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April 26, 2024

Tasmania unlocked

Sarah Ahmed charts the irresistible rise of the cool-climate home of some of Australia’s finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

By Sarah Ahmed

Two hundred years after he planted Tasmania’s first vineyard to produce “grape wine, made in imitation of Champaigne,” one expects Bartholomew Broughton would have been proud of the island’s reputation for sparkling wine today. Equally, he may be puzzled it took so long for meaningful viticulture to take hold. Even in 1986, Tasmania had just 47ha (116 acres) of vines, versus 2,418ha (5,975 acres) today.

The shifting enological center of gravity in favor of cool-climate regions and rising popularity of sparkling wine (which comprises almost 40 percent of production) partly explain Tasmania’s growing prominence in the Australian winescape. The glittering success, however, of the island’s finest still and sparkling Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in recent years has put Australia’s southernmost, coolest state firmly in the spotlight. Following a marked 21st-century growth spurt of professional growers and winemakers, Tasmania has shown that it can consistently deliver beguiling wines of great complexity and finesse from these much-revered grape varieties.

A cool-climate showcase

There were headlines worldwide (including Sky News’s gleeful “Tasmanian Bubbles Claims Historic Scalp”) when Champagne was beaten for the first time in the “library vintage” class by House of Arras Museum Release Blanc de Blancs 2001 at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships 2022. Rightly so, when one considers that Arras produced its maiden all-Tasmanian fizz in 1998.

Similarly precocious, Lowestoft (established in 2019) cemented its reputation for first-rate Pinot Noir when the third consecutive vintage  of its flagship cuvée La Maison won the James Halliday Trophy for Best Pinot Noir at the Melbourne Royal Wine Awards in November 2023. The 2022 vintage became the show’s 60th Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy for Best Young Red, increasing Tasmania’s tally for this coveted trophy to three since the first win in 2011.

The year ended on another high when three Tasmanian wines made the cut for the eighth edition of Langtons Classification of Australian Wine in December 2023.  According to the Australian fine-wine auction house, Arras EJ Carr Late Disgorged sparkling wine and Tolpuddle Vineyard’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (established in 2012) are among Australia’s most in-demand fine wines on today’s secondary market. 

All three brands were created by well-established mainland producers of high repute, which provides an insight into the challenges of growing grapes in a cool climate. Even seasoned warrior Robert Hill Smith (whose family established Yalumba in 1849 in the Barossa) admits, “There has been a steep learning curve about what things really look like in Tasmania: the low yields, volatile vintages, and disease. Managing the detail is imperative,” he said, and it has led to Hill Smith Family Estates (which owns Jansz, Dalrymple Estate, and Pontas Hill) investing progressively deeper in land, clones, and a winery.

Hard yards

Tasmania’s early wine-growing history was dogged with failure. It did not augur well that the state’s original experimental vines—all nine of them—were planted by William Bligh on Bruny Island, who landed there from HMS Bounty in 1788. When he returned in 1792, the vines proved to have been as mutinous as the Bounty’s crew.

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Tasmania’s early promise, however, is recorded in contemporaneous documents cited by Anthony Walker for his MA thesis (which became the basis of his book Vintage Tasmania: The Complete Book of Tasmanian Wine). Apparently, Broughton’s “imitation of Champaigne” was pronounced “very little inferior to Champaigne” in a report by The Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser in 1827.

Although the superior performance of “Black Cluster”—aka Pinot Noir—was also recorded in the early 19th century, Walker speculates that failure to build on Broughton’s success was rooted in British settlement. Tasmania, he observes, had “very few immigrants (less than one percent) from the winemaking countries of Europe, and so had almost no settlers with any knowledge of viticulture or winemaking.” If today’s professional producers can struggle with flowering and ripening in Tasmania’s cool climate, pity the early settlers, who encountered even cooler conditions. Doubts lingered about whether Tasmania was suitable for wine growing.

