Crash or crash through. They're the alternatives facing many small-scale wine producers in today's global wine sector.
Thanks to COVID-19 and over-production during the past decade, the world is awash with surplus wine.
Recent Wine Australia data indicate the situation isn't quite so dire on the local front, but there's no escaping the fact that large wine companies here account for around two-thirds of all domestic wine sales.
It's little wonder few consumers hear much about industry minnows like Henskens Rankin of Tasmania.
Indeed, when the company's 2010 Vintage Brut won the most celebrated sparkling wine trophy at the 2019 Tasmanian Wine Show, the news caused barely a ripple across our wholesale and retail sectors.
Entries in Class 1 at the event included some of the biggest names in Australian premium sparkling wine, including Accolade's celebrated Arras brand.
"Tasmanian sparkling wine can build complexity and mellowness with extended ageing, as this class proves conclusively," noted the show's catalogue of results.
"There are some superb wines here that the world probably doesn't even know about but should!"
Those words bring wry smiles to the faces of Frieda Henskens and David Rankin.
"The wine was even named Champion Wine of Show," Henskens adds.
"I knew exactly what I wanted to make in 2010 and this was the kind of acknowledgment of wine quality that I was aiming for, so it was a wonderful achievement.
"But is sparkling wine really taken seriously by consumers? It's often seen as frivolous; as a drink for the ladies... a party starter. The serious wine comes later... No, it's actually something you can drink at any time and with any meal."
You would have to listen long and hard before detecting any kind of irritation in Henskens' discussion of her fleeting 15 minutes of fame. Softly spoken, the one-time plant scientist and university researcher seldom lets emotion into her conversation.
She's devoted more than half her life to the expression of high-order, rational thought processes. She has a handful of tertiary qualifications and a PhD to prove it.
No, Henskens is inscrutable when it comes to playing the waiting game.
In part, that can be attributed to inheriting good genes, she says. Henskens' Dutch father managed a dairy farm when she lived at home in New Zealand.
There's no rushing the steady passage of a season, or even a working day.
Her English mother was a conceptual artist and film maker, who shared a passion for slow-moving traditional Italian opera with her devoted husband.
Henskens' daily school commute comprised an hour's travel on a small regional bus service - an hour to school; an hour back home. Time that could be well spent by a voracious young bookworm.
When the research fellow finally decided to step out of forestry and into Tasmanian wine and viticulture back in 2006, she knew there would be no overnight success. There were children to bear and raise; industry knowledge and experience to acquire.
"My approach to winemaking is deliberately small-scale, time-consuming and artisanal," Henskens explains.
"Always seeking to maximise quality. Doing crazy things carefully."
Some would say the couple's craziest move came at the beginning of their sparkling wine odyssey.
Their trophy-winning inaugural vintage was crafted from just two tonnes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. By the time the wine had undergone its primary and secondary fermentation and seven years of extended maturation, there were only 585 specially numbered and packaged bottles available for commercial sale.
"The wine began life while I was employed as a lab analyst and cellar hand at Winemaking Tasmania," Henskens says.
"I started there in 2008, so I got to see a lot of sparkling wine and sparkling wine fruit from all over the state. It also helped me develop good working relationships with growers. David and I don't have any actual contract arrangements in place. All our fruit sourcing is done via industry networking.
"That can be tricky at times. We decided very early on that we're only going to produce prestige sparkling wine. We're making a luxury product. I have no interest in making $30 or $40 sparkling wine. There are plenty of good makers doing that here already. We're looking to produce the absolute best.
"Vintage 2017, for example, was a big year in Tasmania but we just could not get the fruit we wanted. So we didn't make any wine. We didn't make any sparkling in 2020 either."
But there is a gold medal-winning 2012 Vintage Brut. It's due for release shortly.
Better be quick. There are 1400 bottles. Price: $94.99.
PICK OF THE CROP
2019 Moores Hill Riesling $35
Julian Allport is a dab hand at making modern, stylish Tasmanian Riesling. You need only refer to his impressive wine show record for the Tamar Valley property. Better still, uncap this fresh and zingy youngster.
Its vibrant lime and green apple aromas virtually leap from the glass. Those same characters are very much evident on the palate, creating a neat aperitif style you can enjoy on its own, or match with some delicious fresh sashimi from your favourite Japanese haunt.
Subtle sweetness will tone down any wasabi accompaniment, while also balancing the wine's well-judged natural acidity. Smart drinking.
2020 Invercarron Chardonnay $35
When Invercarron was named among the seven gold medal Pinot Noir winners at last year's Royal Hobart Wine Show, it created something of a stir for the Jordan Valley vineyard. This newcomer from Broadmarsh, north of Hobart, has great potential as a producer of top-notch, cool climate wines.
Its snazzy middleweight Chardonnay is a very well-crafted youngster from contract winemaker Justin Arnold. Stone fruit, melon and fig-like elements are supported by sympathetic use of good quality French oak and lingering natural acidity.
The wine improves markedly with decanting. Enjoy now or keep two to four years. A treat with trevalla.
2016 Hartzview Reserve Pinot Noir $40
Discovering a mature, five-year-old Pinot at cellar door is a worthy reward for travellers. Located between the D'Entrecasteaux Channel and Huon River, Hartzview's vineyard has significant latitude and elevation above sea-level.
That ensures long growing seasons and wines endowed with plenty of fine natural acidity. Pinot Noir does very well here in favourable vintages.
This mediumweight red is a complex and attractive drop with plump, well rounded, slightly spicy fruit, well supported by fine ripe tannins. Bottle age contributes gamey notes. Partner with a spicy Asian duck dish.
- 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.