Fans of Holm Oak may have stumbled upon our Ilex Pinot Noir – it’s our delicious everyday drinking red. Like a fair whack of our wines, this one is stamped with a curious moniker, the Ilex. So what is the Ilex and what is its connection to Holm Oak? Here, we explain a little about the fascinating history of our Tamar Valley property and the people who came before us, all the way back to the late 19th century.
But let’s start with the main character in this tale – his name is Alexander North and he had a thing for trees. He was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1858, but at age 27, he left the safety of his homeland for the undeniable call of the colony down under, namely Hobart.
After arriving in Australia in 1885, Alexander built up his career as an architect. His reputation grew enormously, and he garnered a reputation as an exceptional church architect. Among his admired designs is the Holy Trinity church in Launceston, as well as a large chapel for Trinity College, University of Melbourne.
If you look at his designs, you’ll discover that Alexander had a penchant for native timbers, particularly Tassie oak, and he depicted native flora and fauna in his decorative woodwork designs, replacing the stuffy old English styles of emblems and motifs with art nouveau expressions of eucalyptus leaves and waratahs, as well as possums, bandicoots and platypuses. Alexander also wrote books about Australian ferns and forestry, and was secretary of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Forest League.
From our research at Holm Oak, it seems Mr North’s creative displays of botanical designs were inspired by the property on which his home was built. So where was his home? Right here, at Holm Oak! Back in the day when Federal land was being granted to citizens by the government, Alexander acquired one of the 100-acre blocks in the north Tassie Rowella region at the beginning of the orchard boom. By this time, Alexander was married and needed a roof over his and his wife’s head.
So Alexander built the handsome gabled house known as Holm Lea on the property (unfortunately it was subdivided off and now belongs to our neighbours) and later, his son Eric, who was a trained agriculturist, managed the planting of the many orchard trees on the property.
Alexander’s passion for botany and European trees is evidenced in the planting of a very fine group of oaks, scarlet oaks and silver birch all over the original estate, many of which are still standing today.
Alexander didn’t stop there. His knowledge of European trees was applied to the plantation of English ash at Hollybank, a property near Lilydale in north-east Tasmania. Why did he plant these trees whose wood happens to be particularly hardy and elastic? Tennis, that’s why. The plan was that Alexander would harvest these trees for the manufacture of tennis racquets.
As a result, Ash Plantations Ltd was formed in 1933 to supply the Alexander Patent Racquet Company of Newstead. North was a shareholder in this company and wholeheartedly endorsed the venture.
‘I consider this property to be almost ideal for the growth of English Ash Trees … I venture to predict that if ever a plantation is set out, the sheltered valleys will grow ash trees of gigantic proportions.’
But alas, those gigantic proportions were never realised. As the year 1940 came to an end, anxiety loomed over the slow growth of these ash trees. What to do? Analyse the soil and interplant alternative ash species in an attempt to boost growth. But costs continued to rise and the trees never grew to sufficient heights for the timber to be harvested. In 1950, the tough decision was made by Alexander to discard the project and sadly, no racquets were ever made from his trees.
The good news is that the Alexander Patent Racquet Company, on the corner of Abbott and Wentworth streets in Launceston, procured timber from other sources and in the 1930s and 1940s, thrived, making tennis racquets, as well as cricket bats, badminton and squash racquets, furniture, wooden bicycle rims and, during World War II, ammunition boxes. It no longer operates but the pieces from this factory can be found all over the country.
So what happened to the Holm Oak property? Alexander North’s daughter, Mrs Reid Bell, was a respected landscape water colourist. After Mr North’s death, she turned Holm Lea into a small convalescent house for the elderly. Upon her death, the property took on a flavour of the vinous variety – it was sold to Justice Edward Butler, who, along with his son Nicholas, planted Holm Oak vineyard’s first vines (pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon) in 1983. The first wines were made by the Butlers in 1987 and in 1991, Riesling was planted.