The appliance of science

The cavalry—European settlers—came to the rescue in 1956 and 1958, when Jean Miguet, a French civil engineer, then Claudio Alcorso, an Italian textile merchant, planted the La Provence (now called Providence) and Moorilla Estate vineyards that have stood the test of time, unlike their predecessors. But attracting the investment to scale up viticulture and grow a wine industry was another matter altogether.

By the 1970s, a reappraisal of cool-climate wine growing was under way as table-wine production overtook fortified. Highlighting the investment opportunity in The Australian Financial Review in 1975, Andrew Pirie wrote, “[O]ne of Tasmania’s resources which has come to light most recently is the value of certain unique climate-soil associations, in both the north and south, for quality dry table wine production.” He had skin in the game, having planted Pipers Brook vineyard with his brother in 1974, thereby increasing Tasmania’s vineyard area tenfold. 

“Using Köppen climate classification to align homoclime comparison was significant,” said Pirie, who attained Australia’s first PhD in viticulture. Its criteria included solar radiation levels, rainfall at maturity, and humidity, in addition to temperature. He (correctly) believed that Tasmania’s high solar radiation levels during the growing season explained why grapes could regularly ripen in Tasmania, despite its low temperature summation (which bears comparison with Reims or Dijon). After initially “ignoring the science” and dallying with Cabernet Sauvignon because, admitted Pirie, “we were in awe of Bordeaux at that stage,” the focus shifted heavily to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the 1980s, with a big boost for sparkling production when Champagne Roederer co-founded the Jansz sparkling-wine label in 1985 (which was acquired by Hill-Smith Family Estates in 1997).

A golden age of discovery

Reflecting now on Tasmania’s subsequent trajectory of success, the importance of correctly matching climate to cultivar temperature requirement tops Pirie’s list. Pirie also mentioned the importance of focusing on 100 percent Tasmanian-sourced brands (as opposed to diluting regional expression with mainland fruit) and, doubtless related, the arrival of trained winemakers, which has multiplied the number and sophistication of home-grown labels.

According to Jeremy Dineen, there were just five full-time professional winemakers when he started making wine on the island in 2002, and even fewer “professional growers, so just a handful of mature vineyards.” It follows that there are limited opportunities to taste mature wines from mature vines made by trained winemakers, such as the robust, ageworthy offerings by Claudio Radenti at Freycinet, an East Coast pioneer. When he spoke at the International Cool Climate Symposium in 2012, Dineen contended that an increase in plantings and trained viticulturists would produce “even bigger leaps in quality in the next ten years.” He was right: It has been a golden age of discovery for Tasmanian wine, which has leaned ever firmer into the island’s cool-climate credentials in pursuit of elegance and terroir expression.

Having judged at the 2023 Tasmanian Wine Show on my fourth visit to the island since 2004, the results were plain to see. Entries came from all seven wine areas—namely, the North West, Tamar Valley, North East, East Coast, Coal River Valley, Derwent Valley, and Huon Valley. “People have been doing amazing stuff for a long time in the north, south, and on the east coast, but in the past ten years, diversity and quality have been gaining huge momentum,” said Tolpuddle Vineyard’s Adam Wadewitz, chair of judges. The winemaker attributes this to “exciting producers farming well and making unique and interesting wines.”

Certainly, quality is now a given, following the professionalization of an industry once dominated by hobbyists and part-timers. When trained winemakers were thin on the ground, contract winemakers played an invaluable role broadening Tasmania’s quality base. Scaling the apex of quality for fine wine, however, reflects the rise of independent estate, vigneron, and winemaker-led labels. As Tolpuddle Vineyard’s co-founder Michael Hill-Smith MW points out, “One of  the issues facing Tasmania has been the lack of processing facilities. No matter how good the contract winemaker is, you’re never going to get your expression of your site and your personality in the same way.”

Gerald Ellis driving in his Meadowbank Vineyard in Derwent Valley. Photography by Adam Gibson.

