Fly fishing (for trout) drew me to Tasmania long before the birth of the Tasmanian Wine Show in 1991. The former gave me a bias eye view of the exceptionally varied topography of the island, and the differing patterns of wind and rainfall. Thus long ago I used a four-district approach in writing about this multifaceted jewel.
But until I read sparkling winemaker Ed Carr’s discussion of the six subregions/regions/districts (all used) I realised how little I know. Tamar Valley in the north, is warmer and wetter, but offers both suitable chardonnay and pinot noir. Pipers River is also in the north, yet is the coolest and wettest, and is a very important district for Arras – and is closest to the Tamar. Coal River in the south east covers all varieties and styles, and introduces softness and perfume. Moderate temperatures and low rainfall.
East Coast – warm and dry, with minimal temperature variations and relatively high humidity – produces masculine wine which has depth of flavour. Huon Valley is the southernmost and coolest district on the south east coast, and produces grapes of high quality. Derwent Valley, in the inland south east is in fact two subregions in the upper reach of the Valley, produces grapes of incredible quality, with the greatest elegance, finesse and complexity. The lower Derwent Valley provides wine of great richness and ripeness, reflecting the warm and sheltered climate.
Ed Carr’s first task is to assess the grapes as juices, and ferment each lot separately (or in combination of similar lots), each will be bright and clear. Then Ed Carr and team begin facing the permutations and combinations of taking as little as 1 or 2% of wine A into blend B, all the time looking through the lens of the coming second fermentation in bottle, and the number of years the wine will thereafter take shape resting on its lees. The last step is the disgorgement of the lees and the insertion of dosage (a micro amount of sugar).
2013 House of Arras Grand Vintage
Chardonnay (62%) and pinot noir (38%) ex Derwent Valley, Coal River, East Coast and Pipers River, 15% fermented in new French barriques. On tirage for seven years, the dosage 2.7gL. The complex, white flower-filled bouquet joins hands with the fluid, effortless intensity of the elegant palate.
97 points, drink to 2033, 12.5% alc, cork, $118.99
NV House of Arras Brut Elite
Cuvee No. 1601: A 57/35/8% blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier, 7% fermented in French barriques, and a dosage of 3.5gL. Predominantly ’16 vintage, 4 years on tirage. It’s initially light on its feet, then dips before surging on the finish and aftertaste. Sophisticated and exhilarating.
96 points, drink to 2026, 12.5% alc, cork, $64.99
NV House of Arras Origin South Brut Cuvee
A blend of pinot noir (54%), chardonnay (40%) and pinot meunier (6%); 15% fermented in French barriques, Pipers River leading the four subregions; 30 months on tirage. Aromas of grapefruit ex the chardonnay and zesty complexity of nougat on the long, fresh palate.
95 points, drink to 2027, 12.6% alc, cork, $35