In a complex and increasingly frenetic world, there is something very reassuring about the predictability of winter in a cool climate wine region.
Soaking rains fill storage dams and recharge river systems to support vineyard irrigation. And for a while, all is right with the world.
At least, that's how it's meant to be in cool climate Tasmania.
But the Coal River Valley is different, says Tolpuddle Vineyard's Carlos Souris.
Four times in the past six years, the property has received less than 528mm of annual rainfall. That's less than the 106-year average for nearby Richmond.
Souris's rain gauge looks like having another lean year. It received barely 280mm of rainfall during the first eight months of 2021.
The vineyard manager is quick to recognise the irony in those figures.
When he first entered the wine industry in the late 1970s, he worked at Craigmoor Wines in Mudgee, New South Wales. Annual rainfall in the hot, dry township is 670mm.
"I came to Tassie in 1983 on the way to Margaret River," he recalls.
"After looking around a while, I thought, 'wow, why would you want to grow wine grapes anywhere else?'"
Previously employed by QANTAS in the aviation industry, Souris has since become a wine industry high-flyer in Tasmania.
Three years ago, he was awarded the Kym Ludvigsen Trophy for Viticultural Excellence at the 2018 Royal Melbourne Wine Awards.
In November 2020, Tolpuddle won five trophies at London's prestigious International Wine Challenge.
"Last year was the best we'd ever had in the vineyard since Shaw and Smith purchased Tolpuddle ten years ago," Souris explains.
"Vine health was just incredible. The quality of our harvest in 2021 was exceptional. That's largely due to the beautiful wet spring we had here in 2020.
"We've also been pretty successful in moving into organic viticulture in recent years. In 2019 and 2020, we really pushed boundaries in order to find out just how good things could get here. It's been brilliant."
Admittedly, Tolpuddle's path to success has been a 30-year journey.
The vineyard began as a joint venture between local entrepreneur and StrathAyr Lawn boss Bill Casimaty, Victorian winemaker and viticulture consultant Garry Crittenden, and then managing director of Domaine Chandon Australia, Dr Tony Jordan.
Some 20ha of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were planted in four stages between 1988 and 1999.
They were intended to supply sparkling wine grapes to the Victorian-based subsidiary of Met et Chandon.
Prior to the vineyard's sale to Shaw and Smith, it also became a source block for Eileen Hardy Chardonnay, Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay, as well as for various other Bay of Fires and House of Arras wines.
"The vineyard was set up very professionally, so it's always had really great bones," Souris says.
"But because Shaw and Smith doesn't produce sparkling wine, we've had to undertake major changes here in order to fine tune our viticulture to single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir table wines."
Working under the direction of renowned group viticulturist Ray Guerin and current incumbent Murray Leake, Souris and his team have turned the property into an industry showpiece.
Changes to soil, water and vine management have been widespread and significant.
Organic composting and cover-cropping have already brought measurable improvements to soil health and water retention.
Meticulous, time-consuming cane-pruning has replaced spur-pruning in the pursuit of wine grape quality.
"It's been a wonderful journey for all of us," Shaw and Smith joint CEO and winemaker, Adam Wadewitz says.
"Getting to know the site has been fascinating. Tolpuddle is such a unique place, with its light silica-over-sandstone soils and north/north-east facing slopes. It is cool there, but it does tend to stay quite dry, so you get this incredible intensity of fruit aroma and flavour that's just fantastic to work with."
The past week saw Master of Wine and fellow joint CEO David LeMire visiting the state to spruik the virtues of Tolpuddle's new releases from the excellent 2020 vintage.
Like Wadewitz, the Adelaide Hills marketer believes his company's wines reflect both attention to detail and the somewhat exotic nature of the Coal River Valley site.
"The vineyard team have done an amazing job," he says.
"Carlos loves having a good project to work on. He's been able to use his professional skills and his local knowledge to great effect. When you see such impressive results, it really spurs you on to investing more time, energy and money on pursuing further improvements. We're keen to farm this land in the best ways that we possibly can."
Tasmania's Coal River Valley surprisingly is among the nation's driest subregions, with vines there receiving less than 250mm of rainfall during the cool 2019-2020 growing season.
The resulting low yields laid the foundations for table wines with tremendous elegance and finesse.
This is a very smart barrel-fermented Chardonnay from Adam Wadewitz.
It opens with an attractive, distinctly leesy aroma, courtesy of its extended time in barrel this past year.
Dry and intensely citrus flavours follow, with very satisfying texture and natural acidity adding appeal and driving verve and freshness.
Lovely, special occasion wine.
Among the Coal River Valley's oldest vineyards, Tolpuddle in the hands of its Shaw and Smith ownership is at the cutting edge of Australia's Pinot Noir table wine production.
The 2017 release was monumental, a clear favourite among all the Tassie Pinots I've tasted in the last decade.
The 2020 is a different beast entirely, neat and supple, yet no less impressive.
It's a beautifully restrained and compact wine, with attractive floral/red berry perfume and lingering red fruit flavours.
Kitchen spice notes and fine ripe tannins add a savoury twist to the finish.
Shiraz in Tasmania? That will never work, say those who have poo-pooed the variety's re-introduction to the State in recent decades.
But in well-managed vineyards on warm sites, the Aussie workhorse red can really pick up its heels to reveal thoroughbred qualities.
Freycinet on the East Coast now boasts just over a hectare of Shiraz, with winemaker Claudio Radenti working hard to draw attention to its savoury/spicy characters in the glass.
The cooler 2016-2017 season has produced a smooth, elegant, plum and licorice interpretation that warrants attention from consumers seeking non-Pinot alternatives.
Black and white pepper notes add interest.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.