Winemaking Tasmania is a contract winemaking company run by Julian Alcorso, whose name is almost synonymous with Tasmanian wine.
The firm is wholly dedicated to its approximately 48 clients and does not have a brand of its own. Most of its clients are small vineyard owners who aren’t big enough to justify building a winery of their own. (Another client is The Wine Society, whose riesling is perennially great value for money.) A close look at the results from the recent 2014 Tasmanian Wine Show reveals this winery’s influence on the high quality of Tasmanian wine. According to Alcorso, 44% of the medals in the entire show were awarded to wines made by Winemaking Tasmania, including 52% of all gold medals.
Further, its dominance of riesling is revealed: all of the medals in the 2012 and 2011 dry riesling classes were made by Winemaking Tasmania, and in the 2013 class, 10 of the 21 medal wines (including two of the four golds).
Of the company’s riesling clients, Pressing Matters (tastings) stands out: it entered a lot of rieslings in all three categories – dry, medium-sweet and sweet. Pressing Matters is a riesling specialist: it only has riesling and pinot noir planted on its 7-hectare vineyard at Tea Tree in the Coal River Valley. It won 14 medals for riesling at this year’s show.
Kudos to vineyard manager Paul Smart as well as Winemaking Tasmania’s four resident winemakers. They are Alcorso, Greer Carland, Tom Ravech and Matt Wood - although Wood recently departed (and was replaced by Jarred Whinham). Last year Ravech, formerly at Tamar Ridge (tastings) and before that Villa Maria (tastings), replaced John Schuts, a long-serving member of the team, who left to take up winemaking duties elsewhere.
We’ve just made the following improvements to Huonhooke.com:
By adding 20 more grape varieties and eight more regions to our website, you can now search for varieties as obscure (in Australia, not in Greece!) as agiorgitiko and malagousia, not to mention arneis, nero d’avola and aglianico.
Improved Smart Search:
We’re returning more accurate results, faster, on both the HuonHooke.com website and iPhone App.
Improved Rankings and Price Benchmarks:
We’ve improved the context of our rankings by ensuring that each ranked region contains at least 15 wines.
Our price benchmarks are also now country-wide to ensure better relevance.
We think these changes make the web-site and phone app more useful and we hope you’ll agree - and tell all your wine friends about it!
Chardonnay is one of my favourite white wines, and regular readers know that I’m a big enthusiast for Australian chardonnays - which have improved at a Mitchell Johnson-like pace in recent years.
My latest tasting which I did in January has a stack of lovely chardies, including Hardy’s Eileen (tasting), Vasse Felix Heytesbury (tasting) and the regular bottling (one of the greatest bargains in the land at $29!) from 2012 (tasting), Voyager Estate (tasting), Bay of Fires (tasting), Freycinet (tasting), Armchair Critic (tasting), Kooyong (tasting), Xanadu (tasting), Lethbridge (tasting), Ten Minutes by Tractor (tasting), Howard Park’s new Allingham (tasting), and several fine new 2011 releases from Toolangi (tastings). Two discovery wines from WA are Singlefile (tasting) and Staniford (tasting). Preveli from Margaret River (tasting) is a top buy at $24, and the new Kiss Me Kate chardonnay (tasting) from Shingleback in McLaren Vale is great value at $18.
For some time, our cousins across the Tasman Sea have been playing catch-up with chardonnay, and while Kumeu River’s individual vineyard wines (tastings), Neudorf’s Moutere (tasting) and Te Mata Estate’s Elston (tasting) have long been beacons, it’s been puzzling that New Zealand hasn’t produced more great chardonnays, considering its favourable climates. As I found in the latest tastings, there are more and more rippers across the ditch. Witness Neudorf’s newest Moutere and Nelson (tasting) bottlings, Greywacke (tasting), Felton Road Bannockburn (tasting), Dry River (tasting) and Church Road Grand Reserve (tasting) are right ‘up there’. Ignore them at your loss.
A final chardonnay observation. It’s a tantalizing indication of things to come, when wineries such as Kooyong and Ten Minutes by Tractor release their lower-priced Clonale and 10X chardonnays respectively from the great 2012 harvest, while the 2011 vintage is current for their single-vineyard wines. With such stunning quality in the cheaper ‘012 wines, I can hardly wait to see what’s in store for us from their top labels when they finally hit the shops.
