If Adelaide Hills producer Shaw + Smith was going to make a good wine in Tasmania, it wasn’t going to be by accident. “It’s a shit-hot vineyard. This is off the shelf. This is not bespoke.”
Michael Hill Smith’s words at the lunch to launch the 2012 Tolpuddle wines betrayed all the excitement he and Martin Shaw felt at acquiring such a precious piece of land in mid-2011. The vineyard was planted in 1988 and its back story is a roll call of great cool-climate wines – fruit had been used for Eileen Hardy Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and by many of Australia’s finest exponents of sparkling wine: Chandon, Heemskerk, House of Arras.
Michael wasn’t so keen on the name but had decided to stick with it. Good move, I reckon. It sounds a little cutesy and the label’s pretty conservative, but Tolpuddle has a great history beyond wine. It’s named after the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of men from Dorset, England, sent as convicts to Australia for setting up a farmers’ union. The leader of the group was a chap with the evocative name of George Loveless, who worked on part of the property that is now Tolpuddle Vineyard.
The vineyard won the inaugural award for Tasmanian Vineyard of the Year in 2006, and used to be worked on by Ray Guerin in his capacity as viticulturist for Hardys. Ray is now viticulturist at Shaw + Smith – and Gourmet Traveller WINE’s Viticulturist of the Year 2013. So it would seem the stars are aligned for some pretty good wine.
Tolpuddle Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 (RRP $65)
Nerdy stuff: Fruit was handpicked, whole bunch pressed and fermented mostly wild into French oak barriques (roughly a third new, a third one year old and a third two year old). About 20% went through malolactic fermentation. It spent about 10 months on lees, with occasional battonage.
What it was like: There’s nothing meek about this wine as you approach it. The colour is medium to deep lemon, and the nose fairly pronounced with lemon, white peach and a whiff of earth. It’s strong and forceful across the palate, getting on for full bodied and with great drive and fruit purity. A really fine, dry acid line keeps it taut, but there’s nothing hard about it. Bracing, yes, with a long finish of lime and white stone fruits. Impressive. Drink now to 2017+
Tolpuddle Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 (RRP $75)
Nerdy stuff: Grapes were hand picked, fermented in open fermenters and hand plunged, with an average of 25% whole bunches. The wine was then aged in French oak barriques (roughly a third new) for 10 months.
What it was like: Amazing perfume. As with the Chardonnay, leaves you in no doubt that this is going to grab your attention. Exceptionally floral, especially violets, plus cherries and earth-encrusted mushrooms. It’s smooth-textured and vigorous in the mouth, mostly primary fruit (strawberry compote and cherries) that pulses through to the long finish. Very good acid and tannin structure. Drink now to 2020.
Overall, the Chardonnay edged it for me but both wines show real strength of identity and structure. Generous but measured, and very drinkable.
I attended this lunch on 14/10/13 as a guest of Shaw + Smith