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Tolpuddle Vineyard

Tasmania

Background

The Tolpuddle vineyard was purchased by the shareholders of Shaw and Smith in 2011. It is situated in the Coal River Valley, in Tasmania’s southeast corner. First planted in 1988 by Tony Jordan and Garry Crittenden, it has since established a reputation for growing exceptional quality grapes. The focus has been on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, given the cool climate in this part of Australia. What sets it apart from other cool climate areas is its low annual rainfall (about 500 mm). This cool but relatively dry climate allows the grapes to ripen slowly in autumn, without the disease pressure that heavy rainfall can bring. 

The vineyard took its name from the Tolpuddle Martyrs, who were transported to Australia in 1834 for starting an agrarian union. The leader of the group, George Loveless, served part of his sentence working on a property near Richmond called GlenAyr, part of which is now the Tolpuddle Vineyard. The Tolpuddle Vineyard is north east facing with a gentle slope. The soil is light silica over sandstone, and of moderate vigour, ensuring well-balanced vines. Under the current owners Martin Shaw and Michael and Matthew Hill Smith, there is a firm commitment to making the site one of Australia’s great vineyard domains for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The first release of Tolpuddle Vineyard is from the excellent 2012 vintage. The season was cool to mild, with a few periods of warmer weather helping achieve flavour and tannin ripeness. Crops were 20% lower than normal, with small bunch sizes, and there was very good concentration of flavour. The Chardonnay grapes were all hand-picked, whole-bunch pressed and fermented in French oak barriques. Only a small portion was put through malolactic fermentation, so the freshness of the natural acidity was retained. The wine is delicate yet savoury with a firm seam of acidity that bodes well for ageing. It is outstanding.

The Pinot Noir grapes were all hand-picked, fermented in open fermenters and hand plunged throughout, with an average of 25% of whole bunches. The wine was then aged in French oak barriques (approximately one third of which were new) for 10 months. The wine is floral and aromatic with lovely depth, soft and grainy tannins and a surprising underlying power. These wines fulfil the massive potential that has long been evident in Tasmania, if seldom realised. With the Tolpuddle Vineyard wines, this potential is excitingly realised.