New vintage wines make their way into our market every year. But in the era of the modern wine industry, seeing a first vintage today has become something of a rarity. In 2011, Shaw + Smith acquired Tolpuddle vineyard in Tasmania. Having planted Pinot noir and Chardonnay since 1988, Michael Hill Smith MW was in town to present the 2012 vintage of these remarkable wines. Their first vintage.
Shaw + Smith is a well-known name started by Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith MW (Martin’s cousin). Although known for their remarkable M3 Chardonnay and Pinot noir from Adelaide Hills, it was their rather plain-looking label that left a deep impression and stayed deep within me. The Tolpuddle label with its crossing shovels, tells an interesting story.
The vineyard’s name took after the Tolpuddle Martyrs who founded England’s first agricultural union. The leader of the Martyrs, George Loveless, was rewarded by deportation to Tasmania. During his exile, he served out some of his sentence working on a property near Richmond, part of which is now Tolpuddle Vineyard. In 1988, local farmers joined forces with Australia’s foremost wine business trailblazers, Garry Crittenden and Tony Jordan, to cultivate a vineyard of Chardonnay and Pinot noir. Tolpuddle Vineyard won the inaugural Tasmanian Vineyard of the Year award in 2006.
Being in the south and away from some of the major cities in Australia, Tasmania had only recently started to gain more traction for its tourism. A cold-hardy German sommelier had previously visited the region thinking nothing could be more chilly than Germany. He was wrong, he went home with Tasmanian cold.
Tolpuddle vineyard, in the cold and dry section of south Tasmania, is less disease-prone than those in the wet regions. The cool climate provides ample time for grapes to ripen slowly into autumn, developing with intense acidity and terrific flavours. While Michael used to believe no one can possibly make Pinot noir and Chardonnay wine better than the Burgundian, today he believes a wine maker’s calling is to bring out the best from the grapes. In his words, Tolpuddle aims to be the best cold climate vineyard in whole of Australia.
His 2012 Chardonnay showed promising potential comparable to a Chablis Grand Cru. A neat clean nose with controlled expression of lime, mineral, touch of ginger and layered with a nice streak of oak. Crisp texture by its mouth-watering acidity without being lean, and ended with a long impressionable finish.
The 2012 Pinot noir on the other hand reflected its own personality. Alluring and seductive perfume aroma that bloomed into a vibrant lively red cherries. Palate was fresh, bright liveliness layered by soft fine tannin body.
With both wines highly palatable at this juncture and possess potential for further ageing, the real question we should be asking is whether their owners could possibly resist finishing the limited production before developing into its full maturity.