Get the Hard to Get – (Extra) Special Tassie Vino

Tucked away in each wine-producing corner of this island are prized bottles of (extra) special, and often hard to access, vino. There is an intrinsic connection between perseverance and a reverence for tradition to be found in each of these wines. After all, good things can’t be rushed.

Each is proudly made for simple celebrations, for just about any occasion (and sometimes a good wine makes the celebration itself!). If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t need an excuse to bring out their best glassware then this, our Tasmanian wine-loving friend, is for you.

You likely won’t find these wines on many bottle shop shelves, but searching a little further is guaranteed to be worth the effort. Visit the cellar doors – think outstanding wines and almost equally outstanding views – and winery online stores to get the hard to get (if you’re lucky).

In 1988 winemaker Ed Carr embarked on a quest to create a truly extraordinary sparkling wine – one to rival the European stuff that we can’t name. Well-calculated planning led him to Tasmania, where the (very) cool climate was a natural choice. Although only a fledgling wine region at the time, Tasmania would become one of the world’s most highly regarded for growing sparkling wine grapes. And thus began House of Arras, today Australia's most awarded sparkling wine house.

Arras is a type of tapestry in French and reflects the weaving of different parcels of pristine Tassie fruit for House of Arras’ flagship wines. The most idyllic example of Carr’s style and winemaking ethos is his EJ Carr Late Disgorged, named in honour of Ed himself – a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine Championships in 2018. This wine is a manifestation of dedication and patience, released in a limited number of bottles after 16 years of nurturing and exquisite attention to detail while resting on lees.

The current 2008 vintage is a wine worthy of commemorating the most special of occasions – its predecessor vintage release was awarded the influential Decanter Magazine’s Global Sparkling Wine of the Year. For those who worship at the altar of wine writer James Halliday, he rates this vintage a near-perfect 98 points in the Wine Companion.

While it might not be found on the shelf of your local bottle shop, it's well worth searching for the EJ Carr Late Disgorged on some of the country’s best restaurant wine lists. Or go directly to the source and pick up a bottle or two from the cellar door in Pipers River (about 45 minutes northeast of Launceston). Sit back somewhere scenic, relax and enjoy it with the locals – ideally along with some freshly-shucked Tassie Oysters, a quick squeeze of lemon, a side of fresh sourdough and a plentiful spread of cultured butter. While it might be worthy of a special occasion, it could be said that this magnificent wine is the occasion itself (cheeky Tuesday night tipple anyone?). For celebrating Tuesday nights at home, head to the House of Arras website and have a few bottles delivered.

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Ed Carr, House of Arras.

Josef Chromy Wines was established by Joe Chromy himself – a man of resilience and commitment (and recipient of a Medal of the Order of Australia) who profoundly shaped the Tasmanian food and wine landscape. He established his estate vineyard and winery in the Tamar Valley’s south, which in its first four years garnered unparalleled accolades, securing 14 wine show trophies and 170 medals. Today it’s a thriving wine and food haven more than worthy of an extended visit.

The Josef Chomy’s ZDAR range of wines are named after the home town of its founder in Czechia (formerly the Czech Republic). These wines (there’s a riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir) are a celebration of Joe's journey from his birthplace to an island at the edge of the world. The word 'Zdar' also means success or 'things worked out well.' The vineyard’s onsite restaurant – which is unquestionably still working out well – offers a culinary journey alongside the wines. Joe's values, driven by love and allegiance to his adopted homeland, are echoed in every glass of wine and every dish served.

Best appreciated with a (lengthy) visit, Josef Chromy Wines is a celebration of the commitment Joe has to the region, showcasing the finest food and wine that Tasmania offers. Once you have wandered through the century-old gardens to the historic homestead housing the Cellar Door, a variety of experiences await, from a wine flight to a sparkling wine masterclass and tour, a casual meal in the garden to a hatted fine-dining experience in the restaurant. The dappled light of the gardens beckon on a sunny day, while the expanse of windows in the restaurant leaves you feeling immersed in this valley, looking down to the lake, across its waters (and resident swans) and up to the rolling hills of the vineyard beyond.

The winemaking team say that if you're the kind of person who – much like the estate’s founder – relishes in the celebration of challenge, then the ZDAR wines are for you. Knowing how much sweeter success is when it's hard fought, ZDAR is prone to lightning speed sell-outs and is available by invitation only through the wine club. Executive Chef Nick Raitt pairs the 2021 ZDAR Pinot Noir with wood-grilled lamb rump, salsa verde, buttered cos lettuce, smoked potato, chives, white anchovies and caperberries. Yum.

Josef Chromy
Josef Chromy Zdar.

Receiving a few trophies in its relatively short history, Lowestoft's wines are causing quite a stir. One in a range of highly-regarded Pinot Noirs, the 2019 Lowestoft Single Vineyard Norfolk Bay Pinot Noir is an exceedingly special wine. It is also one that winemaker Liam McElhinney says he has been unable to exactly replicate – a reflection of its vineyard site, the unique season and all of the variables that go into making great and memorable vintages. Drinking beautifully, the word is that there was a painfully small volume made, making it all the more special (and all the more disappointing to miss out on).