In 2004, the property was purchased by Bec Duffy’s parents Robyn and Ian Wilson, then Tim and I bought it from them in 2013, and the rest, as they say, is (our winemaking) history…
But what of the Ilex? This superhero-sounding name is the Latin word for the holm oak genus or evergreen oak (Quercus ilex) – the magnificent trees that still grace our property, planted by Alexander North all those years ago. Perhaps by osmosis, Alexander’s passion for botany has been transferred to us, the current owners of Holm Oak, and has come to life in our passion for nurturing Tassie grapes that are crafted into beautiful cool-climate wines. Oh, and we don’t mind the odd game of tennis but the racquets have moved into the 21st century – no timbre frames here. Just graphite or carbon fibre. And we’re happy to leave the production of those materials to the professionals…
Are you considering travelling to the Tamar Valley for your next getaway? If so, yippee! Don’t forget to drop into Holm Oak’s cellar door while you’re here. We’ve done the research on where to stay in our valley – from hotels to bed and breakfasts, there’s an accommodation option to suit all travellers. Take a look at Holm Oak’s top accommodation tips.
Picture this: you’re sitting on the rotunda of this picturesque accommodation estate with a glass of Holm Oak’s Pinot Noir in hand, enjoying the jaw-dropping views of Beauty Point and its magical surrounds. This place offers visitors three beautiful self-contained Federation cottages designed to take advantage of the Tamar River views. King beds, corner spas, welcome breakfasts – it’s a menu for a beautiful weekend of old-world charm.
If modern is more your style, book a room at Rosevears Hotel, just 20 minutes from Launceston. There are 26 contemporary hotel suites – one- and two-bedrooms, plus spa suites, with king-sized beds and spectacular floor-to-ceiling views of the Tamar River. The on-site restaurant serves delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
Immerse yourself in vineyard life by staying in this renovated 1940s farm cottage. Perched on 140 acres of vineyard and grazing land, 35km from Launceston and five minutes from Exeter and Beaconsfield, this rustic cottage affords gorgeous views of the working farm. Wake up to rural beauty and serenity while digging into your gourmet breakfast hamper of muesli, yogurt, local fruit, bread and homemade jams.
This farm stay accommodation is situated in Glengarry in the beautiful West Tamar Valley. It’s a working pig farm that produces artisan bacon, pork and sausages and you can stay in its on-site guest accommodation – and sample its wonderful gourmet produce while you’re there! Visit the pigs and the chooks, barbecue Langdale Farm snags and pop open a bottle of Holm Oak’s Ilex Pinot Noir.
If visual aesthetic and design are up your alley, book a room at the Hatherly Birrell Collection featuring contemporary artwork, architectural and design elements in its accommodation options. With more than 40 design awards between them, owners Rebecca and Jack Birrell are a graphic design and architect duo, who have developed this accommodation, art and design fusion as an expression of their design practice. Choose from self-contained pavilions with outdoor spas, La Petite Chambre Matisse, which is a room housed in the magnificent 1830s mansion Hatherly House, and a city-style apartment right in the centre of Launceston.
Most drinkers would have been introduced to Cabernet Sauvignon somewhere along their wine journey. Why? It’s one of the most widely planted varieties in the world. From its sacred home in France’s Bordeaux to Lebanon, California, New Zealand and Australia, Cabernet weaves its magic wand over wine drinkers everywhere with its va-va-voom body (Kim Kardashian of the wine world?), its soaring tannins and ‘here I am’ acidity.
Cabernet Sauvignon was born as a result of a happy accident – in 17th Century southwestern France, Cabernet Franc jumped into bed with Sauvignon Blanc and they made a Cabernet Sauvignon baby. This relatively new variety has risen exponentially since its arrival on the wine scene because it’s incredibly easy to grow. Its skin is thick, its vines are tough and its berries bud late, avoiding nasty Jack Frost and his destructive ways.
So what does a classic Cab Sav smell and taste like? As is the case with most varieties, flavour profile is governed by climate and soil type, but let’s take a top-line approach. Its aromas span blackcurrant, mint and cedar to black cherry, olives, eucalyptus and menthol. Its robust flavour profile broadly covers blackcurrant, cassis and mulberry characteristics to herbal, minty, chocolatey, earthy notes, and that scandalous term “cigar box”.