Paddock to plate Pinot

Notoriously site sensitive, Pinot Noir has been the biggest beneficiary of this golden age of discovery, as producers have identified the best sites, parcels, clones, and practices to produce wines of increasing refinement and finesse. John Schuts made wine under contract for Derwent Estate before becoming its resident winemaker in 2013, and evangelical about the “paddock-to-plate approach,” he has become intimately acquainted with the vineyard. In the past, Pinot Noir was harvested in one pick, maybe two, rather than 20 over two to three weeks nowadays, facilitated by investment in a small-batch winery, which allowed Schuts to march to the beat of the vineyard’s drum. The sharpened focus on soil and clonal differences led to the creation of Derwent Estate’s top-tier Calcaire label Pinot Noir (and Chardonnay, the 2020 vintage of which bagged the Best Chardonnay Trophy at the 2023 Tasmanian Wine Show).

The full potential of vineyards such as Tolpuddle, now Lowestoft, has only recently come to light because fruit used to be sold off for other labels. First planted in 1986 just 330 yards (300m) from the banks of the Derwent River, Lowestoft is one of Tasmania’s oldest vineyards, but the precocious trophy-bagging brand was only established following its acquisition by The Fogarty Wine Group in 2019. Intent on chasing “Pinosity, perfume, poise, elegance,” Marlborough-born winemaker Liam McElhinney, a veteran of New Zealand Pinot Noir, reckoned “the biggest opportunity was to pick significantly earlier” and additionally to swap barriques for puncheons and reduce the new oak (“far too much,” he said). Top cuvée La Maison’s plush tannin profile stems from the most lignified whole-bunch parcels: “I have never tasted anything like it—very ethereal, full of intrigue,” said McElhinney.

As for Tasmania’s home-grown talent, producers are increasingly well traveled and worldly. Attuned to the critical importance of site, Joe Holyman eschewed his family’s hobby vineyard, instead acquiring Stoney Rise in Tamar Valley in 2004. Old vines planted in 1986 on a warm, gravelly site close  to the river Tamar were the lure. Holyman grubbed up the Cabernet Sauvignon and augmented the original Pinot Noir with new Burgundy clones. Inspired by Dujac, the leading Pinot Noir producer (another fan of harvesting relatively early) cherry-picks the slowest-ripening, better lignified blocks of old vines for his hand-plunged 100 percent whole-bunch top cuvée, Holyman Project X.

In contrast with early Tasmanian plantings—which, he observes, “were often convenient, being diversified farms and/or weekender/hobby properties”—Jim Chatto adopted a “forensic” approach “to make great (definitively Australian) Pinot.” Starting from scratch, he close-planted eight clones (114, 115, G5V15, D5V12, 777, MV6, 667, and Abel). Chatto explained, “I firmly believe the greatest wines are grown on the margins of viticultural possibility. I was looking for the warmest site in the coldest region.” Though it took him six years to discover the perfect spot at Glaziers Bay in the relatively cool, wet Huon Valley, this up-and-coming region received a ringing endorsement when Home Hill became the first Tasmanian producer to win the Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy for Pinot Noir in 2015.

Stefano Lubiana acquired the Panorama vineyard in Huon Valley, which inspired Chatto to go shopping in 2016, but planted his principal vineyard in the Derwent Valley’s drier climes in 1990. Describing himself as at “the bleeding edge” of boutique winemaking in Tasmania, the South Australian winemaker remains a pioneering influence. The Derwent Valley vineyard is Tasmania’s sole certified biodynamic estate, cultivated thus since 2010, and Lubiana has seen site expression grow. It encouraged him to release his first single-block Pinot Noir in 2014, and he now makes three: Ruscello, Il Giardino, and La Roccia. Showcasing their different personalities, they are vinified the same way, with 100 percent whole bunches and bottle-aged. (The 2022 vintage is scheduled for a July 2024 release.) For Lubiana, these powerfully fruited, beautifully nuanced, ageworthy Pinot Noirs are “an educational process to show the rest of Australia that Tasmania does make bloody good wine.”


With a growing tier of “bloody good” sparkling wine and Chardonnay, producers are taking full advantage of the enviable acid structure wed to fruit purity and intensity that is the hallmark of Tasmania’s long growing season. There is no better example than the island’s growing bevy of “late disgorged” sparkling beauties.

