It’s no secret Tasmania is one of Australia’s best wine regions. The state is overflowing with natural wonders, and thanks to its cool climate, wonderful wines. Chardonnay and pinot noir prosper here, and as the two varietals used to make Champagne, you could say that Tassie bubbles are on par with their French counterpart. In fact, comparisons have been drawn between the island’s offerings and Champagne, courtesy of their shared quality and production methods. But Tassie sparkling is also unique, thanks to its unique terroir – that special mingling of climate, topography, geology, isolation and innovative winemaking. The result is a state that’s not focused on recreating Champagne, but on making its own mark in the world of sparkling.
Simply put, because Tassie’s location makes for a dream destination when it comes to grape growing. Latitude, topography and geology all play a role in helping to shape the island’s wines. But mostly, it’s the state’s cool climate and proximity to different bodies of water – after all, it’s this fact that helps the grapes retain the high acidity needed for a good quality sparkling wine. Liam McElhinney, winemaker at Beyond the Wilderness, explains: “We are very fortunate that the majority of our grapes are grown relatively close to a major body of water. Be it the Derwent River, Tamar River, Pacific Ocean or Bass Strait. This means that, even in the peak of summer, afternoon convection currents have a cooling effect on the vines. Add to those the crisp Tasmanian night-time temperatures and you have a wonderfully conducive environment for ripening grapes, while preserving that silver thread of acidity that is the framework of all great Tassie sparkling wines.”
Tom Wallace of Pirie, agrees. “I believe our positioning in the world as an island surrounded by ocean has given us our own unique climate that suits great sparkling wine and gives us consistency from year to year.”
And not forgetting all of those mountains, which also play a key role in creating delicious grapes. The west of the state is cloaked in heavy rainfall thanks to the temperate rainforest (the world’s last in fact), but central Tasmania’s ample population of mountains prevent this rain from reaching the east of the state. This helps create the perfect cool, dry, and largely sunny climate that grapes thrive on. It means a longer hang time for bunches on the vine, prolonging the ripening period, and enhancing the complexity of flavour.
Less is really more for Tasmanian producers, who tend to make their sparkling wine in a way that also helps it stand out from the crowd. It’s believed that the best sparkling winemakers are those who know when to hold back and who put the quality of the vineyard and grapes first. This minimalist approach is a focus that Tasmania has famously embraced.
Both Beyond the Wilderness and Pirie are fans of this method of enhancing rather than forcing the flavour of their sparkling wines. “For our top Cuvées, we naturally see a lot of coastal sea spray and oyster shell, crushed rocks et al… the wines are taught in their youth, but blossom into delicious, satiating wines with a bit of time on cork,” says Liam. Tom at Pirie also focuses on the existing natural characteristics of the grapes, as opposed to winemaking for their house style. “Pirie has a quite recognisable style, I believe, highlighting bright acidity that brings freshness, elegance, balance and length.”
Fruit lovers will find a friend in Beyond the Wilderness NV Brut Cuvee, a vegan-friendly vino that features complex notes of honeysuckle, candied red apple, and a sprinkling of strawberry. Think juicy and vibrant when it comes to palate.
And then there’s the sweetness of Beyond the Wilderness NV Brut Cuvee Rosé. Picture a sparkling wine with textbook richness, and overflowing with the flavours of juicy red watermelon and raspberry.
Slightly more acidic is the Pirie Sparkling NV. In this pale gold Tasmanian sparkling, the zesty flavours of crisp apples and citrus meet thanks to a focus on the grapes spending less time ageing.