In our cool-climate Tassie backyard, Cab Sav is all about blackcurrant, peppered by mint, cedar and menthol. Holm Oak’s Cabernet Sauvignon displays cassia characters with an added hint of chocolate, leather and tobacco. In SA’s Coonawarra, also a cool climate, Cab Sav grown from its hallowed terra rossa earth is a choc-mint flavour bomb, with typical blackcurrant notes and a happy savoury ending.
In moderate climates, blackcurrant is spiced with black cherry and olive; pump up the temperature to the max in even warmer climates and currant flavours can swing towards the over-ripe “jammy” spectrum.
But for every Cab Sav on the shelf, there’s a Cabernet blend right next door. You see, winemakers can’t help themselves. Sandwiched in between Cab Sav’s lovely upfront fruit and aromas, and its solid finish at the tail end is often a dip in flavour – the middle palate needs a boost. And that boost comes in the form of another variety.
Meet Merlot, Cabernet’s dance partner. This traditional variety of Bordeaux is juicy, fleshy and alluring. Who wouldn’t want to do the tango with this inky blue-skinned variety? Cabernet’s austere nature melts under the influence of Merlot. Holm Oak’s version of Cabernet Merlot is medium in weight, pure in fruit flavour (raspberry and blackberry) with a fleshy and smooth palate.
Let’s not rule out blending other varieties with Cab Sav, including its parent Cabernet Franc, and its fellow heavy-hitter Shiraz. In a typically Aussie bolshie move, winemakers here blend Cab Sav with Shiraz despite this fusion being forbidden by French regulations. Blending the noble grape of Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon) with the noble grape of the Rhône (Shiraz) is a no-no in the French winemaking world.
But Aussie winemaker, and Penfolds Grange architect, Max Schubert didn’t get the memo. He blended Coonawarra Cabernet with Barossa Shiraz to craft Penfolds 60A. Some regard the 1962 vintage of this wine the greatest in our nation’s winemaking history. Blending these two varieties creates robust, complex wines of great ageing potential.
On its own or when paired with other varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon is a dignified variety but self-deprecating enough to know when it can be made better by its better half (or quarter as may be the case). Here’s cheers to Cabernet, our lioness of the wine wilderness.
Pinot ‘d’ Pig introduces the Piglets
Sometimes, life throws you lemons. I had two pelted at me a few months ago. They came in the form of two little piggies. Their names? Mayonnaise and Pinot Junior – oh, tone it down… I can hear your hearts melting from the corner of my pigpen in the Tamar Valley.
Once I was the only pig on the Holm Oak estate.
I made all the rules.
I ate all the apples.
I made the kids laugh while their parents sipped on Pinot Noir.
But Bec and Tim had to go and add to the family, didn’t they? One pig was not enough. But I’m a tough swine. When life throws you lemons, I follow the rules of the leader of the modern world. Not that orange-faced Trump card – I’m talking about Beyoncé. I make Lemonade.
So allow me to introduce you to the Holm Oak homies – Pinot Junior, my pink and brown doppelganger, and Mayonnaise, the brown-hued piglet. They’re sweet really. They’re miniatures, so they’ll never reach my stature, both physically and figuratively. I’ll put them to work as soon as Bec and her boys release them from their cotton wool enclosure.
I’ve been General Manager for years now – my sweat and tears have marked the land on which we produce these great Tassie wines. The time has come to hand the reins to the next generation. So Pinot Junior and Mayo, get ready. You’re up next.
Now excuse me while I finish my book, Animal Farm.
Autumn in Tassie is pure magic. Autumn in Tassie with a glass of Holm Oak wine in your hand is, well, out of this world. You’ve not experienced the deep south of Australia until you’ve taken a road trip through the Tamar Valley region, stopped in at our cellar door, enjoyed the fresh, local produce, thrown an apple or six at the delightful Pinot d’ Pig and explored some of Tasmania’s best scenic routes.
So, are you ready to find out where to drop the pin on your map? Here are our top picks of places to see, visit and explore in the Tamar Valley. We promise it’s worth the trip!