Tasting Arras’s Champagne glass-ceiling cracker—the Museum Release Blanc de Blancs 2001—Australia’s sparkling supremo Ed Carr enthused, “Once on tirage, it’s like a time capsule.” As for the remarkably youthful 2004 follow-up: “It has taken 20 years to get to this point,” he exclaimed. Only 400 bottles were set aside of these early releases, but Carr is now doubling that and working on programs to evolve the style in magnum and age-reserve wines in large-format foudre, with the full support of Arras’s new owners, Handpicked Wines.

While Arras blends fruit from across the island, smaller players have focused on single regions and vineyards, contributing to an exciting diversity of style. Having left Jansz after 14 years, Natalie Fryar retains a steely focus on fizz with her bijou sparkling label Bellebonne (established in 2015). Resolutely top-down, she launched her Vintage release first and makes finely honed wines with exquisite mouthfeel from cherry-picked Pipers River parcels. Going forward, she aims to age the wines on tirage and under cork for longer, reflecting an island-wide trend to increase complexity for Vintage wines in particular.


Compared with Pinot Noir, top-flight single-vineyard Chardonnays such as those from Sinapius and Holyman—true vigneron projects—are scarcer on the ground because sparkling-wine production has reliably vacuumed up most of the grapes. Additionally, leading mainland producers have been adept at sniffing out top fruit to blend with their grapes for multiregional flagship Chardonnays, including Penfolds Yattarna and Hardys Eileen Hardy Chardonnay.

A growing number of properties—including Derwent Estate, Pooley Estate, and Meadowbank—are clawing back grapes  and making ambitious estate-labeled wines. Conversely, astute mainland producers like Michael Hill-Smith and Martin Shaw of Shaw & Smith have snapped up top fruit sources—in their case, Tolpuddle, which supplied fruit for Eileen Hardy and Arras.

Onward, upward

Having whetted appetites for Tasmania’s emerging fine-wine scene, there is a hitch. A substantial amount of Tasmanian wine rarely, if ever, escapes the avid clutches of the home market, since the island produces less than one percent of Australia’s wine, of which around only 4 percent was exported in 2023. But this looks set to change. Research commissioned by Wine Tasmania (the Tasmanian wine sector’s representative body) predicts that, with high demand, the next decade will be one of accelerated growth, with annual production projected to soar by between 127 percent and 392 percent by 2040. In the shorter term, Sheralee Davies (Wine Tasmania’s CEO) expects production to double as yields increase following four consecutive years of light yields and as new vineyards come on-stream.

Across the Bass Strait, mainland Australia has learned a tough lesson about accelerated growth producing downward pressure on pricing and quality. For Gerald Ellis of Meadowbank, one of the island’s most respected growers, “[W]hile things are rosy now, the Tasmanian industry is very mindful of the consequences of production-driven development rather than market-demand-driven development […]. Our market has to always be at the top end and quality-driven to ensure our success.” An island-wide determination to build on the trajectory of success, combined with the challenges of making wine in marginal conditions, should work in Tasmania’s favor. Contrasting Tasmania with Marlborough’s “easy 100ha [250-acre] walk-on sites,” McElhinney reckons that “a Tasmanian grape boom is slightly tempered by site, water availability, and labor.”

Without question, Tasmania has many more exciting fine wines in the pipeline from the island’s new and under-the-radar producers, generation next, and high-profile mainlanders who keep knocking at the door (most recently Yabby Lake of Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fame, who just bought a vineyard). By common consensus, there are great sites yet to be discovered. Looking ahead, Michael Hill-Smith is excited: “If everything goes right and everyone plants in the right places with a sense of purpose, it could have the same cachet as Burgundy or Barolo.”

