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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Bay of Fires

In 1994, the group winemaking team at BRL Hardy identified the regions they believed would make cool climate wines of classical structure, combining fruit intensity with refinement, complexity and persistence of flavour - the ultimate expression and grape and region. Tasmania's potential for the production of classic, cool climate grape varieties was clearly evident.

Eight years later, their vision has finally come to fruition with the launch of Bay of Fires.

The initial interest in the vineyards of Tasmania arose from a desire to seek out genuine cold climate grapes to make fine and elegant, but flavoursome, sparkling wine. Sparkling wines made from grapes grown in these cool climate extremes increasingly impress with their finesse, minerally complexity and persistence of flavour.

Group sparkling winemaker, Ed Carr believes that we are still in the early part of our learning curve with Tasmanian sparkling wines.

"We have only scratched the surface of the potential of what Tasmania can produce. We have spent five years chasing sites, with the philosophy not to have a single vineyard wine or be tied to one particular region. This enables us to source the best fruit from across regions. It is an evolution of style and vineyard resources."

This then raised group white winemaker Glenn James' interest to experiment with white wines of the region.

"Chardonnay showed a fineness and elegance we don't see on the mainland, and testament to that is from 1998, many of the Tasmanian components are being used in our benchmark Eileen Hardy Chardonnay". "2001 marks the first vintage of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc from Tasmania and we will only see these styles improve as we begin to further understand our fruit sources."

Pinot Noir is planned for release later this year, and group red winemaker Stephen Pannell firmly believes that Tasmania has the potential to make world-class Pinot Noir. "As a Pinot lover and a winemaker, Tasmania is very exciting for us. We have yet to unearth the potential Tassie can offer for Pinot Noir and our endeavour is to produce the best Pinot Noir in Australia".

Fran Austin
was appointed to Bay of Fires earlier this year as Winemaker manager to oversee the development of the wine styles, and is excited about the future of Bay of Fires and Tasmania.

"The opportunity to work with one of the best and most interesting fruit resources in the country, coupled with the chance to work with the dedicated winemaking team utilising their knowledge and understanding of the region, is exciting."

"The more we work with the fruit from each region and understand it's potential, the more opportunities we see for Tasmania and the Bay of Fires range."

The Wines

Bay of Fires Chardonnay Pinot Noir

A blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay, fruit was sourced primarily from regions across Tasmania. Hand picked into 500kg bins and whole bunch pressed, the juice was then shipped to Hardys Reynella winery where its development was overseen by sparkling winemaker Ed Carr. Prior to being discorged, ??? the wine spends over four years on yeast lees.

Bay of Fires Riesling

Sourced from a single vineyard in the Pipers River region, fruit was hand picked and lightly macerated to extract juice but limit phenolic extraction. The wine underwent a cool fermentation prior to being clarified and bottled, sealed with a stelvin closure to maintain freshness. 2001 is our first foray into Tasmanian Riesling, and potentially is Tasmania's most exciting white variety.

Bay of Fires Sauvignon Blanc

A single vineyard wine taken 100% from the Tamar Ridge vineyard in the Tamar Valley. Hand picked into 500kg bins and whole bunch pressed. 85% of the blend was fermented in stainless steel with the balance in one year-old French barriques for six months to impart structure and palate weight.

Bay of Fires Pinot Gris

2001 marked not only the first release of this wine, but also the first opportunity any winemaker within BRL Hardy had to work with this classic variety. Fruit was hand picked, whole bunch pressed and fermented with a combination of selected and indigenous yeasts.

60% of the blend was fermented in 10 year-old oak hogsheads to impart mouth-feel and texture, resulting in a wine that is layered, complex and a truly food-friendly style.

Bay of Fires Chardonnay

A combination of grapes from the Tamar Valley, Pipers River and Coal River Valley, the fruit was hand picked, whole bunch pressed and fermented in a combination of new and one-year old French barriques. Fermentation was undertaken using indigenous yeasts with minimal handling and settling. The wine was then kept on lees and stirred for eighth months prior to bottling.

The Winemaker

At only 28 years old, Fran Austin comes to Bay of Fires with a wealth of experience that belies her youth. Fran graduated from Adelaide University in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science (Oenology) and was employed at Domaine Chandon with sparkling winemaker Tony Jordan.

In 1996, Fran headed off to the USA to join the family-owned Matanzus Creek winery in Sonoma County, working as a cellar hand before returning to Australia and heading south. Fran joined the joint venture of Heemskerk and Rochecombe in 1997, working with the Heemskerk wine range, and utilising the production facility at the Rochecombe winery.

Following this five-month stint, Fran headed north to undertake vintage at Argyle winery in Oregon , working as cellar hand having a strong focus on sparkling wine and Pinot Noir. She returned to Australia and joined Petaluma winery in the Adelaide Hills working as a cellar hand with Brian Croser and the winemaking team.

In 1998, Fran again headed to the northern hemisphere for vintage, this time as a "flying winemaker" with Cellarworld International, in the south-west of France. As part of the white winemaking team, Fran was responsible for overseeing the production of white wines from regions across southern France.

Fran finally returned to her hometown of Perth in 1999 and was employed by Larry Cherubino at Houghton as an in-field winemaker, overseeing the processing in contract sites throughout WA before permanently returning to the Swan Valley site as part of the winemaking team.

Fran was appointed to Bay of Fires in January 2002 and now lives on-site.



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