Notley Fern Gorge
Above the Tamar Valley lies Notley Fern Gorge – a patch of rainforest, filled with the scent of eucalyptus due to the abundance of mature trees providing a canopy above the understory, walking track and picnic area at ground level below. As you wander around the 45-minute track, learn about the local flora and fauna, and lay your eyes on the mystical burnt out “Bradey’s Tree”, an infamous stop within the state reserve for its bushranger ties and naming rights. And it’s only 20 minutes from Holm Oak’s winery, so you can sit back and enjoy a glass of our very best when you’re done with your eco-friendly history lesson.
Tamar Island Wetlands
With dedicated seating at the Tamar Island Wetlands, bird watching has never been so fun. Tuck yourself and the family away in the “bird hide” while observing the wetland birds frolic on the lagoon. Be sure to make a stop at the interpretation centre and listen in on the centre’s talk about the ecology of the local area, learning all about the space before heading across to the island and the wetlands themselves, via the boardwalk. There’s a barbeque, picnic area and shop to ensure you have everything for a great day out. BYO bottle from Holm Oak – we’re just down the road!
Tamar Valley Art Shack
Set on the edge of the Tamar River is the Tamar Valley Art Shack where you can immerse yourself in the local creative scene and see works from local Tasmanian artisans. In-house artist and Art Shack owner Dan Villiers is more than happy to chat technique and talk you through his pieces as you wander through the gallery. Or, if you’re sticking around, take a lesson. Dan has a lot to share – rates start at $60 per hour. You know what goes beautifully with a piece of art? A glass of Holm Oak 2016 Pinot Noir. Because artists drink red, right?
Hollybank Treetops Adventure
The family that zip lines together, stays together! At Tasmania’s most breathtaking treetop attraction you’ll find the best bonding experience for the adventurers at heart. If the lines are too high for you and your crew, choose the more civilised rope tour or hop on a Segway and zoom around the forest floor on two wheels instead. With expert guides and safety on point, the team at Hollybank Treetops Adventure ensures you have the most amazing day exploring the forest reserve, which includes native and exotic forest foliage. Plus, at this time of year, the fire is roaring at the Hollybank Café. So stop by for a coffee and a light snack after the adrenalin rush.
Tamar River Cruises
The most scenic place to appreciate the Tamar Valley? From the deck of a Tamar River Cruise boat. Family owned for more than two decades, Tamar River Cruises has something to suit every sea-faring tourist. Cruise for 50 minutes and hear about the history of the area, while taking in the spectacular Cataract Gorge. Or opt for four hours on the open water and enjoy local produce with your lunch on board. The choice is yours.
When you’re done exploring, before you pack up and head home, be sure to follow the Tamar Valley Wine Route past Holm Oak so we can say goodbye. (And ensure you take one of your favourite drops from our cellar door as a souvenir!)
The 2016/2017 season could not be more different than the previous season. It’s been incredibly wet and cool down in Tasmania, compared to the hot, dry summer we experienced the year before. This means we’ve seen LOTS of growth on the vines. Poor Tim hasn’t left his tractor seat since the start of January.
Why? In cooler spells, vines need to be “trained” so the shoots grow up and the fruit (grape bunches) are at the bottom of the shoots where they’re more exposed to sunlight and air. Once the shoots are firmly positioned with wires in an upright fashion, we trim any lateral shoots and shoot tops to form a nice, neat canopy.
Then we can then leaf pluck! This involves removing the leaves that are shading the fruit to allow even more airflow and sunlight. The sunlight allows for good tannin development in red wines and also helps reduce disease outbreaks. The airflow is essential for the grape bunches to dry out quickly after rain, preventing them from going rotten.
In the top pictureyou can't see any bunches because the leaves have not been removed, however in the bottom picture you can see bunches as the leaves have been removed. We only remove leaves on the Eastern side of the vine so the grape berries don't get damaged by the afternoon sun. These pictures were taken in the afternoon, so the exposed fruit are in the shade and the grapes on the sunnyside are protected from the hotter afternoon sun.
Normally we would trim and leaf pluck only once, but Tim is on his third round of trimming and second round of leaf plucking, not to mention all the slashing of the grass – it’s out of control!
