by Marji Irish

Ben Radbone from Gryphonwood Vineyards near Launceston was looking for a special way to celebrate Australian Wine Month in April. A stallholder at Launceston’s busy Harvest Market, Ben came up with an ambitious idea: to gather all of the Market’s wine vendors together in an event aimed at getting average people excited about Tasmania’s boutique wineries. All four Harvest wine purveyors set up stalls next to each other at Saturday’s Market to provide a fun, educational experience for visiting wine enthusiasts and the merely curious.

Blue Penguin Wines

Blue Penguin Wines (photo supplied)

Wine Writer Winsor Dobbin at Launceston Harvest

The event, “So You Want To Be a Wine Writer,” was Ben’s brainchild. He invited respected Examiner wine writer Winsor Dobbin to lead Harvest Launceston visitors in a series of thought-provoking discussions about wine in general and the Tasmanian wine industry specifically. Entrants were challenged to exercise their judging skills by writing their own wine review of any of the Pinot Noir wines produced by any of the market’s four winery stallholders. Their write-ups were judged by Winsor Dobbin, with the winning entry to be featured in one of his upcoming columns.

Each of the Launceston Harvest wine sellers contributed bottles of their wine to be awarded to the winning writers, which included prizes for the best hand-written or Twitter-submitted reviews.

Champion of Tasmanian Wines

In a series of three master classes on different wine varietals (covering sparkling, whites, and reds) Winsor showed himself to be a proud champion of Tasmanian wines. “Less than ½ of one percent of all Australian wine is made in Tasmania,” he pointed out, “and there are lots of small wineries here doing interesting, different things and putting out a superior product, almost like cottage industries. Even if investment in the wine industry here triples, say to 1.5% of the Australian market, the Tasmanian wine industry will remain small and exclusive.”

James Welsh, Sommelier at Launceston’s highly regarded Stillwater and Black Cow restaurants, was on hand to provide insight on shifting wine-ordering trends among the restaurant-going public.

Always Buy Chardonnay!

Asked about emerging consumer trends for white wines, James answered “I’ve noticed more people asking for Pinot Gris or a dry Riesling lately,” adding that most of his customers praise the general high quality of most Tasmania’s crisp, dry whites. Winsor interjected “But Chardonnay is on the upswing again.” When reminded of the decades-long trend to order “ABC” (Anything But Chardonnay) he quipped, “That’s changing. It should stand for ‘Always Buy Chardonnay’.”

Wine: Look, Touch and Taste

The stereotype is that wine gatherings are intimidating affairs. Not so the Harvest Launceston event. It was grass roots and hands-on from the get-go. The exhibition tent was laid out with an array of fresh wine grapes that visitors could look at, touch, and taste. Next to the raw grapes, partly fermented wines were displayed, allowing visitors to see what wine looks like in its early stages: cloudy and full of sediment.

Brady's Lookout - Tamar Valley

Brady’s Lookout: Tamar Valley Wine Route

On a nearby table, ten pinot noir samples were “doctored” with the addition of different flavours, and guests played a game to guess what the different aromas were: Jammy? Toasty? Earthy?

Winning Wine Writer

Lynton Hall (pictured below, right) from Murray Bridge, SA tried his hand at the aroma identification test. Lynton was later judged the winner of the wine review contest for his review of Humbug Reach’s 2010 Pinot Noir.

Armed with growing wine knowledge, participants then headed out to get some practice tasting wines and writing their wine reviews, selecting from any of the fine pinots available from the event’s wine purveyors: Humbug Reach Vineyard, Gryphonwood Vineyards, Sharmans Wines and Blue Penguin Wines. Lynton Hall, visiting from South Australia, won the best wine writer prize for his thoughtful and very positive writeup of Humbug Reach’s highly acclaimed 2010 Pinot Noir.

Harvest Launceston Produces a Winning Wine Event

Feedback on the event was very positive from customers, Harvest staff, and the wine producers themselves. Ben concludes, “It’s been a real learning event for us. We’re collecting feedback from everyone on what went well and ways to improve things. We’ve got a really great, collaborative group of wine people here who are genuinely interested in supporting each other. Next time, it’ll be even better!”

Watch for Lynton Hall’s award-winning wine review in an upcoming issue of Winsor Dobbin’s Sunday column in The Examiner.

Author Marji Irish is co-owner (with wine-maker and husband Alan) of Blue Penguin Wines in north west Tasmania. They sell boutique wines and Limoncello at Harvest Launceston and the Burnie Farmers Market. They also encourage visitors to their rustic cellar door experience in Penguin; call the winery on 0448 959 044 to make an appointment. You can also follow Marji Irish via Blue Penguin Wines on Facebook.

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Map: Harvest Launceston Market, Tasmania

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