Tasting Tasmania


House of Arras Museum Release Blanc de Blancs 2004 (Upper Derwent Valley, Lower Derwent Valley, Huon Valley, Tamar Valley) Tasted January 30, 2024

On tirage for 14 years, with four years under cork, the 2004 vintage has tremendous purity and intensity to the fruit and is distinctly dry (dosage 2g/l). Poised, as if on a rail, it is beautifully structured, with quince and al dentewhite peach at the core; juicy grapefruit and Golden Delicious make the mouth water. Hints of snuffed candle and a touch of waxiness hint at its age, but this 405-bottle release is another Peter Pan. | 97

Bellebonne Blanc de Blancs 2016 (Pipers River) 12% ABV; tasted January 17, 2023

From a single vineyard. Taut, beautifully focused, and so expressive of the region, with pronounced sea-spray and oyster-shell layers to the grapefruit and al dente white-peach fruit. Finishes long and reassuringly dry, with a hint of fine Cognac. Fermented and aged in seasoned French oak barriques for nine months, the base wine underwent bâtonnage and 100% malolactic fermentation. Disgorged after five and a half years on tirage and aged for six months under cork. Dosage 4g/l; 1,182 bottles produced. | 95

Clover Hill Cuvée Prestige Blanc de Blancs 2010 (Pipers River) 12.5% ABV; tasted January 18, 2023

Disgorged in November 2021 following ten years and ten months on tirage, this yellow/gold sparkling Chardonnay is mouth-filling and rich. A beautiful, briny acid line teases out layers of grilled hazelnuts, lemon butter on toast, torched lemon meringue pie, dried apricot, and tangy yellow (tinned) peach. Great depth of flavor, yet still firm and fresh, with cleansing acidity to the lengthy finish. (The base wine underwent partial malolactic fermentation.) Dosage 5g/l. | 95

Jansz Late Disgorged 2014 (Pipers River) 12.5% ABV; tasted January 14, 2023

Despite an umami-fest of flavors of oyster shell, sea spray, mushroom, toast, and spice, the invigorating, mineral acidity lends impressive definition and length to this blend of 51% Chardonnay, 49% Pinot Noir. The persistent, savory mousse enhances mouthfeel and back-palate resonance. On tirage for 89 months. Dosage 3g/l; the base wine part-fermented and aged in French oak for seven months. | 94

Moorilla Muse Extra Brut 2017 (Tamar Valley) 11.7% ABV; tasted January 8, 2023

A cool vintage, zero malolactic fermentation, and four years on tirage make for an austere, tightly wound style, with youthfully lip-smacking crab apple, lemon, and icing-sugar-dusted breakfast grapefruit. Part-fermented in old puncheons, this and dosage (5.5g/l) from a solera barrel adds subtle phenolic interest and grip, together with nougat and apple-bloom nuances. Comprises 83% Chardonnay, 17% Pinot Noir, sourced from Moorilla’s St Matthias vineyard. | 93

Apogee Deluxe Vintage Brut 2020 (Pipers River) 12.5% ABV; tasted February 5, 2024

A pretty, persistent, fine-framed, single-vineyard expression from Andrew Pirie’s latest project. Fragrant apple blossom and apple skin bloom and notes of nougat and sea spray to the juicy fresh and baked apple fruit. Great fruit intensity and purity; mineral, with almost sorbet-like clarity and a cleansing acid line. Drank beautifully over four days, developing stylish frangipane/patisserie complexity. On tirage for 36 months, it comprises 46% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir, and 7% Meunier. Dosage 8.5g/l. 93+

Pirie Late Disgorged 2011 (White Hills, Tamar Valley) 12.7% ABV; tasted February 5, 2024

All the complexity of aging in old French oak (20%) and 10 years on tirage, with corpulent but well-structured roasted/torched yellow peach/peach tarte tatin, cooler strawberry ice cream, creamy nougat, and hints of yeasty Vegemite and ozone. Fuller-bodied, it lacks the acid drive or persistent mousse of the higher-scoring wines but has attractive vinosity. Comprises 52% Chardonnay, 48% Pinot Noir; dosage 8g/l. | 92


Tolpuddle Vineyard Chardonnay 2022 (Coal River Valley) 13.5% ABV; tasted February 5, 2024