Liam says if you’re an anti-traditionalist then this wine will probably (and proudly) not be for you – much-revered techniques are used to make this exceptional Pinot. He says that this wine is perfect for Pinot Noir buffs who have spent too long down the rabbit hole of fancy wines from European regions. And while these regions may be slightly better known, but we’re not-so-quietly confident that Tassie’s Pinots are better (of course). If you’re excited by a truly outstanding Pinot Noir, then fasten your seatbelts.

The Norfolk Bay vineyard from which the fruit is sourced is a postage stamp in size and sits at waters’ edge on the Tasman Peninsula, where penguins go on holiday to relax and watch dolphins play in the crystal clear waters of Cascades Bay. The locality is called Koonya and is more famous for its annual garlic festival than world-class wine grapes, but there’s nothing quite like an unexpected treasure in an unassuming location.

Hotly sought after, the Single Vineyard Norfolk Bay Pinot Noir can currently be found at Vintage Cellars. It's highly recommended with a beautiful beef short rib cooked with star anise, ginger, cinnamon and whatever suitable ingredients you have in hand to throw into the pot.

Liam McElhinney, Lowestoft.

Although its village-like cellar door and winery is akin to something from a European village of an even earlier time, the story of Freycinet Vineyard traces back to Sydney in the swinging sixties. Founder Geoff Bull was a successful photographer at the Sydney Morning Herald and decided to transition his career into abalone diving (as you do!). Shortly thereafter he and his wife Susan landed in Bicheno – a small coastal town in Tasmania.

The couple turned their attention to viticulture when they acquired a property near the Freycinet Peninsula and established the first commercial vineyard on Tasmania’s east coast. Geoff is known for his determination and audacity; two characteristics which are very handy if you’re intent on becoming a viticultural pioneer in a remote corner of Tasmania. In the same year (1978) Geoff bought a bulldozer and got his hands dirty preparing the amphitheatre vineyard site – today the heart and soul of Freycinet Vineyard.

Over the years the vineyard custodianship transitioned into the hands of Geoff and Susan’s daughter Lindy, her partner Claudio Radenti and more recently, their own children. Freycinet’s sparkling wine is now a flagship in the range and the recipe has been perfected over many years, encouraged by Geoff and Susan who generously offered to drink all of the "mistakes" along the way. Freycinet Vineyard celebrated 30 years of Radenti Sparkling by taking home the Trophy for Best Sparkling Wine at the 2023 Melbourne Royal Wine Awards.

The Radenti Sparkling perfectly embodies the man after which it's named. Claudio is never in a hurry and is positively effervescent in his passion and pride for Tasmanian wine. He’s also very adept at finding reasons to open another good bottle. A skilled cook and a generous host, he worked out a long time ago that Tasmanian sparkling wine goes with every occasion.

Radenti Sparkling is one of a handful of Tasmanian sparkling wines where the fruit comes from a single vineyard site and is produced there from start to finish. The Radenti vineyard is only accessible by 4WD (or helicopter!) but fortunately the finished product is (slightly) easier to obtain – the current 2016 vintage can be found by visiting the cellar door, the online shop, independent retailers or really good restaurants.

At 82, Geoff still loves his big toys and can be spotted having a go on the bulldozer during visits to the farm when he's not having a yack to cellar door guests about his lifetime of adventures.

Claudio Radenti & winemaker Keira O'Brien, Freycinet Vineyard.

Pooley Wines started in 1985 when Margaret and Jack 'Denis' Pooley planted 17 rows of vines at their Campania property, Cooinda Vale, during what was intended to be their retirement years. That retirement was short-lived and Margaret Pooley was the oldest female vigneron in Australia at the time of her second retirement, aged 93 years. She was often known to be found sitting in the cellar door entertaining guests, demanding that anyone who purchased her Margaret Pooley Tribute Riesling let her sign the bottle (which reportedly some customers have kept as an heirloom).

Now managed by two generations of Margaret and Jack’s descendants, extra-special wines have become a well-practised part of Pooley Wines’ repertoire. The J.R.D Syrah is one of the few Syrahs that you will find in Tassie and only a small amount is produced each vintage – about 1000 bottles in a good year.

The wine is named after John Roy Denis Pooley, who is today one of the winery’s managing directors. Unbeknownst to John, his children (Margaret and Jack’s grandchildren) Anna and Matt worked together to create the first vintage of the Syrah. They then presented it to John in a blind tasting amongst other Pooley wines. It ended up being his favourite and so it was only right for the wine to be named in honour of him. It’s the perfect wine for anytime, without the need for a special occasion or reason. And food? What else but some Tassie lamb, preferably slow-cooked.

Get your hands on one of the few bottles made at the Cellar Door or directly through the Pooley Wines website.

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Pooley Wines Cellar Door.

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through the Department of State Growth.

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