“The vine is a mystical plant that unites the celestial and terrestrial worlds. One half of it is striving to climb higher; the other seeks to go deeper into the earth.”
Thus spake the co-owner of Georgian winery Pheasant’s Tears, John Wurdeman, who was an enthusiastic participant in Rootstock Sydney recently. He impressed both for his fascinating wines, but also his philosophy, charmingly articulated.
While pouring wines made from organically certified grapes and vinified in kvevri, the ancient Georgian clay vessels which are buried in the ground, Wurdeman admitted the cloudy, unfiltered appearance of his wines puts some people off. “People come to these wines with a lot of baggage,” he said. “They have expectations about what a white wine should look and taste like. It’s good to use a black coloured glass, so they can’t be misled by the appearance.”
Apart from Georgian wines, his favourite wines are those of France’s Jura region, especially the local red varieties trousseau and poulsard. He also enjoys Rhone Valley wines.
Georgia has 525 indigenous grape varieties, of which his vineyard has 400 in a library planting of three vines of each type. The grapes are being vinified as a field blend. They are all Vitis Vinifera, and most vinifera vines are hermaphroditic, ie, they have both male and female reproductive parts and don’t need to be fertilized by an outsider. There is one exception. Takveri. This non-hermaphroditic Georgian red-wine grape needs the chinuri, a Georgian white variety, to pollenate it. Now you know!
(The other varieties which Pheasant’s Tears currently produces are saperavi, rkatsiteli, kisi and mtsvane.)
I’ve never understood why Tetsuya’s restaurant in Sydney no longer has three chef’s hats in the Good Food Guide. It is a great restaurant by any yardstick.
I’ve eaten there many times and have never had an experience that was less than excellent. My latest visit, in February, was one of the best ever – and I’ve been a Tetsuya’s patron since its earliest days in Rozelle.
The 11-course menu was faultless and almost everything delighted, surprised and impressed the four people at our table. Old favourites like the savoury custard with avruga, the Pacific oysters with rice wine vinegar and ginger, and of course the signature confit of ocean trout with salad of celery, witlof and apple were as delicious as ever, and the menu was sprinkled with unexpected twists.
Having caught and tried to cook leatherjacket, I never would have believed carpaccio of leatherjacket could be worth a second thought, but this, served with nori and citrus soy, was delicate and refined. The soy-braised beef tendon served with the grass-fed beef fillet was a revelation, both as flavour and textural counterpoint to the meat, and the marinated scampi (with walnut oil and egg) had a wickedly delicious stickiness. Umami seemed to be everywhere! An off-menu dish of tuna, goat’s curd and wakame topped by a truffle slice was simplicity itself and tasted exquisite.
Wine-wise, we began with Champagne Gosset Grand Rosé NV (tasting), which was on by-the-glass: the most sublime, delicate, subtle rosé imaginable, and perfect with the oysters and savoury custard. Others included -
Tetsuya’s Pierro Chardonnay 2012: smoky, struck-flinty to sniff and racy on the palate, this is exciting stuff and great with Tets’s style of cuisine. It’s distinctly different from the regular Pierro Chardonnay (tastings), which of course is also excellent.
Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir 2001 in magnum (tasting): a lovely aged pinot of real depth and structure. They’re not afraid of tannin in Martinborough, unlike many Aussies, and the wines age all the better for it.
Mount Mary Quintet 2005 (tasting) and 2008 (tasting) – we ordered the ’05 off the list and it was sublime, tremendously complex and low-alcohol (13%) but ripe in the classic Mount Mary style. The sommelier then produced a taste of the 2008 that he happened to have open, and it was just as good and bore a strong family resemblance.
Even if you take the approach of the Guide Michelin and focus on the toilets and ambience as much as the comestibles, Tetsuya’s is a winner. The comfort of the room, the view onto the tranquil garden, the wait-staff’s perfect combination of attention and discretion – none of it was less than exceptional. And I don’t believe Tets himself was there that night, so it obviously runs smoothly in his absence. Bravo. Three toques from me.