Despite the difficulties with all the vigour in the vineyard, the grapes are growing well. They’re currently going through a process called verasion (green ripening) where they start to soften and the red grapes begin to colour. Due to the cool conditions, veraison is about 10 days later than “normal” (although in Tassie, there is no normal!). Last year, our first pick was on 29 February, but I suspect first pick will be later this time round… and harvest for sparkling wines will start mid to late March.
In the winery, we’re busy getting wines into bottle to make way for the new vintage. The 2016 Pinot Noir is now blended and awaiting filtration and bottling, and I will be blending up the Chardonnay in the next week or two. We are also tiraging our 2016 Sparkling. This is the process of adding sugar and yeast to our sparkling wine base and bottling it for bottle fermentation and maturation – check out the video below to watch triaging in action. Fingers crossed the yeast does its thing and we have pristine bubbly Tassie sparkling for you this time next year!
It’s no secret that one of the best parts of being on holidays is the food, and the deliciousness on offer in Tasmania doesn’t disappoint. Long brunches at cool cafés, eating out at a fab new restaurant or bar every night, and wine tastings at the Holm Oak cellar door are what days spent in and around Launceston are made of.
If you’re staying in Launceston, there are must-visit places to add to your daily menu. Including a drive to the Tamar Valley to spend the day with us at Holm Oak, chatting with Bec about her winemaking philosophy or checking in with our General Manager, Pinot d’ Pig (he loves an apple!), while enjoying the beautiful range of our home-grown wines and local produce on offer. We’d love to see you (and feed you!).
Browse through our hot 5 tips on where to eat…
Geronimo Aperitivo Bar & Restaurant
Open Monday to Saturday from 5pm til late, with lunch thrown in the mix Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Geronimo is every foodie’s happy place. And if you just can’t decide what to try, the Geronimo team of experts can put together a whole food experience menu for you. Sit back and soak up the timber bar surrounds and dark accents at Gerominos – and enjoy a great meal to boot!
A hop, skip and a jump from the Royal Park and North Esk River, Cinco Passiones is the perfect spot for a late afternoon (or late-night) beverage. With a drinks list that includes cocktails, craft brews, wine and even high tea, this quaint bar is the perfect pre- or post- outing stop. Oh, and dairy fans unite… the cheese plates are a must!
Start the day right with a coffee made entirely from local beans and milk at Amelia’s Espresso. Open from 7am, this always buzzing café has an energetic vibe which makes for a great meeting place, and although they don’t serve full meals, there are plenty of delicious, locally produced snacks (including gluten-free) on offer to stop the tummy rumbling!
A Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine award winner in 2016, Stillwater is the quintessential Tasmanian eatery in the prettiest location you ever did see. With complete breakfast, lunch and dinner menus that evolve with the seasons, Stillwater offers your tastebuds everything from their very own toasted granola and rye waffles in the AM, to seared Tasmanian scallops and slow-roasted Mount Gnomon Farm pork belly in the PM, along with an award-winning wine list. We’re a fan of the brekky but you could eat here all day!
Penny Royal Launceston
One for the family. What better combo could you ask for than “adventures and dining” all under one roof? At Penny Royal you can go from restaurant to sailing, café to rock-climbing, or ice creamery to movie night… For the grownups in the group, take a sip of the local wines at Penny Royal’s cellar door or just join in with the kids fossicking in the stream bed for beautiful gem stones after a convict pizza. There is SO much to eat, try, do and explore at this iconic Launceston stop, you might need more than a day to cover it all!
So folks, it’s that time of year again. Every pig (and person) is dashing about in a flap, ticking peeps off their Christmas list, planning for festive functions and generally getting themselves in a tizz in this crazy lead-up to ONE DAY!
Never fear. Pinot D’Pig is here. It would be remiss of me not to help you fly through this period with a few wise words from the Pen. I don’t know much, but I know my wines, given my family roots and all. So let’s start with Christmas Day lunch. What are you going to drink with all that food? How will you appease Aunt Joan who only drinks pink fizz? And what about Bob, the orphan neighbour with no family in the hood who knocks on your door at 11am and is always the last to leave…?
