Food and beverage stories
Méthode Tasmanoise has history
By Graeme Phillips
In February, 1979, the owner of Hobart’s Wendover House — which adjoined Tasmania’s first commercial vineyard — lifted layers of old carpet, lino and newspapers and uncovered a ringed hatch.
Under the hatch was a cellar. And tumbled and scattered on the dirt floor were old sparkling-wine bottles.
The sparkle had long gone but many of them were still wired and sealed, some still contained wine and a few were still reasonably full.
Extensive research showed that the wines dated from a period earlier than 1850.
If so, they are by far the oldest bottles of wine extant in Australia and the first Champagne-style wine (or Champaigne-style as it was then spelt) recorded as having been made in this country.
Almost a century and a half later, the first Tasmanian sparkler of modern times, Jansz, was produced in a joint venture by industry pioneer, the late Graham Wiltshire, and the famous Champagne house, Roederer.
The wine’s first release was in 1989.
It was without doubt a seminal moment in the development of Tasmania’s wine industry and, today, 60 per cent of Tasmania’s chardonnay fruit and 40 per cent of the island’s pinot noir harvest go into making sparkling wine.
By way of celebrating the new world’s finest sparkling wines, the inaugural Effervescence Tasmania festival was held in Launceston in November, 2015.
Described as one of the best sparkling wine festivals in the world and attracting over 800 visitors, the four-day mix of tastings, master classes and dinners was held again in early November this year.
Presenting the dinners based on Tasmania’s finest produce were Brand Tasmania Ambassador and Michelin-starred chef, Tetsuya Wakuda, and one of Melbourne’s most celebrated chefs, Jacques Reymond.
Tyson Stelzer, multi-award winning wine writer, television presenter, International Wine and Spirit Communicator of the Year 2015 and author of The Champagne Guide, conducted the sparkling wine tastings and master class.
Wrapping up his presentations, Stelzer said that of the 500 sparkling wines from around Australia that he tasted for James Halliday’s definitive 2017 Australian Wine Companion all seven that he rated 96/100 points and above were Tasmanian.
And, comparing these with the 800 Champagnes he had tasted for his Champagne Guide, he said the top Tasmanians outscored such Champagnes as the famed Roederer Cristal.
“It’s a remarkable fact,” Stelzer concluded, “that a place still very much in its infancy in the grand scale of global sparkling wine can produce a reputation and quality that is second only to Champagne itself, making Tasmania the greatest sparkling-wine region, outside Champagne, on the planet.”
Image courtesy of The Examiner
5 December 2016, Edition 178