Blue Penguin Wines, located in the beautiful seaside town of Penguin in Tasmania’s north west coast region, produces cool-climate wines made entirely from locally grown Tasmanian grapes. All of the wines (Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Riesling, and Pinot Gris) are made by Alan Irish, a former Queensland lawyer with a passion for good wine and strong opinions about what’s good and bad about the wine-making industry.
Blue Penguin Wines: Sea Change Tasmania
Blue Penguin Wines started out as a Tasmanian sea-change dream for Alan Irish. His only experience up until the year 2000 was as a wine drinker. “I’d heavily supported the wine making industry for years as a dedicated consumer,” Alan jokes. “I guess I felt a need to give something back to the industry that has made me so happy.”
He studied winemaking on his own, with the support of knowledgeable and patient winemaker friends. Alan started selling his wines commercially through his company Grandvewe Cheeses in Birchs Bay, south of Hobart. There, his wines were sold alongside the cheesery’s fine sheep’s cheese and other gourmet products.
Alan’s winemaking philosophy is a bit avant-garde: He thinks wines should be allowed to develop naturally, without filtering, clarifying, or using chemicals to manipulate their flavour. By avoiding excessive intervention, Alan aims to produce wines that are outside the norm, yet exceptionably drinkable.
Alan allows each vintage to “become the wine it wants to be,” not the winemaker’s vision of what consumers expect. As a result, Blue Penguin Wines are a pure reflection of the local climate and Alan’s ‘soft-touch’ approach to the winemaker’s art.
Marji and Alan Irish: Perfect Match
Marji and Alan Irish met in 2009, when Marji was hired to work at the cheesery. Marji Schumann had closed her professional training business in Atlanta in the United States, sold everything she owned, and moved to Tasmania. “I was really ready to live differently,” Marji recalls. “I sat at a desk in front of a computer for 18 hours a day. My family background, though, was as Colorado fruit growers and I kept feeling drawn back to that kind of life.” Marji decided to move to Tasmania to be closer to her extended family in Queensland but far away from that state’s relentless heat.
Marji and Alan quickly realized they were the perfect match. Together, they moved to Penguin in the north west coast region of Tasmania, began planting fruit trees and vines, and launched Blue Penguin Wines. “This area of the state is perfect for winemaking,” Alan adds. “The long, cool growing season produces elegant fruit. Plus, the cool weather is perfect for fermenting and aging wines. And, since we’re on the coast, there’s no frost to hurt maturing grapes. Ever. Our Penguin location is perfect for what we do.”
If Life Gives You Lemons… Make Limoncello!
Marji and Alan Irish have recently branched out in the form of producing Limoncello, a sweet lemon liqueur made with only the zest of their farm-grown lemons. Marji hand-peels each lemon, then steeps the peels in pure grape spirits to draw out the lemons’ strong aromatics and flavours. The couple have begun featuring the Limoncello alongside their wines at various Tasmanian markets. They have planted 50 lemon trees on their farm to support a quickly growing market for this refreshing after-dinner drink.
Blue Penguin Wines alternates between the Launceston Harvest Market and the Burnie Farmers Market, appearing at each market every other weekend. The wines are available at several restaurants in Penguin (Casablanca, 52 Main Cafe and Wild Cafe) in Burnie at Bayviews Restaurant and Delish Gourmet Delicatessen, and at Providore 24 in Stanley. They are also available at select bottle shops in Sheffield, Launceston, and Hobart.
Blue Penguin Wines encourages visitors. Their very rustic cellar door is open by appointment for parties of four or more, and curious visitors will be treated to a brief farm tour and invited to try any new wines that are still in barrel. Bookings can be made by calling the winery on 0448 959 044. You can also follow Blue Penguin Wines on Facebook.
Marji and Alan Irish initially contacted Think Tasmania to offer a reader giveaway to promote their business. We were so interested and impressed by their story, we decided to publish
this article as well. It’s been a great collaborative effort and we thank our writer and photographer Carol Haberle for her involvement too. And of course, stay tuned for that giveaway, coming your way soon!
29 April 2013 ~ Think Tasmania subscribers can now enter for a chance to win a twin-pack of 2010 vintage, prize wines from
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