Holm Oak has a drop for everyone. Let’s start with the arrivals. If you don’t love a good Tassie sparkling, I don't trust you. Holm Oak’s bubbly is the newest wine in Bec and Tim’s collection and it’s damn fine. Fine beading, fine flavours, fine finish – it’s a beauty. Buy a Six-Pack – it will see you through until at least 12.30pm, even with Bob around.
It’s lunchtime and now we’re looking for a drop to pair with the roast birds and erm, maybe a roast piggie or two. Serious wine lovers swear by white with most meats on the paler side, so go for Holm Oak’s Chardonnay. Its rich succulence marries fiercely with that full porky flavour we all love. And there’s enough acidity to cleanse the palate after chowing down on a cheeky spot of crackling. Hot foot it to our blog post for a top recipe for Pinot d’Pig-approved Roast Pork with Apples & Cider.
Serious drinkers move into the red spectrum about halfway through the main meal, so plonk a bottle of Pinot Noir on the table and watch jaws drop when they savour the opulence of Holm Oak’s top-tier Tassie expression, aptly christened The Wizard. Its big and rich palate and silky tannins scream Merry Christmas! It’s a winner.
But what about Auntie Joan? Don’t get your knickers in a knot – we’ve thought of everyone. Holm Oak’s Pig & Pooch Moscato tastes of floral, musk and spice, and all things nice. And it sits well with a fruit flan, a fruitcake or any fruity cousin who’s misbehaving. Low in alcohol (6.5%), light on carbonation, high in appeal.
I do hope this rundown helps plan a suitably stable yet entertaining festive celebration. If none of these wines floats your boat, head on over to Holm Oak’s wine page and choose your own adventure. I won’t hold it against you.
If you fancy sharing, head to my Facebook page and tell me all about your own festivities.
High hooves to one and all.
Did you know the Tamar Valley Region – the home of Holm Oak – is under an hour’s drive from beautiful Launceston? That’s less than a whole episode of The Block. So if you’re planning a Tasmanian escape this summer and want to check out gorgeous scenery, sip on delicious Holm Oak wines and meet our very friendly swine Pinot d’ Pig, come to our cellar door and stay for the day.
Our cellar door is always open (between 11am and 5pm that is!) with all our great wines available for tasting. Dry or sweet, light or full-bodied drops, the choice is yours. We also have our home-grown cider available for tasting. Winning! Your wines can be taken to the next level with a range of local produce, including cheese, terrines and salmon.
Bring the kids, who can take apples from our on-site orchard and feed our resident Pinot d’Pig. We might be off the beaten track, but we’d love to welcome you to Holm Oak one day this summer.
Other hot spots to check out on your way to Holm Oak…
Just a hop, skip and a jump from Holm Oak vineyards is the always interesting Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre, where you can learn about the history of the Beaconsfield Mines, engage with over 10,000 historical pieces from Beaconsfield and the Tamar Valley, and interact with buttons, tunnels and levers throughout the grounds while searching for gold. There’s even a 3D experience to take you into the mine and discover what lies beneath.
Another must for your time in Launceston is to discover the great outdoors and there’s no better place to do that than at The Cataract Gorge. Only a 15-minute walk from Launceston’s city centre is mother nature at her best. Take a ride on the Scenic Chairlift and view the gorgeous surrounds from high above, wander the pathway along the cliff face and take in the views of the South Esk River, or chow down on a Basin Burger or some Creamy Seafood Chowder for lunch at the Basin Café. Day sorted.
Ever wondered what a Seahorse farm might look like? Wonder no more. Born from research by local marine biologists to help protect the species, Seahorse World in Beauty Point (around 50 minutes from Launceston) gets you up close and personal with this underwater creature in its unique habitat. The Cave of the Seahorse exhibit features various types of seahorses, while The Southern Ocean Aquarium – where the headline act meets seadragons, cuttlefish and even sharks – provides a sensory overload of the aquatic kind. Plus, the kids will love the touch pool so much, you’ll be hard pressed to get them outta there.
