You don't need to travel far in Tasmania to see the state's cool climate wine industry is bubbling along well with new vineyards and wineries popping up all over the place.
It's a sign of the times. Despite the global pandemic, business confidence continues to increase in Australia, according to February's Roy Morgan Business Confidence data released in early March.
More than 55 percent of the 1237 interview participants believed the next 12 months would be a 'good time to invest in growing the business'.
Those involved in Tasmanian sparkling wine production heard even better news in February.
Market analysis conducted by Melbourne-based Global Data revealed Australian sparkling wine sales are expected to drive significant value growth in the domestic market over the next five years.
That must have prompted an 'I-told-you-so' from Jansz Tasmania's Robert Hill-Smith.
The Barossa Valley-based company chairman has been fully engaged in pushing the boundaries of Australian sparkling wine for more than two decades. Hill-Smith purchased the iconic Tasmanian label and its Pipers Brook home base in 1997.
Early in March 2021, Jansz Tasmania began a fresh chapter in its proud 35-year history, opening its new Pontos Hills Winery at Penna, 30 kilometres north-east of Hobart.
The production facility on Brinktop Road is the latest addition to an expanding Hill-Smith Family Estate chaired by the wine industry veteran of more than 40 years.
The Pontos Hills Winery processed some 700 tonnes of wine grapes during vintage 2021.
It will receive even larger volumes in coming years as new plantings already established in the south of the state gradually come on stream.
"Vintage this year gave us an ideal opportunity to see how everything worked without committing ourselves to doing too much," Jansz winemaker Jennifer Doyle says.
Most of the fruit processed came from the Pontos Hill and Mount Royal sites Hill-Smith established around the original Frogmore Creek Vineyard he purchased in 2012, as well as from more recent developments at Forcett, some 15 kilometres away.
"We processed our second crop of Pinot Noir and third crop of Chardonnay from our 40ha Woodside Vineyard at Forcett," Doyle adds.
"I think this is going to be a fantastic vintage. It was a lovely, long cool growing season. That little bit of warm weather we had from around Easter time allowed us to finish things off really nicely in the vineyard. Our new wines are all looking pretty good at this stage."
Doyle says Jansz Tasmania's state-of-the-art facility completed its busy schedule, with former Josef Chromy chief winemaker and general manager Jeremy Dineen now providing valuable assistance.
Named Viticulturist of the Year in the 2017 Australian Women in Wine Awards, Doyle has now assumed a hands-on winemaking role on the Pontos Hill site.
"This is an operational winery," she notes.
"There's no tasting room or vineyard cellar door sales here. We don't have any plans for them in the future either, at least not at the moment."
Hill-Smith says the winery had been on the drawing-board for several years before architects, surveyors and engineers from the Launceston firm of 6ty° were engaged for the ambitious project.
Construction workers from Fairbrother's Hobart office completed the build on behalf of the Devonport-based company.
Hill-Smith contracted Melbourne's Della Toffola Pacific to supply and install the winery's bespoke open cage presses and associated winemaking technology.
The firm's Italian parent company has more than 50 years' experience in the design and manufacture of food and beverage production equipment.
The central membrane wine presses in use are equipped with the latest touchscreen-controlled software.
Specially developed algorithms enable each press to operate with a degree of artificial intelligence, dramatically reducing the duration of pressing cycles.
Patented automatic washing and continuous self-cleaning systems add even more efficiencies to winery operations.
Innovation and sustainability are cornerstones of the new facility, Hill-Smith says.
"As an independent, family-owned winemaker, authenticity and sustainability are at the forefront of everything we do. That's why we have put so much effort and attention to detail into building the perfect home for our Tasmanian wines.
"The Pontos Hills Winery has come a long way since the first concept. For us, it is about wine quality first and being true to our origins. Our initial design was a means to improve the quality of our wines and reduce our impact on the environment.
"With the help of local architect 6ty°, we were able to accomplish this and so much more."
PICK OF THE CROP
2020 Mount Majura Tasmania Riesling $29
When smoke taint caused the loss of its estate Riesling in 2020, renowned Canberra winemaker Mount Majura chose to buy in fruit from an unlikely source, Tasmania's Tamar Valley.
The resulting wine is an absolute delight, wrought from Riesling grown at Rowella by Chartley Estate and Waterton Hall.
Bright and pale in the glass, its youth is also reflected in the wine's intense lemon/lime aromas and juicy fresh palate.
Crisp acidity provides drive and focus, making this a great cellaring prospect or a wine to savour alongside freshly shucked Tasmanian oysters.
A touch of minerality adds interest. Delicious.
2020 Hughes & Hughes Chardonnay $35
The wines of Hughes & Hughes are popular, well-crafted, early drinking styles created by Mewstone Wines' Jonny Hughes.
Like the winery's D'Entrecasteaux Channel location, this is a cool and fresh Chardonnay.
On opening, a hint of matchstick heralds the arrival of ripe melon, quince and citrus aromas.
Those same characters then appear on the palate, along with a satisfying creamy texture and neat acidity.
Remarkably generous and accessible for a 2020, it's a beguiling wine that should provide plenty of drinking enjoyment over the next three to five years.
An excellent follow-up to the lovely 2019 vintage.
2018 Holm Oak Wizard Pinot Noir $65
Tim and Rebecca Duffy's Holm Oak takes its name from the trees planted on the property in the 1930s, intended to facilitate production of tennis racquets.
But while Alexander North's proposed project ultimately failed, ace wines are made on site nowadays by the vineyard's fastidious owners.
The Wizard evokes past tennis glories but is indeed youthful and modern in construct.
Power combines with elegance to hit quality and flavour out of the court.
Expect red cherry and curranty fruit, a touch of oak seasoning and fine ripe tannins. Acidity is already nicely integrated into the wine.
Drink or cellar.
- Mark Smith wrote his first weekly Tasmanian wine column back in 1994. He continues to chart the successes of the state's small scale, cool climate wine industry with contributions to some of Australia's leading industry publications.