As a South Australian, I empathise with Tasmania – we are both given a bad rap. Fortunately thanks to a world class sporting ground and Barossan Shiraz, Adelaide is no longer synonymous with ‘the city of churches’. Having recently returned from the other brunt of Australian stereotypes, it is clear to me that such accusations are a case of Chinese Whispers – stemming from the fact that everybody is treated like family.
After arriving in Tasmania’s Tamar Valley, a scheduled private tasting with Andrew Pirie from Apogee is a promising start, rose fronted rows of immaculate vines a testament to Andrew’s doctoral thesis on viticulture. Without sounding pretentious, Andrew’s work is similar to that of Vermeer, the 17th century artist best known for ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’. Vermeer was famous for subtle symbolism, with every element in his paintings having a purpose. In the case of Apogee, those roses are not there to look pretty – but to act as an alert system to disease or pests.
Parking the hire Toyota Corolla, we are greeted by Andrew and Ollie, the resident white Labrador. Grabbing our Riedels, the four of us set camp on the deck – Ollie asleep by our feet after only five minutes. The raw, unpretentious setting could have been mistaken as casual drinks. However Apogee’s wines are anything but. Like Chanel in the fashion world, Apogee is understated luxury. This is not Paris Hilton’s multicolour, monogram Louis Vuitton.
Each wine was introduced to us with tenderness- like children Andrew explained “that you couldn’t play favourites”.
2017 Deluxe Brut
Liquid gold with bubbles pirouetting through the centre. The nose is almost ‘Australian’ – a combination of sand and sea with hints of freshly baked Anzac biscuits. Soft on the palate, like spoonfuls of lemon meringue, with the perfect curd to meringue ratio.
2016 Deluxe Brut Taché
Its colour a reflection of the apricot hued Roses in Grandma’s garden and a nose to match. The wine bringing with it nostalgia of the great lady, gentle but poised and the treats given to us as kids: strawberries dipped in sugar and Monte Carlos from the Assorted Creams. Andrew explained there is an A, B and C when creating wine: Acid, Balance and Complexity but what he’s been able to do is bottle sentiment.
2018 Deluxe Vintage Rosé
Mid tasting, Andrew and I discussed the notion that wines can be personified. With 76% Pinot Noir, 19% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Meunier, here was a powerful woman – elegant and rich. Rose perfume on her décolletage, she is complex and intriguing – raspberry, rhubarb crumble, brazil nut, milk arrowroot biscuits and a cherry on top!
2019 Deluxe Vintage Rosé
Keeping with the analogy, if 2018 was the Queen, 2019 is the Princess. Innocent beauty, like Kate Moss in the early 90s – she’s likely to develop as her predecessor. Gardenia, abundant red fruits of cherry and raspberry all dusted in Christmas cake spice. In the glass, she’s full with a mousse of vanilla wafers and glacé cherries.
2021 Alto Pinot Gris
The Pinot Gris/Grigio train was not one I had fully boarded, until Andrew booked my ticket. Its Stelvin like an atomizer – releasing this beautiful perfume, reminiscent of my favourite scent by Issey Miyake (one I was impressed that Andrew knew). White blossom and lilies entwined with Bosc pears and nectarine. I’d be lying if I didn’t consider dabbing a little bit of eau d’Apogee to the inside of my wrist!
2019 Alto Pinot Noir
A reflection of the neighbouring landscape – one side of Apogee is a blueberry farm, on the other is the world’s largest privately owned lavender farm. Entwined with these blueberry and lavender notes – cranberries, spearmint and redskin lollies. Silky in texture with mid palate sweetness – a moreish wine evolving with each sip.
Returning back to our Corolla, the 6L/100km fuel efficiency allowed us to budget a few more bottles. And, with the name of Tasmania’s Premier, Peter Gutwein, literally meaning ‘good wine’, it is no surprise that the island’s wines do not disappoint.