Off to market
Every Saturday from 8.30am to 12.30pm the local farmers and friendly volunteers get together to host the Harvest Launceston, Community Farmers’ Market to show off their produce and sell their wares. Chat to the stallholders about how best to cook their delicious local produce and discover what’s in season, or stop and have a bite of tasty ready-to-eat foods on offer. Korean pancakes or Tasmania’s best seafood plates, anyone? It’s a must visit.
Talk to the animals
After a day out and about driving through Tamar Valley to Launceston, keep heading south as the sun sets, and meet the local fauna. Low Head Penguin Tours is a beautiful family experience you’ll never forget. Gathering at the Coastal Reserve beach, which is right on magnificent Bass Straight, where you’ll see Little Blue Penguins (you might know them as Fairy Penguins) waddle onto the beach from the water. If you listen really carefully you might hear them sing when they come out of the surf. It’s Happy Feet in real life! For tour details, read more.
All Hail Riesling, King of the Grapes.
Riesling reigns in both the old (European) and new (everywhere else) worlds of wine. Its “King of the Grapes” moniker comes from its reputation for being versatile, sturdy and ageworthy, with pure fruit flavours that tell authentic stories of the grapes’ provenance. Wine enthusiasts call it a ‘noble’ variety, which is another way of calling it an ‘International Variety’ label, as it’s grown and enjoyed in most wine-producing countries of the world. A noble variety also has the ability to evolve into a great wine that speaks volumes of its provenance. At Holm Oak, we grow and produce most of the noble varieties, and Riesling is one of our favourites.
So it’s music to our ears that Riesling is enjoying a revival of sorts. There are so many reasons why this ancient variety is so hot right now. Let us count the ways…
First, our eating habits have changed over the last decade or so. We’re eating lighter, more health-conscious foods like salads and seafood that lend themselves to wines with clean, zippy fruit flavours discovered in a chilled glass of Riesling. And despite the cool temperatures we experience in Tassie, the rest of the continent sweats through a long, hot summer season, which can begin in September and extend right through to March or April. So it’s a no-brainer that drinking refreshing whites is far more appealing than glugging heavy reds.
Secondly, the way Riesling is being crafted by loads of winemakers these days brings the refreshingly racy flavours to the fore. Take a sip of Holm Oak’s Riesling and bite into a perfectly ripe Pink Lady apple. The balanced fruit flavours are not affected by oak, tannins or other secondary elements. The essence of the wine smacks of pristine cool-climate fruit with palate-cleansing zestiness.
Thirdly, this variety can age. Oh yes it can! When the vineyard and winemaking conditions are right, it can develop complexity for years to come. So why can Riesling age when other white varieties scream ‘drink me!’ when they clock a year in the cellar? Because Riesling’s naturally occurring high levels of acidity make it primed to develop gracefully over time. (Some German Rieslings have been known to not only age but improve to 100 years of age!) Certainly not every Riesling has the propensity (or the intention) to age. Generally, with forethought from the winemaker, a Riesling will reach its peak drinking age 15-20 years after its vintage year. Depending on the region in which it’s produced and other factors such as winemaking technique and the wine’s position on the dry-to-sweet spectrum, Riesling can develop lovely flavours and aromas of toast and honey, peaches, nectarines and apricots through the course of ageing.
On the dry end of the spectrum, Rieslings tend to lose their citrus overtones and develop more minerally, smoky characteristics. In sweeter Rieslings, the fruit becomes more subtle as the sugar and the acids integrate, rendering the wine a fuller, richer drop. In fact, high levels of residual sugar in Riesling act as a natural preservative.
All of the above goes a fair way to explaining why Riesling is considered King of the Grapes. The best way to discover its brilliance is to drink it up. So jump over to Holm Oak’s range and try one for yourself. Holm Oak’s Riesling embodies all the wonders of this noble variety, with amazing aromatics of lime and jasmine, mineral characteristics on the palate and steely acidity all the way through to the very last aftertaste. We dare you not to get hooked.
Each month we are giving away a Holm Oak wine twin-pack valued at $120 just for signing up to receive our enewsletter and special offers!