A charismatic Chardonnay, with a touch more palate weight than usual in a cool, low-yielding vintage—but not at the expense of this single vineyard’s scintillating acidity and pronounced minerality. Twangy nectarine and fresh-grated lime/striated lime, whetstone, flint, and oyster shell snag the attention, reeling you in and casting long on the palate. Muscular white peach, juicy apple, icing-sugar-dusted grapefruit, and notes of apple bloom and bay leaf chime in. Terrific impetus and length. Outstanding. Fermented and aged for nine months in French oak barriques (one third new), with gentle bâtonnage. | 98

Holyman Chardonnay 2021 (Tamar Valley) 12.5% ABV; tasted January 17, 2023

Sourced from 35-year-old vines, this tightly coiled Chardonnay wears its 100% new French oak (puncheons) like a corset. Terrific line, length, and zesty energy, with incisive lime-zest and grapefruit drive, tension, and twang. | 95+

Freycinet Chardonnay Estate 2020 (East Coast) 13.5% ABV; tasted January 16, 2023

Orange blossom, oatmeal, and cashew on the nose, with creamy, ripe white peach, juicy Golden Delicious, icing-sugar-dusted grapefruit, and harmoniously integrated oak and acidity. Opulent yet controlled Chardonnay, with a slow-burn delivery. In no hurry, this powerful single-vineyard Chardonnay comes from the original 1979 plantings. Aged for 10 months in French oak, 25% new, with bâtonnage. | 95+

Freycinet Chardonnay Estate 2006 (East Coast) 13.8% ABV; tasted January 16, 2023

Still going strong, with lovely intensity, richness, and flow to the palate. Flavors of peach cobblers (roasted peach, with a nutty, oatmeal, crumble topping) and creamy fruit salad linger, courtesy of elegant acidity and seamless oak. Claudio Radenti rates this as his best-ever Chardonnay. | 93

Sinapius Close Planted Chardonnay 2021 (Pipers River) 13% ABV; tasted January 18, 2023

This beguiling Chardonnay from nine clones of meticulously cultivated high-density Chardonnay vines is planted in a well-exposed amphitheater. It reveals wildflowers, fennel pops, oyster shell, and incipient honey on both nose and palate. Ripe lemon and white peach flow effortlessly on the palate, with slinky-textured sourdough lees and hints of roast hazelnut. An undertow of mineral acidity makes for a persistent finish. Fermented and aged in French oak barrels, ranging from 130 to 600 liters, for 12 months. | 96

Derwent Estate Calcaire Chardonnay 2020 (Derwent Valley) Tasted January 12, 2023

Classy French oak (100% new) grooms the nose and palate, adding a kiss of crème pâtissière to the elegant, creamy white peach. A backbone of flinty, crystalline, grapefruity acidity brings drive and length. Young. | 94

Steve and Marco Lubiana. Photography courtesy of Stefano Lubiana Wines.


Tolpuddle Pinot Noir 2022 (Coal River Valley) 13.5% ABV; tasted February 5, 2024

From a cool, low-yielding year, this is a complex, alluringly spicy Pinot Noir. A spider’s web of fine, textural, pithy tannins lends a spatial quality to the expressive black, blue, and red cherry and berry fruit, while anchoring the flavors going through. Beetroot, cheroot, and suede undertones add a savory dimension. A spicy and sustained finish, with fragrant anise. Whole-bunch and whole-berry fermented, it spent 10 months in French oak, one third new. | 96+

Stargazer Palisander Vineyard Pinot Noir 2022 (Coal River Valley)12.7% ABV; tasted February 5, 2024

Initially tight, with suggestions of red licorice and black tea. Opening up, it reveals a firm core of red- and black-cherry fruit close to the skin and stone, with lifted floral, coltsfoot/anise, amaro, and oyster-shell nuances and a lick of bitter-chocolate oak. A dynamic twine of acidity and pithy/chalky textured tannins make for a finely honed, persistent finish. Fermented with 20% whole bunches, 80% whole berries; aged for eight months in French oak, 22% new. | 94

