QUIET, QUAINT HID­DEN RE­GION

IT IS PER­HAPS THE MOST UN­DER­RATED WINE AREA IN AUS­TRALIA BUT COULD THIS ALSO BE THE ONE OF THE BEST?

Life & Style Weekend - - FOOD & WINE - WORDS: TRAVIS SCHULTZ

Wine in­dus­try tourism (or “eno­tourism” to those pro­fi­cient in the lingo) is flour­ish­ing around Aus­tralia and vis­i­tors are spoilt for choice.

Some of our best re­gions (such as those in south­ern Western Aus­tralia) are in­con­ve­niently lo­cated at least sev­eral hours drive from a ma­jor air­port but for the time­poor (or impatient), there are plenty of cel­lar doors with high-qual­ity of­fer­ings sit­u­ated less than an hours drive from the point of dis­em­barka­tion.

A few of my favourites in­clude those around Ade­laide (Barossa and Mclaren Vale) and Mel­bourne (Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula and Yarra Val­ley), but for the more ad­ven­tur­ous, a so­journ to Ho­bart on the Ap­ple Isle opens the door to some ex­cep­tional cool-cli­mate winer­ies.

Per­haps the most un­der­rated wine re­gion in the coun­try is sur­pris­ingly close to the Tas­ma­nian cap­i­tal. Take a short half-hour trek out of the city and the well-di­rected trav­eller will find them­selves in the mag­i­cal Coal River Val­ley, near Rich­mond, to

Ho­bart’s north. So named be­cause of the abun­dance of coal in the area, the early British set­tlers were more con­cerned with us­ing the val­ley for graz­ing and crop­ping, but by the 1970s, a few pioneers had re-planted vines and be­gun to ex­per­i­ment with cool­cli­mate

va­ri­etals. Their early suc­cess soon led to a pro­lif­er­a­tion of vine­yards and winer­ies through the 1990s and, by the 21st cen­tury, a thriv­ing tourist trade. There is no short­age of qual­ity winer­ies in the Coal River Val­ley, but the num­ber-one des­ti­na­tion on the itin­er­ary for my next visit is Poo­ley Wines at 1431 Rich­mond Rd, Rich­mond. It’s one of those quaint, tra­di­tional, fam­ily-run op­er­a­tions that es­chews quan­tity for the sake of qual­ity.

Es­tab­lished in 1985 by De­nis and Mar­garet Poo­ley, the ini­tial plant­ings of 10 rows of ries­ling and seven rows of pinot noir were soon joined by plant­ings of sau­vi­gnon blanc, chardon­nay, pinot gri­gio, syrah and gewürz­traminer. While their pinot noir is the draw­card which brings most peo­ple to the cel­lar door, my palate says that the Poo­ley chardon­nay is the star of the sta­ble. It’s a per­fect site for cool-cli­mate wines with al­lu­vial plains and river-ter­race soils that are high in acid, ex­cel­lent drainage and a long ripen­ing pe­riod, thanks to the cool days and cold nights.

I re­cently landed bottles of the newly re­leased 2017 Butcher’s Hill and 2017 Cooinda Vale chardon­nays. Both sell at the same $65 price tag (though cheaper for those in the Poo­ley Wine Club). But if you ask me, the Cooinda Vale trumps its es­teemed sta­ble­mate. The fruit for this de­light­ful drop comes from a sin­gle vine­yard at Cooinda – a site which used to pro­duce fruit for the famed Penfolds Yat­tarna chardon­nay. This is only the third vin­tage of the wine and it’s des­tined for great­ness.

It’s still bright, lively and youthful in the glass but giv­ing the in­di­ca­tion that it will only im­prove over the next decade or so.

There’s a toasti­ness on the nose and firm peach, nec­tarine and cit­rus flavours through the mid­dle, layer upon layer of spice, cream and nuts emerge as Poo­ley’s best chardy works its way across the palate be­fore zesty acids tighten the quartz-like con­clu­sion. Third-generation wine­maker Anna Poo­ley has dished up a mas­ter­class in how to de­liver the per­fect bal­ance of line and length. Give it a few years and I sus­pect that the ex­pe­ri­ence will only get better.

If you’re for­tu­nate enough to be able to pay a visit, cel­lar door wine tast­ings are held at his­toric Bel­mont House which dates back to the 1830s. Such is the ex­pe­ri­ence that the out­let was re­cently awarded Best Wine Tast­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence in South­ern Tas­ma­nia by Gourmet Trav­eller Mag­a­zine. But don’t take their word for it: check it out for your­self. To read more Travis Schultz wine re­views, go to traviss­chultz.com.au

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