It is perhaps the most underrated wine area in Australia but could this also be one of the best?
Wine industry tourism (or “Enotourism” to those proficient in the lingo) is flourishing around Australia and visitors are spoilt for choice.
While some of our best regions, like those in southern Western Australia) are inconveniently located at least several hours drive from a major airport but for the time poor (or impatient) there are plenty of cellar doors with high-quality offerings situated less than an hour’s drive from the point of disembarkation.
A few of my favourites include those around Adelaide (Barossa and McLaren Vale) and Melbourne (Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley), but for the more adventurous, a sojourn to Hobart on the Apple Isle opens the door to some exceptional cool-climate wineries.
Perhaps the most underrated wine region in the country is surprisingly close to the Tasmanian capital. Take a short half hour trek out of the city and the well-directed traveler will find themselves in the magical Coal River Valley, near Richmond to Hobart’s north.
So named because of the abundance of coal in the area, the early British settlers were more concerned with using the valley for grazing and cropping but by the 1970’s a few pioneers had re-planted vines and began to experiment with cool climate varietals. And their early success soon led to a proliferation of vineyards and wineries through the 1990’s and by the 21st century, a thriving tourist trade.
There is no shortage of quality wineries in the Coal River Valley, but the number 1 destination on the itinerary for my next visit is Pooley Wines at 1431 Richmond Road,
It’s one of those quaint traditional family-run operations that eschews quantity for the sake of quality. Established in 1985 by Denis and Margaret Pooley, the initial plantings of 10 rows of Riesling and seven rows of pinot noir were soon joined by plantings of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot grigio, syrah and gewürztraminer.
While their pinot noir is the drawcard which brings most people to the cellar door, my palate says that the Pooley Chardonnay is the star of the stable. It’s a perfect site for cool climate wines with alluvial plains and river terrace soils that are high in acid, excellent drainage and a long ripening period thanks to the cool days and cold nights.
I recently landed bottles of the newly released 2017 Butcher’s Hill 2017 and Cooinda Vale 2017 Chardonnays. Both sell at the same $65 price tag (though cheaper for those in the Pooley Wine club) but if you ask me, the Cooinda Vale trumps its esteemed stablemate.
The fruit for this delightful drop comes from a single vineyard at Cooinda – a site which used to produce fruit for the famed Penfolds Yattarna chardonnay. This is only the third vintage of the wine and it’s destined for greatness.
It’s still bright, lively and youthful in the glass but giving the indication that it will only improve over the next decade or so. There’s a toastiness on the nose and firm peach, nectarine and citrus flavours through the middle. Layer upon layer of spice, cream and nuts emerge as Pooley’s best chardy works its way across the palate before zesty acids tighten the quartz-like conclusion. Third generation winemaker Anna Pooley has dished up a masterclass in how to deliver the perfect balance of line and length. Give it a few years and I suspect that the experience will only get better!
If you’re fortunate enough to be able to pay a visit, cellar door wine tastings are held at historic Belmont House which dates back to the 1830’s. Such is the experience that the outlet was recently awarded Best Wine Tasting Experience in Southern Tasmania by Gourmet Traveller Magazine. But don’t take their word for it; check it out for yourself!
To listen to what Travis has to say about the Cooinda Vale 2017 Chardonnay click here