Drinks News

Wine country: the Northern Tasmanian varieties to know

The cool-climate vineyards in the Tamar Valley and Pipers River yield some of Australia’s finest pinot noir.

Photo: Alana Landsberry

Alana Landsberry

The Tamar Valley and Pipers River sub-regions of Northern Tasmania boast a history of vineyards dating back to the 1820s. “The more information and detail we can give people about the wines from all these different sub-regions within Tasmania, the more they’ll engage with it,” explains winemaker Jim Chatto. This diversity of sub-regionality is a part of Chatto’s business model, as he only produces pinot noir wines from his estate vineyards in the southern Tasmanian region of the Huon Valley, and the northern regions of Tamar Valley and Pipers River. It keeps things simple: “If you’re buying Chatto, you’re buying pinot,” he jokes. However, this singular focus on pinot highlights the distinct regional differences in Tasmanian wines.

“Pipers is significantly cooler and wetter than a region like West Tamar, so we see wines with a racier and higher acidity alongside a red-fruited spectrum. Whereas the Tamar, where the bulk of the northern vineyards are, produces more muscular wines with a darker fruit spectrum.”

Someone who knows about the magic of pinot noir from the northern region of the Tamar Valley is Rebecca Duffy, winemaker and co-owner of Holm Oak, who crafts four different styles of pinot from the one site. With vines dating back to 1983, Holm Oak is one of the oldest vineyards in the north. Duffy has seen the variation of wines from different locations along the Tamar River. “This variation is what makes Tassie wine so much fun,” says Duffy. “The fluctuations in temperature, with us being warmer on the valley floor means we can ripen other varieties that might not work so well in other parts of Tasmania – such as cabernet franc and arneis. It’s the defining feature of our site.”

Chatto sums up the diversity of the epicurean experience that is Tasmania: “Diversity within the state is really exciting – it adds layers and makes the Tassie wine story stronger. You want to know where you are and what’s grown there; you want to be eating Pyengana cheese and washing it down with a Pipers River pinot. That’s the story of Tasmania.”

Launceston was the heart of the Stoney Creek peoples; the Therrernotepanner, Leterrermairrener and Panniher clans, who lived above the flood plains where the three rivers – Kunermurlukeker, Pleepertommeler and Lakekeller – meet. For generations, the clans lived along these river ways co-existing in harmony with the seasons. Today, they are remembered as the traditional owners of the northern parts of Tasmania surrounding Launceston.

Bottles to try

NV House of Arras ‘A by Arras’ Rosé, Tasmania, $30

Sourced from premium vineyards across Tasmania, this new label by the House of Arras showcases the exceptional fruit the Apple Isle has to offer. This sparkling rosé is a blend of 55 per cent pinot noir, 32 per cent chardonnay and 13 per cent pinot meunier. The result? 100 per cent delicious.

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2020 Holm Oak Arneis, Tamar Valley, $28

Holm Oak boasts Tasmania’s only arneis, planted in 2007 after a long search for an “alternative variety” to grow on the estate. Originally hailing from Piedmont in Italy, the wine exhibits lean, riesling-like mineral characters, while fermentation in ceramic eggs and older barrels adds texture.

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2020 Two Tonne Tasmania ‘TMV’ Chardonnay, Tamar Valley, $35

Crafted from two distinct sites within the sub-region of the Tamar, this complex and layered wine sees sea spray meet ripe white peaches for an exciting example of modern Australian chardonnay.

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2021 Stoney Rise ‘No Clothes’ No S02 Pinot Noir, Tamar Valley, $32

Don’t let the jolly, naked man on the label scare you off – this pinot is nothing short of phenomenal. No additions, no subtractions, no fining or filtering. In short, ‘no clothes’ to create a pure and pristine example of pinot noir bursting with fresh red fruit.

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