A winemaker is leading the push to register Tasmania’s own regional appellation scheme for wine, saying if it is good enough for the French, Tasmania should have similar protections.
But the locals know a visiting delegation of European Union officials may be surprised by Australian winemakers calling for the Tasmania way of doing things to be protected in the same way méthode champenoise is, by geographic indicators (GIs) that stop pretenders hitching a ride on the growing reputation of the island state’s industry.
Andrew Pirie hopes the EU will agree Tasmania’s method is exceptional. (Facebook: Andrew Pirie)
This week, the touring party from the EU arrived in Hobart to discuss the use of GIs, which control the use of names such as parmesan, prosecco, balsamic vinegar and champagne — which are also regions or towns.
Noted Tasmanian winemaker Andrew Pirie said the state developed its own sparkling wine appellation scheme back in the 1980’s, to legally define and protect produce from a geographic area.
“We’ve had a strong belief ever since the foundation of the modern wine industry, that the region of origin and the grapes that come from it are really important to the quality,” he told the Tasmanian Country Hour.
While the exclusive use of the appellation méthode champenoise has benefitted approved makers in Champagne, Mr Pirie said there was no such protection for the appellation sparkling method, which he believes produces wines as good, if not better, as the one developed in France.
He explained consumers could be faced with a wide choice of wine described as being of the sparkling variety, but at vastly different prices and quality.
“I am going to propose we register Tasmanian method, which we’d expect would be supported by the EU and would be recognised globally.
“They are here to teach us about name recognition, and we are going to say ‘we are learning quickly, let’s put it into play’.”
French winemakers won the exclusive right to the appellation méthode champenoise in 1994. (Unsplash: Marco Mornati)
Tasmanian wines, made according to the sparkling method, should have exclusive use of that appellation, which should also be more rigidly defined, he said.
“We want to preserve the uniqueness of our wines and we don’t want to open the door to cheap imitations.
“If you do something really well, people will trade off it, freeloaders,” he said.
But how to tell the difference between a great sparkling wine and fizzy plonk?
There is a way, Mr Pirie explained.
“The bubbles are different, the pressure is different. If you put a pressure meter on the bottle, the cheaper method is a much lower pressure.”
The true Tasmanian sparkling method “gives you those fine bubbles that last a long time in the glass”.
“The cheap bubblies have big bubbles and they fade pretty quickly.”
Wines labelled as being Tasmanian sparkling can be of vastly different qualities, Mr Pirie said. (Facebook: Andrew Pirie)
Respect, s’il vous plaît
Tasmanian producers should enjoy similar protections as the French, Mr Pirie said. (Supplied: Arras)
What form the appellation would take, Mr Pirie was not sure, saying the descriptors “Tasmanian” and “sparkling” would likely feature in any submission.
He said Tasmania had “been on this journey for a long time”, almost as long as the French.
“The French started the modern systems of production 1820 … we are not too far different.
“In 1848 there is a mention of a pink sparkling wine produced in New Town, Hobart which they said was delicious and infinity superior to the imported product,” Mr Pirie said.
“In recent years, Tasmania’s sparkling wine has started to attract significant attention overseas.
“Only 18 months ago, a Tasmanian sparkling wine, of the traditional method, in a blind tasting beat four Grand Marque champagnes, which are the best companies in champagne.”
Pinot noir is the most common grape variety grown in Tasmania, followed by other cool climate varieties like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, riesling, as well as cabernet sauvignon, merlot and gewurztraminer.