“Wait till you taste the 2020s – they will definitely knock your socks off!” Monique Lubiana told us at the tail end of last year. “A good vintage in Tasmania,” was how Gary Walsh prefaced his write-up of Monique and Steve’s Estate Chardonnay.
Here we have the single-plot Pinot Noir wines. We have some sort of precedent, since 2020 Sasso – a blend of these three special parcels – sold out in a flash in March. “Any way you come at this you see quality,” wrote Mike Bennie of that one “Taut, long, luxurious. Beautiful Pinot.”
Right here, then, we have the three separate strands of Sasso. They are three distinct plots with their own make-up, complexion and personality. In a short period of time, these have established themselves as a landmark in Australia. This is only the third year that has seen all three blocks released “These single-plot Pinots are among the finest of the country, demanding serious attention,” wrote Ned Goodwin MW of the ‘17s. The ’18 Ruscello had Jeni Port rhetorically asking: “How good is Tasmanian Pinot Noir!” She then declared: “The next step up in Australian Pinot Noir terms is here.”
Those keeping abreast of goings-on at this estate will know that, more than a decade after achieving biodynamic certification, the pace of progress shows no sign of slowing.
This triumverate of Pinot Noir will leave you breathless as you try to keep up.
SINGLE-BLOCK PINOT NOIR
The three plots – Ruscello, Il Giardino and La Roccia – have been singled out for their diverse soil and topography, and the nuances of shape, texture and structure that these give to these unique iterations of Pinot Noir. Crop levels are kept low at 3 to 4 tonnes per hectare or 800g to 1kg per vine.
Winemaking is very simple and relatively consistent between blocks. All are whole-bunch fermented with natural yeast in small, open fermenters with a total maceration of about three weeks. All blocks are matured in used French oak.
Ruscello translates to ‘small mountain stream’. The Ruscello block is located near a little creek that runs mostly in winter through the middle of the property. This block has a very gentle north-facing slope. The soil consists of grey gravelly silt over gravelly clay. It is light and full of silica crystals that warm up quickly and release heat to the vines overnight. The gravel also provides good drainage. This block is situated on the mid slope in our vineyard, it avoids the cooler breeze felt by the blocks nearer to the Derwent River that flows 24/7. Soil fertility is low providing well-balanced open vines, with good sunlight exposure. It is planted to a number of Pinot Noir clones, some of which we can’t remember. The average vine age is 24 years. This block produces very generous and feminine fruit, everything that is exquisite, attractive and lovely about Pinot Noir. Here the soil transfers good aromatics, softer structure and power to the wine. – Steve & Monique Lubiana
Il Giardino means “the garden” in Italian. This block is where vegetables, mainly brassicas, were grown when we first purchased the property. Masses of mustard grows wild in these soils, offering plenty of pollen for the bees we keep. In return, they help the vines prosper under biodynamic management. This soil is part Ruscello and part La Roccia in its make-up, the main difference being the transfer of a tighter acid structure from the soil to the fruit. Of the three blocks, this is the biggest – three hectares – of which just three rows are chosen to supply grapes to Il Giardino. It is located just next to the La Roccia block but has a more northerly aspect and sits at a similar elevation. The soil is more variable but has heavier silty black clay topsoil over clay. There is some gravel in the topsoil but it’s a heavier soil than Ruscello and has some limestone influence. – Steve & Monique Lubiana
La Roccia: the rock. This block is 1.5ha in size and is located on a beautiful north-eastern hillside, overlooking the Derwent River at an elevation of 80m. This block is mostly terra rossa soil, deep red clay-marl over clay, with limestone bedrock. Free, draining, high-pH soil. The Pinot clones consist of 667 and 115, and are on their own roots. This block is always the first to be harvested and consistently provides the most structure and tannin of the three sites, needing longer ageing in bottle to come into full balance. The vines grown in this parcel have the lowest vigour and therefore the most exposure to the sun. There’s a big rock shelf in the middle of the block, whence it derives its name. – Steve & Monique Lubiana