Nick Glaetzer and Sally Dixon are bearing the fruit of the region’s growth.

Barossa-born, Hobart-based winemaker Nick Glaetzer knew he was onto something good when he won the 2011 Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy for his Mon Père Shiraz, named for his father Colin, whose own illustrious career was exemplified by the Barossa’s favourite red. And while it was pinot noir and riesling that formed the drawcard for Glaetzer’s move to Tasmania, he has dedicated a portion of his and wife Sally’s label, Glaetzer-Dixon Family Winemakers, to crafting elegant, complex and uniquely Tasmanian shiraz. I spoke with Glaetzer on the 10th anniversary of what was a career-defining year (he was also crowned GT WINE’s Young Winemaker of the Year) and ahead of the first vintage at the family’s 2018-planted vineyard in the Coal River Valley – where they hold the island’s largest single planting of shiraz.

Callie Jemmeson and Nina Stocker (right) met via Callie’s father, Dave.

Shiraz is a unique proposition in a region renowned for its pinot, riesling and chardonnay, isn’t it?
NG: Pinot noir is what we’ll hang our hat on down here – it just does so well – but there are some sites that do really well for cool-climate shiraz. The world loves Aussie shiraz because it’s big and bold, but what we’re doing, I don’t think will ever become massive because it’s not what the international market is really after when it comes to Australian red wine. But as far as making wines that look like they might be from the Rhône Valley, or Central Otago or Hawke’s Bay… they’re spot on.

Is it climate that is helping achieve that difference in style?
NG: Yes. We don’t get the ripeness levels, so we don’t get the sugar levels and the fruit structure and all that sort of stuff in the grapes – they’re more savoury focused. You can’t treat it like shiraz on the mainland, you need to work it a bit more; leave it on skins for a bit longer to build up more structure. Pretty much, the way you do it with pinot noir.

There can’t be much of it in Tassie. How many different sites do you work with for shiraz?
NG: We’ve worked with about five shiraz vineyards around Tassie over the years, and we’re now down to one other site. We used to work with Pooley but they now take the fruit for themselves, same with Marion’s Vineyard up in the Tamar. Glenayr Vineyard, which is next door to Tolpuddle, was bought by Tolpuddle two years ago, so that’s no longer available. The final grower I work with is Meadowbank – and we’ll get some grapes off our own shiraz vines this coming season.

Considering those different sites and regions, has there been a consistent thread in the fruit that has gone into Mon Père?
NG: Usually, I’ve had a Coal Valley component to provide richness; cooler sites like Meadowbank make a more elegant but leaner style of shiraz. I’ve kind of always found Meadowbank to be more Saint Joseph/Crozes-Hermitage in style, while Coal River Valley is more Hermitage. The soil in the Coal River Valley is poorer, drier and the mean temperature is higher, which results in a richer style of wine.

Tell us about your new vineyard – how much, and what varieties have you planted?
NG: 12 hectares: six of pinot; four of shiraz and two of riesling. It’s the biggest single planting of shiraz in all of Tasmania. The clone selection was fun – I looked for clones that have high rotundone (white pepper) character. There’s a French clone they use in Hawke’s Bay and the major one down here is an old Tahbilk clone, which works very well. We also have BVOVS10 from the Yalumba nursery, which was propagated from a 100-year-old Barossa vineyard. We put in about half a hectare of that clone just to see what it does.

Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi, Mary Puglisi and Angelo Puglisi of Ballendean Estate.

Planting a vineyard from scratch requires a fair bit of patience. What have you done to help ensure a quality inaugural vintage?
NG: We’ve been treating the vineyard pretty mean (aside from irrigating). The first two pruning seasons we cut everything back to two buds, so for two seasons the vines looked exactly how they looked when we first planted. That was to promote root growth over canopy growth to begin with. The idea behind that is to get them more resistant to drought, but also to get the character of the fruit coming out of the soil. If you irrigate and fertilise and just concentrate on vegetative growth, all the root systems will be quite shallow to begin with. So, you’ll get fruit earlier but you don’t get the depth of character until five or six years later when the roots finally go down.

What does having your own vineyard mean to you after years of buying fruit?
NG: It’s exciting – but it’s also a maturity thing for me, too; I’ve spent the last however many years blending fruit from different vineyards, whereas now it’s about establishing a sense of place. Initially the plan was to supplement our current range with this new fruit – probably 70 per cent of the reason we planted the vineyard was because we couldn’t get enough fruit to expand our current range. But when you invest so much time and effort into a project like this, you want to get a bit more reward out of it. We’re looking at potentially a new single vineyard project coming off this site. I had seen shiraz from a vineyard 900 metres away (Drew Wines) from where we planted. The owner, Rob Drew, established a vineyard there in the late ’90s, and I’ve always been a big fan of his wines so was pretty confident in planting vines there. There’s also a spot at the top of the hill where the soil is super thin and rocky; that could be my ‘Hill of Hermitage’ one day.

Aside from shiraz, let’s not forget pinot noir – something of a recent revolution in Tassie, and the reason you moved there yourself.
NG: That’s right. The pinots I’d seen from Australia in the late ’90s had lovely fruit and smelled like pinot, but then you tasted them and they didn’t have the structure of pinot; there’d be a hit of acid and that was it. In Tassie, with the colder ripening, your fruit gets to a certain point, then your tannins have a chance to catch up. Internationally, I think pinot understands Australia better than Australians understand pinot; I think a lot of us just want a fruity drink at the end of the day.

When we moved down here at the end of ’05, most of the smaller labels you’d see on the shelf were made by one of three contract winemakers. They didn’t have a lot of depth: you could see the fruit, and the potential, but they were safely made. For instance, there was little, if any, whole bunch or stalk inclusion; no time on skins and quick ferments; pretty safe oak and bottled within nine or 10 months of harvest. And now we’ve got those guys that have either come back to the state or built their own winery or have their own winemakers. You’ve got producers like Pooley, or Derwent Estate that were previously made under contract and they’re now making awesome wines. And Marco Lubiana (Steve Lubiana’s son), the first true second-generation Tasmanian winemaker, is making some exciting wines. So, there’s that, and we just have much more experience. In 2005 there were probably five qualified winemakers in the south of Tasmania, and maybe one or two viticulturists. Now there’s probably 30 of each. The vines are older and getting better looked after, and the fruit is getting better understanding.

Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi, Mary Puglisi and Angelo Puglisi of Ballendean Estate.

Mon Père Mini Vertical

2018 Mon Père Shiraz, A$60
90% Meadowbank (Derwent Valley); 10% Glenayr Vineyard (Coal River Valley)
An impressive core of rich dark fruits and white pepper forms the foundations for this intense yet elegant wine. Drink over the next 15 years.

2010 Mon Père Shiraz, A$330 (museum release)
40% Glenayr Vineyard, 40% Meadowbank, 20% Pooley (Coal River Valley)
In a beautiful spot right now, this is testament to both the fruit and Glaetzer’s astute winemaking. Dark berries, charred meats and spice.