Jun 18, 2010

Tastings: Wines & Sprits from Tasmania

 Contemplating life on Tasmania's Maria Island

This week two separate travel industry events allowed me an opportunity to taste wines from the Australian island state of Tasmania and California’s Mendocino County. Today I’ll cover Tasmania.

Held at the Swig Bar on Geary Street, the aptly-named Taste of Tasmania media event offered tantalizing samples of Tasmanian food, wine and spirits.

 The Jansz Tasmania Premium Cuvée—a sparkling wine made in the traditional méthode champenoise—was a wonderful new find. This classic blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Meunier grapes is extremely balanced, with a citrus and pear flavor, spicy aromas, nicely complex, and at under $20 a very nice value. This wine can be easily bought online in the US.

Jansz vineyards enjoy a climate similar to that of Champagne, and the region has come to be known as “Sparkling Tasmania.” In four out of the last six years, the Premium Cuvée has been chosen as Australia's official celebratory wine.

I tasted two offerings from Moorilla Estate, which specializes in cool-climate wines. The Riesling 2008 (Muse Series) was excellent—quite dry, crisp and steely. The 2008 Pinot Noir (Muse Series) possessed an enticing berry aroma but upon tasting it I was disappointed. It seemed a bit thin and undeveloped—perhaps it simply needs more bottle time before coming into its own. Moorilla wines are becoming easier to find in the U. S.

Moorilla Estate offers far more than wine. Its Source Restaurant, which utilizes local ingredients, prepares imaginative dishes such as “Crab, crab jelly, corn custard, almond, sauce verte” and “Wild line-caught fish, truffled macaroni, foie gras emulsion, jus” (the first, an appetizer; the second, a main course). It produces four beers under the Moo Brew label, which you can drink—along with wines—at the Estate’s Cellar Door. You can book a room at one of the eight Mona Pavilions overlooking the river (all feature tip-top modern art and are, I suspect, extremely expensive). And, as of 2011, the Estate will be home to the much-anticipated, $55 million Museum of Old and New Art—or, as it’s already known, MONA.

Last on my Tasmania tasting excursion was a wonderful single malt whisky from Lark Distillery. Made from Tasmanian (Franklin) barley, it’s lightly peated, double-distilled, barreled in 100-liter oak casks and then aged up to 8 years in smaller barrels. Very malty, the peat’s definitely there but doesn’t overwhelm, a light-but-complex taste. I do prefer more peat, but I thoroughly enjoyed this excellent whisky, which is becoming easier to find in the U. S.

By the way, if you're interested in single malt whisky, take a look at this previous post—it contains a link that lets you download a free single malt flavor map.

Tasmania—an island about the size of West Virginia—is known for its immense natural beauty and offers a bounty of possibilities for those who love adventure and the outdoors. To learn more about Tasmania, visit the official government tourism site,

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