Pooley Cooinda Vale Vineyard Pinot Noir 2021 (Coal River Valley)Tasted January 14, 2023 (half-bottle)

Crimson in hue, with beautiful cherrystone, sour cherry, violet, and amaro lift to the nose and palate, and vibrant summer-pudding fruit, with suggestions of cinnamon and clove. Rolling acidity and fine-grained but firm, corseting tannins bring energy and tension to the long finish. The northeast-facing vineyard is planted on sandy loams and sandy clay loam over impervious clay (114, 115, Pommard, and Abel clones). Fermented with 5% whole bunches and matured for 11.5 months in 35% new French oak barriques. | 94

Pooley Butchers Hill Pinot Noir 2021 (Coal River Valley) 13.5% ABV; tasted January 14, 2023 (half-bottle)

Planted in 2003 to clones 114, 115, 777, and MV6, Butcher’s Hill is relatively exposed and the faster ripening of the Pooley family’s vineyards, producing more robust Pinot, with a darker spectrum of sweet plum and black-cherry fruit compared with Cooinda Vale. Nonetheless, the fruit is well structured, with spicy (well-integrated) oak and a bony frame of mineral tannin. In a long growing season, harmonious acidity teases out the flavor layers on a long, stone-washed finish. The grapes were 100% destemmed. Matured in 30% new French oak barriques for 11.5 months. | 93+

Glaetzer-Dixon La Judith Pinot Noir 2014 (Coal River Valley) 13.7% ABV; tasted January 9, 2023

This unusually bold single-vineyard Pinot Noir from Barossa-born Nick Glaetzer pays tribute to his late mother. From a cooler, low-yielding vintage (1.8 tonnes/ha), it is super-concentrated and mouth-filling, meaty and exotic, with a sumptuous melange of fruits of the forest, smoked meat, black tea, black pepper, orange peel, and floral layers (50% whole-bunch). Velvety chocolate tannins are match enough, courtesy of 30 months in new 220-liter French oak barriques. Just 251 bottles made. | 95

Chatto Wines Isle 2021 (Huon Valley) 13.4% ABV; tasted January 14, 2023

The top cuvée is a co-fermented blend of the top and tail bookends of Jim Chatto’s 2ha (5-acre) vineyard. It is dark and chocolaty, with suggestions of Black Forest gateau and a sumptuous swath of velvety tannins. A twine of acidity and saturating sour black-cherry, orange-peel, and Aperol layers add lift, layer, and tension, making for a long, heady, mesmerizing finish. Sumptuous yet lithe and motile. | 96

Chatto Wines Intrigue 2022 (Huon Valley) 13.4% ABV; tasted January 23, 2024

A barrel selection from Chatto’s vineyard, featuring all eight Pinot clones and 1% Siegerrebe (a happy accident). Fragrant blueberry, fresh fig, and Turkish delight on the nose and supple palate, with lovely depth and layer to the palate. A web of fine, pithy, anchoring tannins sustains a layered palate, with subtle mulch, leaf, and green-tobacco-pouch nuances. Lingering and intense, with an intriguing lick of briny, lagoon salinity to the finish. | 95

Holyman Pinot Noir 2021 (Tamar Valley) 12% ABV; tasted January 17, 2023

A vivid hue, with jewel-bright pomegranate fruit to the nose and palate, the grapes sourced from the oldest 1986 vines. Cleaves close, with pithy, picky tannins and crunchy acidity, making for an intense, linear, taut delivery. Bristles with potential. In a warm year, it was fermented with slightly higher than normal whole bunch (75%); aged in French oak barriques, 30% new. | 95

Holyman Project X 2019 (Tamar Valley) 12% ABV; tasted January 17, 2023

Sourced from the markedly cooler 0.8ha (2-acre) Boris block planted in 1986. Fermented with 100% whole bunches, in an outstanding, late-ripening year, a potent charge of uber-pithy tannin and taut acidity guide this Pinot’s laser-focused beam of red fruit. Tight, keeping its powder dry, it exudes charisma and demands patience. | 96

