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Bream Creek outshines the Kiwis

A Tasmanian sauvignon blanc knocked the Kiwis off their perch to win top place in the category at the 2008 Wrest Point Royal Hobart International Wine Show, topping off an extraordinary November for Tasmanian growers.

At the Royal Melbourne Wine show earlier in the month, the Josef Chromy 2007 Botrytis Riesling took out the trophy for the best dessert wine. A week later, the hyper-concentrated, rich and luscious 2006 Tamar Ridge Botrytis Riesling and the 2006 Pinot Noir from Stoney Rise beat the best from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to win the dessert wine trophy and the Pinot Noir trophy, respectively, at the Tri-Nations Wine Challenge in Sydney. A Bream Creek Pinot added to the euphoria by being runner-up to its fellow Tasmanian.

At Wrest Point, five days of judging 2,773 wines from around Australia and New Zealand resulted in Tasmanian wines winning two trophies and 19 gold medals in what Chairman of Judges, John Ellis of Hanging Rock Winery in Victoria, said was a spectacular showing of Tasmanian wines.

“Local wines were outstanding this year with seven gold medals awarded to Tasmanian Pinots,” he said. “There were also some brilliant wines among the Tasmanian Rieslings and Sauvignon Blancs.”

Although the Qantas Trophy for the show’s top Pinot Noir this year returned to New Zealand, Tasmania ruled in Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, with trophies awarded respectively to the Bream Creek 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and the Moores Hill 2008 Riesling. In addition, the Moores Hill 2008 Riesling won trophies for the best Tasmanian wine, the best Tasmanian white and the best Tasmanian Riesling, while Bream Creek added a trophy for the best Tasmanian Sauvignon Blanc.

Moores Hill’s trophy quadrella was an exciting welcome to the State for winemakers Julian Allport and Fiona Weller who bought the Moores Hill vineyard earlier this year and moved from South Australia to the Tamar Valley.

Fred Peacock of Bream Creek won a third trophy as the most successful Tasmanian exhibitor. His three Wrest Point trophies will join seven others that his wines, particularly his Pinot Noirs, have accumulated at national shows over the past couple of years.

Of the 287 wines entered by 57 Tasmanian producers, 19 were awarded gold medals, 31 silver and 89 bronze.

“The stars are well aligned for the Tasmanian wine industry,” John Ellis said after the show. “The era when Australia produced wines that could be described as ‘sunshine in a bottle’ is over."

"Our international marketing is switching to the importance of regionality and the difference in varietal expression that each region produces.

Tasmania is well placed to take advantage of this change, in contrast to some other areas of the country. The Australian industry is facing a pretty torrid over-supply situation, coupled with drought and the high cost of water.

"We run the risk of losing many smaller producers, especially in some inland irrigation areas. So, on the very impressive performance of the Tasmanian wines at this show, there is a real opportunity for the Tasmanian industry to take advantage of these changing industry dynamics.”

Fred Peacock, whose vineyard is set in spectacular scenery above Marion Bay, told The Mercury: "New Zealand has a very big share of the Australian Sauvignon Blanc market so it [the Sauvignon Blanc trophy] was a big coup … The critical thing is we pick purely by flavour. Some companies in our climate panic when they see the weather breaking up and pick before they have achieved the peak of flavour.” Mr Peacock said Tasmanian growers needed to hold their nerve and wait for their grapes to ripen in order to produce wines of exceptional quality. "You can't enhance the flavour in the winery. You have to get it right in the vineyard and the picking," he said.

Bream Creek’s trophy followed another spectacular Tasmanian Sauvignon Blanc success against New Zealand competition at the 2008 Decanter World Wine Awards in London. The Tamar Ridge Kayena Vineyard 2007 Sauvignon Blanc beat the best wines of the variety from New Zealand, France, the US and South Africa to win the Decanter Trophy.

The good tidings for Tasmanian wine growers in November followed harsher news in the previous month. A severe one-night frost in the pre-dawn hours of 23 October saw temperatures in the Huon, Derwent and Coal valleys drop to as low as -3*C. Some vineyards lost most of their grapes, with growers in the Coal Valley and the Upper Derwent Valley affected most severely. Earlier this year, the Coal and Derwent valleys had contributed 22.5 % to the State’s record-breaking 9,628-tonne vintage. The pick in both valleys is now expected to be more modest in 2009.

Several vineyards and fruit orchards that suffered devastating losses because of severe, unseasonable frost in November 2006 were hit again.

The State’s biggest cherry grower, Reid Fruits, used helicopters to create a downdraft and prevent frost settling on their trees at Plenty. Reid Fruits had lost nearly 60 per cent of its cherry crop in 2006 and now engages the services of helicopters whenever frosts are predicted.

Pilots remain on standby with their aircraft near the orchard overnight and take to the air if a frost-monitoring system records dangerously low temperatures. The helicopters hovered over the cherry trees, driving down relatively warm air, from 2am to 6.30am on 23 October.

A water-spray frost-protection system averted major damage at the State’s biggest stone-fruit grower, Qew Orchards, in the Coal Valley.

Grain crops and poppies in the northern midlands were also severely affected, as were many apple orchards in the Huon Valley.

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