Mo­ment of mad­ness eclipsed by years of am­brosia

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence -

TAS­MA­NIA’S east coast winer­ies may be few in num­ber, and their pro­duc­tion mod­est even by Tas­ma­nian stan­dards, but there is no doubt­ing their qual­ity.

In chrono­log­i­cal or­der of ar­rival, they are Craigie Knowe (1979, by John Aust­wick), Fr­eycinet Vine­yard (1980, by Ge­off Bull), Coombend (1985, by John Fenn-Smith), Spring Vale Vine­yards (1986, by Rod­ney and Lyn Lyne), Ap­s­ley Gorge Vine­yard and Kelve­don Es­tate (both 1988, by Brian Franklin and Ju­lian Cot­ton re­spec­tively), Dar­ling­ton Vine­yard (1993, by Paul and Louise Stranan) and, fi­nally, Di­a­mond Is­land (2002, by Derek Free­man).

But be­fore com­ing to the vi­nous plea­sures of the east coast, I have to con­fess to a mo­ment of mad­ness when I was be­guiled by Pure Tas­ma­nia’s in­vi­ta­tion to take in ‘‘ the Wine­glass to Wine Glass ex­pe­ri­ence. From Fr­eycinet Lodge, it’s an easy guided walk up to the Wine­glass Bay lookout, where the views take in the Fr­eycinet Penin­sula and be­yond. Then de­scend to the beach . . . where your guide will . . . im­merse you in the rich Abo­rig­i­nal his­tory and early ex­plo­ration of the area as you make your way across the penin­sula to Haz­ards Beach. At the south­ern end of the beach, en­joy the lo­cal pro­duce and wines, in­clud­ing some of the finest and fresh­est seafood you’ll ever taste. A private wa­ter taxi will pick you up from the beach for the 30-minute coastal jour­ney back to Fr­eycinet Lodge.’’

Mad­ness, be­cause my daily ex­er­cise for the past few years has been de­scend­ing the eight stairs from my house to my of­fice, as­cend­ing for lunch and din­ner.

This ‘‘ easy guided walk’’ in Tas­ma­nia was up a sheer moun­tain (bad), then an equally sheer de­scent (de­stroy­ing my left knee), then a 4km hob­ble along the beach. Worse still, it pre­vented my planned trout fish­ing at Cra­dle Moun­tain two days later.

Hap­pily, though, we had an in-depth tast­ing of all the latest wines from the east coast pro­duc­ers the day be­fore, dom­i­nated by the gor­geous pinot noirs from 2006. Bet­ter still, I have to ad­mit, was what had been billed as a 11/ hour wood-fired pizza lunch at Fr­eycinet Vine­yard ear­lier in the day.

Most reg­u­lar vis­i­tors to Tas­ma­nia, or those who take a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in its wines, rate Fr­eycinet as one of the very best winer­ies on the is­land. It has a unique am­phithe­atre-cum-val­ley site, and long be­fore Bull handed over the reins to daugh­ter Lindy and part­ner Clau­dio Radenti, the spe­cial qual­ity of the wines from the steep north­east­fac­ing slope was clear for all to see.

So great is the charm of the gan­gling, qui­etly spo­ken Radenti and the like­wise quiet but equally pas­sion­ate Lindy, I have a sus­pi­cion they could make weed­killer wines and no one would care.

As it is, Radenti sparkling and Fr­eycinet Ries­ling, Chardon­nay and Pinot Noir are all glo­ri­ous wines, and (as I knew from pre­vi­ous ver­ti­cal tast­ings) age su­perbly. Pre­vi­ous tast­ings, how­ever, paled into in­signif­i­cance as the ’ 93, ’ 94, ’ 96, ’ 97 and ’ 98 Radenti were opened (the ’ 99 was to come in the evening tast­ing of latest east coast vin­tages); then ries­ling of ev­ery year from ’ 98 to ’ 06 in­clu­sive; half a dozen chardon­nays; and fi­nally ’ 87, ’ 88, ’ 90, ’ 91 and then ev­ery vin­tage from ’ 94 to ’ 05 pinot noirs were on the ta­ble. It was their last bot­tle of the ’ 87 (fully ma­ture, of course, but not dry­ing out) and the bot­tle be­fore that had been opened many years ear­lier.

It seems point­less to pon­tif­i­cate on each vin­tage, but the ’ 91, ’ 95, ’ 99, ’ 01 and ’ 05 were stand­outs, with an equal num­ber that, if opened sep­a­rately and served with, say, rare squab and shi­itake mush­rooms, would be am­brosia.

Space pre­vents com­ment on the older ries­lings or the chardon­nays. Their spine of Tas­ma­nian acid­ity guar­an­tees them near im­mor­tal­ity, par­tic­u­larly the ries­lings. The 2007 ries­ling ($23) will not break the pat­tern: light, fresh, clear-cut ap­ple blos­som and lime aro­mas lead into a vi­brant palate, sim­i­lar flavours run­ning through to the long, cleans­ing fin­ish. Ten years will not tire it, but it would be no sin to drink a bot­tle tonight.

The 2005 pinot noir ($50) has changed and blos­somed in the bot­tle over the past 12 months in a way unique to this variety. It re­tains the pre­dom­i­nantly red­fruit char­ac­ters of its youth, but its silky, sup­ple palate has filled out, with an ex­pan­sive pea­cock’s tail fin­ish.

www.winecom­pan­ion.com.au

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