When close friends booked an Airbnb holiday house 15 kms from Swansea a couple of years ago, and then invited us to join them for a long weekend at the end of April, I was sure they’d gone bonkers.
After all, who chooses to visit one of the coolest and windiest parts of Tasmania just as winter is descending and adding an icy chill to the air for the better part of the day? And why travel all that way to stay in convict country when there are perfectly suitable hotels in many towns which are surrounded by cafes and restaurants and graced by all of the 21st century creature comforts that we now take for granted?
It was to be my first visit to Swansea, a town that I had heard of and knew of only because of its world class oyster banks. As one does, I hastily entered the search term “Swansea, Tasmania” to do some superficial research before boarding QF 5759 to Hobart, only to discover (thanks to Wikipedia) that in the 1996 Census results, the town of Swansea had a population of 495 – 25% of whom were older than 65! That made it the oldest town in Tasmania, as it had the highest proportion of residents over the age of 65 of any in the state. This was gunna be a hoot! Not.
But as my dear Mum always said, “Never judge a book by its cover”, and having spent 24 hours in the locale, I soon realized something that the plentiful local octogenarians had discovered long ago – that this was one special place!
It turned out that Swansea is located on the Great Oyster Bay and only half an hour from the magnificent Freycinet National Park. The National Park walk is a must for any visitor – especially for those with an over-enthusiastic (then) ten-year-old to wear out before bedtime! But best of all, the town is close to some of the best cellar doors and vineyards that Tasmania has to offer.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of catching up with Tom Wallace, winemaker at Devil’s Corner, at the Noosa Food and Wine Festival. Their cellar door is only about 25 kms from Swansea and easily reached in a day trip from Hobart. As you’d expect, their focus is on the varietals that do well in the cool and challenging climate such as pinot noir, pinot gris and chardonnay. And if Tom will excuse me for saying so, it’s really only their pinot noir that puts them on the oenological map!
At Devil’s Corner, there are three tiers of pinot noir: the Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir 2018 ($24), the Devil’s Corner Resolution Pinot Noir 2017 ($34) and their top end Devil’s Corner Mt Amos Pinot Noir 2017 ($65). And while you can’t fairly compare pinot noir from wildly different regions (and terroir), the Devil’s Corner offerings are up there with the most approachable I’ve tried in recent times.
For an entry level wine that can be found on special for well under $20 a bottle in all of the majors, the Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir 2018 stands up really well. There are delightful cherry and jubey fruit characters up front, and hints of all spice in the middle and a savoury subtlety on the finish. For a grape that is notoriously difficult to grow and is generally expensive, the Devil’s Corner delivers reasonable value, that’s for sure.
If the budget permits, the top end Mt Amos 2017 is a sublime example of the pinot noir style and has way more class than Tasmania’s pin-up boy, David Boon (who famously consumed 52 cans of beer on a flight to London). It’s top end, and lines your tongue with velvet as it caresses its way across your mid-palate and leaves its rich fruit calling card on the back end before the elegance of French oak influences a lingering conclusion.
So, if a friend suggests a sojourn to Tassie’s east coast and a long weekend in an Airbnb, be sure to book into Swansea and pay a visit to Tom Wallace and the Devil’s Corner team; you won’t be disappointed!