url]

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Wine-Searcher.com currently lists only Australian and British vendors for Tamar Ridge "Devil's Corner" Pinot Noir. From other world regions, check with local vendors or the importer.
[url=http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/Tamar%2bDevil%2bPinot/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP]http://www.wine-searcher.com/
find/Tamar%2bDevil%2bPinot/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP[/url]

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot from Tasmania (Tamar Ridge 2005)

Postby Paulo in Philly » Mon Jan 22, 2007 4:17 pm

...and I thought that having an Antinori Pinot Nero was unusual!!!! How refreshing to know that they are making a leaner PN in tasmanian devil land! Very offbeat and interesting, Robin!
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot from Tasmania (Tamar Ridge 2005)

Postby James G. Lester » Tue Jan 23, 2007 1:05 am

Robin,

Thanks for the most informative post. I have had only one Tasmanian PN and I think it was the same brand. I had it in Kalamazoo, MI about 2 years ago and my memory of it was just as you described. My good friend Bill Weier, GM of Epic Bistro downtown served it to me blind and asked me to guess what it was and where it came from. I guessed a Bourgogne from a decent year.

Given their terroir, I have no doubt they can do some lovely things with PN. I would be interested to see their vineyard layout--vine/row spacing, and crop load data. Low cropped close spaced vines always do best in a marginal climate.

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot from Tasmania (Tamar Ridge 2005)

Postby Robin Garr » Tue Jan 23, 2007 1:32 am

James G. Lester wrote:I would be interested to see their vineyard layout--vine/row spacing, and crop load data. Low cropped close spaced vines always do best in a marginal climate.


Jim, their Website doesn't tell much, but I'll bet they'd be happy to respond to E-mail questions from a fellow wine maker.

Website:
http://www.tamarridgewines.com.au/

E-mail:
info@tamarridge.com.au
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot from Tasmania (Tamar Ridge 2005)

Postby James G. Lester » Tue Jan 23, 2007 2:02 am

Robin,

Thanks for the info. I did see on their webpage that they use the Scott Henry training system. This system was invented by Scott Henry in the Upquah valley in Oregon. He had an old river bottom for a vineyard site and the vines were way too vigorous, so he invented the system which basically allows the grower to leave four fruiting canes instead of the normal two. The increased crop load on the vines slowed down the vine vigor and gave him twice the yield on his vines. It really took off with growers who get paid by the ton, and was spread around the world by Dr. Richard Smart who subscribes to the "big vine" theory. With Pinot, it is the worst trellis possible in my opinion. Dr. Smart is not a winemaker. What overcropping does to Pinot is to compromise the skin color and thin out the midpalate of the wine. Sure, you get twice as much wine, but why would you want thin Pinot??

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot from Tasmania (Tamar Ridge 2005)

Postby Robin Garr » Tue Jan 23, 2007 10:27 am

James G. Lester wrote:I did see on their webpage that they use the Scott Henry training system. This system was invented by Scott Henry in the Upquah valley in Oregon. He had an old river bottom for a vineyard site and the vines were way too vigorous, so he invented the system which basically allows the grower to leave four fruiting canes instead of the normal two. The increased crop load on the vines slowed down the vine vigor and gave him twice the yield on his vines. It really took off with growers who get paid by the ton, and was spread around the world by Dr. Richard Smart who subscribes to the "big vine" theory. With Pinot, it is the worst trellis possible in my opinion. Dr. Smart is not a winemaker. What overcropping does to Pinot is to compromise the skin color and thin out the midpalate of the wine. Sure, you get twice as much wine, but why would you want thin Pinot??


Interesting stuff, Jim! I'm aware that the Scott Henry system is fairly common Down Under, and if I'm not mistaken, Dr. Smart is in fact personally involved in the Tamar Ridge operation in some way.

I can't comment about the relationship between the Scott Henry system and the Tamar Ridge wine, other than to note that it is light but not really what I'd call "thin."
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot from Tasmania (Tamar Ridge 2005)

Postby Rahsaan » Tue Jan 23, 2007 12:28 pm

Sounds interesting. So is it too cold there for them to plant their beloved Shiraz?
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot from Tasmania (Tamar Ridge 2005)

Postby Jenise » Tue Jan 23, 2007 12:51 pm

Tasmanian chardonnays and pinot are better than anything produced on mainland Australia, IMO. Another high end Tasmanian producer you can find here from time to time is Dalrymple.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot from Tasmania (Tamar Ridge 2005)

Postby James G. Lester » Tue Jan 23, 2007 4:01 pm

Rahsaan wrote:Sounds interesting. So is it too cold there for them to plant their beloved Shiraz?


Rahsaan,

I would guess "yes" that it is too cold. It would ripen but barely and would lack the fat the Aussies are used to. It would have decent color and taste like a Croze-Hermitage from a light year. That is my guess based upon the Pinot I had. Shiraz is a sun worshipper. Pinot, like Riesling, does well in cool conditions.

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot from Tasmania (Tamar Ridge 2005)

Postby James G. Lester » Tue Jan 23, 2007 4:12 pm

Jenise wrote:Tasmanian chardonnays and pinot are better than anything produced on mainland Australia, IMO. Another high end Tasmanian producer you can find here from time to time is Dalrymple.


Jenise,

You love cool climate wines! I would guess you love Chablis! I do too. I have had only one Pinot from the mainland that I thought was good. It was Bannockburn from Geelong grown on limestone near the ocean. Chardonnay can handle heat better than Pinot. I like Margaret River Chards, the few that I have had, but they are bigger in style.

From a grapegrowing point of view, I would say that Pinot and Chard make their greatest wines in the warmest sites of an otherwise slightly too cool area. They both ripen early, and lose their acidity rapidly with hot sun. And Pinot has the disadvantage of having thin skins, so it raisins overnight in a hot climate. That is what accounts for those cola flavors in CA Pinots, not to mention high alcohol as those raisins can be 30 brix! So Pinot has a bright future in Tasmania, I suspect. I would like to taste one from close spaced vinescropped like they do in Burgundy, 12-15 clusters per vine.

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot from Tasmania (Tamar Ridge 2005)

Postby Jenise » Wed Jan 24, 2007 6:08 am

James, you're right, I definitely prefer cool climate wines. Became aware of that early on as I repeatedly choked on wines from Australia's Barossa Valley and California's Paso Robles and Lodi regions. Always liked California chards in the cooler, so-called poor vintages too, which they don't seem to have any more. :)

Speaking of that, did you hear Bush tonight? He almost said "global warming"!
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot from Tasmania (Tamar Ridge 2005)

Postby James G. Lester » Thu Jan 25, 2007 2:19 am

Jenise,

You're a woman after my own heart! Wine is at it's best when it's refreshing, in my opinion. Even Cabernet comes alive in a cool climate. I think it tastes best when it is around 12.5-13% alc.--no higher. I don't like wines that taste like cough syrup. When grapes overripen, they lose their acidity and get too sweet, and that is displayed in the wine. In vino veritas!

That is why I love France. She has figured out over the centuries what grows best where. Her traditional wine types and styles have been worked out long ago and have stood the test of time.

I grow and make wine in SW Michigan--Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Here we have soil and climate very much like the best regions of France and our weather is similar too. I think you will see some very impressive wines coming from here in the near future.

So here's to cool climate wine!!

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Pinot from Tasmania (Tamar Ridge 2005)

Postby James G. Lester » Thu Jan 25, 2007 2:21 am

Jenise,

I can't be very civil and speak of the current administration, so I will refrain. :)

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