This year will mark the 20th anniversary of The Taste, a food and wine festival in Tasmania. Which, as is pointed out in the Oxford Companion to Wine, is one other bit of evidence that the wine industry in Tasmania is promising.

According to taswine.net, vines were planted on this island south of Australia in the 19th century, but, like little old Long Island, the industry really got its start in the 1970s. Now there are more than 200 wineries in this climatically and geographically diverse cool weather region.

I’ve been looking for some Tasmanian wine. Dennis said any purchases would be outside my budget, but the pickings have been slim. Anne Fortuno from Lauber Imports brought by these samples last week. The quality was varied.

All five wines were from the same producer under two different labels — Ninth Island and Pipers Brook, which are part of the Kreglinger Wine Estates conglomerate, whose rather clunky website tells little about the wine.

We opened three from Ninth Island: 2005 Riesling, 2005 Pinot Noir, and 2005 Chardonnay. The Pipers Brook wines, which were more expensive, were a 2006 Pinot Gris and 2004 Reserve Pinot Noir.

The Ninth Island wines were simple and OK. The riesling had a petrol nose and the pinot noir was almost watery.

Cliff from Skurnik tasted the wines later and said he was told by an authority that if petrol is on the nose of a young riesling it means it was overcropped. Hmm.

Also, he noted the pinot noir had heat, but very little weight. For him that combo meant the wine had been chaptalized, meaning that sugar had been added to the juice before fermentation to boost the alcohol level. Adding sugar to juice, or must as winemakers say, does not add sweetness.

According to reports, 2005 was a good year in Tasmania, as it seems to have been most the world over, so the fruit could have been expected to get ripe enough for adequate alcohol levels.

More money was clearly spent to make the Pipers Brook wines. The Pinot Noir was rich and perfumed on the nose and had soft tannins that were a little scratchy, making me think they were a little green. The pinot gris had a pretty peachy nose and was zingy peachy with minerals in the mouth. With a tangy finish.

The search for Tasmanian wine persists.


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