Monday, 18 August 2014

A Tour of Tasmanian Wine without leaving Hobart

I am very lucky to have married into a family hailing from Hobart. My husband and I do our best to make it over to the Apple Isle at least once a year to visit everyone and it is always wonderful to spend some quality time with family. As it is a long way from Perth to Hobart, we also try and squeeze in a few other activities whilst we are there.

Of course, at the top of my list of Tasmanian experiences is wine tasting. Not a trip has gone by that I have not discovered a new hidden gem, relishing in the cool-climate wine styles and the gorgeous scenery when driving to the numerous cellar doors that are in easy driving distance of both Hobart and Launceston. I have just arrived back from our most recent trip with my pockets significantly lighter and my wine collection significantly larger!

As we prepared for this recent trip, I had been doing some reading to see if there were any new cellar doors that had popped up in the last year or so. I was aware that our time at wineries would be limited, however I was determined to discover something new. It was then that I learnt of Gasworks Cellar Door, situated in the heart of the historic dock precinct in Hobart.

The striking chimney and sandstone facade of the old gasworks has always been a visual marker for me when navigating my way around Hobart. The Cellar Door building is a beautifully refurbished version of the original Gasworks Head Office, the administrative centre which facilitated coal fired power generation for Hobart city for many years.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by wine expert James Hordern who ran us through the tasting format. Of the 16 wines housed in their shiny enomatic wine preservation system, we could choose to have a sample (25mL) of 12, a taste (50mL) of 6 or a glass (100mL) of 3 for the small cost of $10. No prizes for guessing the option we chose! Having 12 tastes each worked out well, as we shared a few of the tastings so that we actually managed to experience all 16 wines available. 

James was an excellent host, providing a thorough overview of each wine as we tasted, including the winery's background and style and the characteristics of the region, all interspersed with a wealth of facts about the Tasmanian wine industry. Did you know that Tasmanian wine represents a tiny 0.5% of Australia's annual crush? 

70% of Tasmania's annual vintage consists of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which is utilised both for sparkling wine production (think Jansz, Bay of Fires, House of Arras) and table wines. There are at least six key wine producing areas in Tasmania but, to simplify matters, Gasworks break down their collection and displays into three rooms, with each one focusing on a different demographic: North (Tamar Valley, Pipers River), South (Coal River Valley, Derwent Valley, Huon Valley) and East (The East Coast).
Each of the rooms is beautifully set out with the relevant wines displayed in cabinets, whilst the walls are adorned with maps and viticulture information for the region. It would be easy to spend a few hours wandering around learning a thing or two about the different cool climate varietals (Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris are notable mentions). Even if you have tasted extensively throughout mainland Australia, I can guarantee that Tasmanian wine will have you fascinated by the unique varietal expression and also the diversity in styles achieved across this small island.

In regards to the wine selection available, there was no discrimination between the big producers and the boutique wineries. Benchmark-worthy Chardonnay from the widely acclaimed Josef Chromy and seamless Cabernet from Domaine A was interspersed with a quirky 'Breakfast Pinot' from Roaring Beach and a delightful Gewurztraminer Sticky from Spring Vale

I tend to be drawn towards the classic cool-climate varieties when it comes to Tasmanian wines. My stand-out Riesling from the tasting was the Riversdale Estate 2011, hailing from Coal River Valley, which I described as 'lemon marmalade on toast', with its complex citrus flavours and mealy mouth feel. Tasmanians also seem to give Pinot Gris a good go, with the North West region's White Rock Pinot Gris 2013 providing an intriguing example, with its honeyed nose and an array of ginger and white spice on the palate. From the East Coast, I could not go past the Spring Vale Pinot Noir 2012, made in a Burgundian style. It was earthy but refined, with an absolutely silky mouth feel.

Our purchasing decision was daunting, as each wine we tasted had its own merits. Further to this, there was a whole suite of wines we had not even tried. However, the fact that we could send a half dozen or dozen wines of our choice back to Perth for free allowed us to grab a few bottles for the cellar (it is not often that there is no freight charge at all, especially all the way back to the West).

Gasworks Cellar Door has an ever-changing line up of 16 Tasmanian wines for tasting, representing 81 Tasmanian vineyards. It really is a 'one stop cellar door' where you can experience wines from all the major winegrowing regions of Tasmania, without ever leaving the Hobart CBD.  A perfect solution for those with limited time or a great way to kick-start your Tasmanian wine adventure.