Stefano Lubiana Ruscello 2022 (Derwent River) 13.5% ABV; tasted February 5, 2024

From a parcel near a small creek on silt over porous gravelly clay, anise and cinnamon soar alongside the deep-scented, sweet, ripe fruit. The palate is lithe, with supple acidity, black, red, and blue berry, cherry, currant, plum fruit, and subtle radicchio and mulch hints. Layered and expansive, warm terra-cotta tannins support. Sensual, with the balance and stature to age well. | 95

Stefano Lubiana La Roccia 2022 (Derwent River) 13.5% ABV; tasted February 5, 2024

A shower of fine, mouth-coating, millefeuille tannins, which cloak and enmesh the fruit, lending gravitas. With time and air, it reveals glimpses of a seam of red cherry/cherrystone, blackcurrant, and blueberry fruit, yet to be mined. Chalky, mineral acidity maintains the flow. Classy oak polishes to a fine sheen. Impressive structure from a hillside block on deep red clay marl over clay, with limestone bedrock. Embryonic. | 96+

Stefano Lubiana Il Giardino 2022 (Derwent River) 13.5% ABV; tasted February 5, 2024

Located adjacent to La Roccia, with a more northerly aspect and heavier silty black clay with gravel topsoil over clay and limestone. Emphatically red-fruited, with pomegranate, cranberry, cherry flesh, skin, and stone. Sappy green and inky floral riffs emerge. Sculpting bright acidity defines and animates the fruit. Graphite and chalk spray tannins cleave close, tapering the youthfully inscrutable finish. Great potential. | 96+

Derwent Estate Calcaire Pinot Noir 2021 (Derwent Valley)
13.8% ABV; tasted January 9, 2023

The first release since 2018 reveals youthfully compressed yet vivid raspberry, strawberry, and plum fruit, with delicate beetroot undertones. A plume of chalky tannins and laser-beam acidity make for a lingering finish, with an opulent hint of kirsch. The oak (which is 100% new) corsets, while buffing the fruit to a fine polish, rather than seasoning it. Tasted in January 2023 and slated for release in 2024, it showed much promise. | 94+

Lowestoft La Maison Pinot Noir 2022 (Derwent River) 14% ABV; tasted February 5, 2024

Silky, supple, and sleek, with black cherry and blueberry, sappy blackberry and svelte tannins. With air, notes of nori, leafy black tea, red licorice, floral pink peppercorn, and cheroot emerge. Lovely detail and finesse, with cleansing acidity and a fine underlay of tannins to the precise, long finish. A blend of parcels from the original 1986 close-planted vineyard (8,300 vines/ha), which is harvested over the course of three weeks. Part whole-bunch fermented, with 10 months’ maturation in large-format French oak (20% new). | 96

Freycinet Pinot Noir 2020 (East Coast) 13.8% ABV; tasted January 16, 2023

Bright crimson in hue, with laurel leaf, conifer, and a spicy tamarind edge to the brooding, ripe black cherry and plum fruit. From a drought year whose small-berried bunches weighed just 90g, it is dense, with a robust seam of pithy suede tannins, yet juicily persistent. Aged 17 months in French oak, 30% new. | 94

Freycinet Pinot Noir 2010 (East Coast) 14.5% ABV; tasted January 16, 2023

From a low-yielding drought year, reveals delicious tertiary spice, with aromatic chinato bitters and licorice to the concentrated kirsch, blackcurrant, and cassis fruit. Powerful, ripe, layered tannins make for a robust palate, with attractive warmth to the finish. A hug in the glass. | 93

Sinapius Close Planted Pinot Noir 2021 (Pipers River) 13% ABV; tasted January 18, 2023

A blend of 12 clones from two high-density blocks, La Clairiére and The Enclave. Fermented with 100% whole berries, a lively interplay of bright acidity and fine-grained tannins buoy and carry the well-delineated al dentered currant, cherry, and rhubarb fruit. Subtly smoky charcuterie oak brings savory nuance. Finely etched, yet intense, it spent 12 months in French oak barriques (20% new). | 95

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