The Hong Kong wine trade is overwhelmed with trade tastings, and it’s simply not possible to attend all of them. But I’m glad I made the effort to go to wine author Tyson Stelzer’s recent Tasmania tasting, which turned out to be one of the most enjoyable events of the year.
The walk-around tasting was generous in time with a five-hour duration, showcasing 32 sparkling wines and Pinot Noirs that Stelzer said were the best of Tasmania. This meant we could taste in a relaxed and focused manner – less was indeed more.
Tasmanian wine is not your typical Aussie wine. Being the southernmost wine-growing region of Australia, it has a cool maritime climate capable of producing elegant wines with finesse, unlike the majority of full-bodied, jammy Australian wines from the mainland.
Stelzer explained that Tasmania has two distinctive sub-regions: the cool, dry south and the cool, humid north. The cool, dry climate produces more tannic wine because the vines are stressed by low moisture. On the other hand, cool, humid-climate wine is usually softer and more delicate. This difference is particularly evident with Pinot Noir because of its thin skin, and this was very apparent with the three Pinots from Dalrymple, with two originating in Pipers River in the north and one from Coal River Valley in the south.
Stelzer is a huge fan of Tassie’s sparkling wine, which he believes, together with English sparkling wine, can rival some of the finest champagne. Again, the humidity factor plays a significant role. Sparkling wine from the wetter north is shaped by acidity, while sparkling wine from the drier south is marked by phenol, with a grippy texture, similar to champagne made in dry, warm years.
Because of its isolation, wine production in Tasmania is niche and boutique. This island state represents only 0.9% of the total of Australia’s wine production yet it makes up more with its value. The price of grapes in Tasmania is more than five times its counterparts from the mainland. According to Wine Tasmania, 100% of its wine is sold at above A$15, as opposed to only 7% in the mainland. This firmly places Tasmania on the Australian wine map as the leading premium cool-climate wine-growing region, another demonstration of less is more.
A whopping two-thirds of the vineyard plantings are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and nearly 30% of the island’s production is made up of sparkling wine. Stelzer’s tasting showcased the best of Tasmania. Luckily for us, most of these wines are available in Hong Kong.
My favourites include Pressing Matters Pinot Noir 2014 and Nocton Sparkling NV, both from Coal River Valley, and Dawson James Pinot Noir 2014 from Upper Derwent Valley, all available from Pinot Shop in Hong Kong, a store dedicated to cool-climate New World Pinot Noirs – check out their exciting portfolio.
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