Sunday, 3 December 2017

Site Specific Pinot

Producer: Dalrymple Vineyards

An unspoilt landscape in the Southern Hemisphere. Waters teeming with whales and dolphins. And of course, lots of sheep. If you’re picturing New Zealand, then my little misdirection has worked. I’m actually referring to Tasmania, a place on the receiving end of much attention recently, not least because of the unique opportunity to view the panoramic lightshow known as the Southern Lights. The other thing it has in common with New Zealand, and of primary interest to wine lovers, is that Tasmania is also a source of very fine Pinot Noir, arguably the best to come out of Australia.

Winemaker Peter Caldwell of Dalrymple Vineyards puts forth a convincing case for that. Graduate of the famed Roseworthy Agricultural College, and with a string of winemaking stints that has taken him to California, Burgundy and New Zealand, Peter returned to the land of his birth to coax fickle Pinot Noir into producing lovely, expressive wines. “There’s been a big change to people enjoying a fresher style, less alcoholic and more elegance. The big advantage about Tasmania is that people feel that things that come from Tasmania have this sort of cleanness about them – there’s no pollution, it’s very fresh and the wines also have this cleanness and freshness.” Quality doesn’t come cheap however – the average price of a bottle of Tassie wine is AUD22.62, double that of the Australian average. Still, if you compare it to Burgundy, it looks like an absolute steal.

The Dalrymple Pinot Noir range includes four wines from specific sites around Tasmania, chosen for their distinct attributes. There is also a regional Tassie blend which makes up around 80% of their red wine production. Peter is quick to highlight that this doesn’t mean that the blend is inferior to the single site wines. “It still gets treated the same way – it gets the same amount of oak, most of the vineyards are quite old, so it’s not treated as a second wine by any means, it’s just that the other four have been taken out for being something a little bit unique.” While keeping the winemaking constant to allow each wine to express the character of the site, Peter does emphasise maintaining a level of freshness in the wine that he feels is a hallmark of Tassie Pinot Noir. “There was a trend for a while for really big extracted Pinots, which was something I never really enjoyed. The Tassie style is that freshness and brightness which I think is the charm of really nice Pinot; it’s something that I try to respect in the winemaking.”

Tasting notes:

Dalrymple Pinot Noir 2015 – Described by winemaker Peter Caldwell as a cool vintage (although it could be said that every year in Tasmania is a cool year!) which allowed for slower ripening giving the wine more depth and complexity. A blend of fruit from vineyards in Pipers River, Coal River Valley and the Upper Derwent Valley. This is a zippy and energetic  wine with toast and red cherry aromas, leading to a strong palate presence of cranberry and savoury red fruit.

Dalrymple Cottage Block Pinot Noir 2014 – The fruit for this wine comes from the Pipers River vineyard in the northern part of Tasmania. The wine was previously called Dalrymple Estate Pinot Noir because the winery is based in Pipers River. Aromas of toast and smoke mingle with forest fruits and mushroom. Gentle with very soft tannins and sweet spices on the palate.

Dalrymple Coal River Valley Pinot Noir 2014 – The Coal River Valley is one of the warmest regions in Tasmania, thus the harvest here tends to be slightly earlier. This wine shows a little more power than the rest in the range, with sturdier tannins and a creamy if slightly sappy finish.

Dalrymple Swansea Pinot Noir 2014 – As its name suggests, the Swansea vineyard is located close to the ocean, overlooking the Great Oyster Bay. Still showing a lot of primary fruit, this wine also has a bit of warmth on the finish with noticeable acidity.

Dalrymple Ouse Pinot Noir 2014 – The unusual name comes from the Ouse (Old English for water) river in central Tasmania where the grapes for this wine comes from. A very cool location with stark differences between day and night temperatures. My favourite wine of the tasting, very subtle and perfumed with notes of savoury fruit. There’s a magical point where Pinot Noir transforms into an ethereal, harmonious beauty and this wine showed all of that.

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