Pic: Mitch Osborne
Back in the 1980s, it seemed all you could expect from your city council were clean water, decent roads and paths, and regular garbage collection.
These days, local government is expected to do a fair bit more than for its ratepayers. Just how many councils would be prepared to go as far as organising a giant cake-off to find their State’s best baker – or would host ticketed gin blending workshops – is hard to imagine. Let’s just say there is at least one council in Australia that is willing to offer more than just good governance. That is the Hobart City Council.
December marks the 30th anniversary of Hobart’s iconic Taste of Tasmania. Organisers have pulled out all stops to ensure their week-long program of waterfront activities is suitably memorable for the State’s largest and most significant food and wine event.
Festival director Brooke Webb has devoted a full year to its planning and organisation. At first glance, it looks like time well spent.
In late November, Webb unveiled an ambitious new culinary program for the Taste, featuring almost 20 ticketed events offering patrons hands-on participation in a diverse range of food and beverage experiences. They are a welcome addition to Taste’s traditional free-entry program that encourages visitors to graze on some of the finest produce in the land.
It’s a far-cry from the ethos that underpinned the first Taste of Tasmania in 1988. Back then, the event was merely intended to encourage Sydney to Hobart yacht race crews and their families to remain in Hobart after completing their 1100-kilometre passage down the east coast of Australia.
Thirty years ago, Taste was held over two days and comprised 22 stalls. In 2018-2019, around 110 stallholders will see nearly a quarter of a million visitors cruise Hobart’s Princes Wharf No 1 Shed and its busy precincts.
“The Taste is a food and wine festival like no other,” Webb said in launching her program.
“This year we really want to highlight that. We’ve completely overhauled our offering to give people a uniquely Tasmanian foodie experience on all levels.”
As well as learning how to make sausages with The Agrarian Kitchen’s Rodney Dunn or ‘going where the wild things are’ with outdoor chef Sarah Glover, ticketed patrons this Taste can prepare the perfect breakfast barbie alongside ‘Gourmet Farmer’ Matthew Evans (Fat Pig Farm) and Nick Haddow (Bruny Island Cheese Company).
Other ticketed events include a Huon Valley-themed feast, a Scandinavian-style breakfast and an encore appearance by award-winning chef and former Garagistes owner, Luke Burgess. His sit-down, one-night-only dining event will showcase Tasmanian food and wine in Burgess’s inimitable style. It’s bound to be a resounding success for the lucky 70 guests who are quick to purchase their $160 tickets.
Lovers of food-friendly, cool climate Tasmanian wines will find plenty of outstanding sparkling, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir in particular to fill their glasses. A significant number will be very hard to find beyond the island State.
Bream Creek Vineyard’s Fred Peacock has participated in every Taste. His wine portfolio has never looked better, and includes current releases that have won a total of 19 gold medals and five trophies or ‘best of show’ awards. A handful of those plaudits have been earned in international competition. The 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir ($15 glass, $65 bottle) warrants strong support from visitors. It has no less than 6 golds and a trophy to its credit. More importantly, it’s simply a delicious drop.
Indeed, top quality Pinot Noirs abound this Taste. Be sure to make a bee-line to stalls operated by Devil’s Corner, Ghost Rock, Josef Chromy, Meadowbank and Pipers Brook Vineyard. All have released acclaimed benchmark styles over the past year.
For top-notch Tasmanian sparkling, start at Barringwood Estate, Clover Hill, Goaty Hill and Pipers Brook Vineyard, and move on from there. Barringwood’s 2014 Classic Cuvée and 2012 Blanc de Blanc both figure in Australia’s ‘Best of the Best by Variety’ in the 2019 Halliday Wine Companion.
Like stylish and elegant Chardonnay? Drop by Domaine Dawnelle during your journey around Taste. Fancy something quirky but interesting? Check out the Brian Wines project of freelance journalist Mike Bennie and Tasmanian winemakers Joe Holyman and Peter Dredge.
Hobart’s Taste of Tasmania runs from December 28, 2018 to January 3, 2019. Log on to www.thetasteoftasmania.com.au for all stallholder details and ticket sales. Entry is free 11am – 11pm daily, with the exception of New Year’s Eve’s Speakeasy Ball.
All about Mark Smith Hobart’s Mark Smith wrote his first weekly wine column back in 1994. Now more than 1600 features and 24 years later, he continues to chart the successes of Tasmania’s small scale, cool climate wine producers with regular contributions to some of Australia’s leading industry publications.
Credit to City of Hobart and Alastair Bett for all images, other than the bottles …
PICK OF THE CROP
2014 Home Hill Kell’s Cuvée $38
Tasmania’s Huon Valley is renowned for some of the nation’s most striking Pinot Noirs. It’s cooler there than many other parts of the State, so it’s no surprise to find lovely, vibrant sparkling wines worthy of long ageing on their yeast lees. This four-year-old is dry and intensely citrus, and finishes with very satisfying texture – a veritable Christmas cracker. homehillwines.com.au
2016 Bream Creek Reserve Chardonnay $48
Here’s one Bream Creek wine you won’t find at the Taste of Tasmania this year. It’s likely to sell out soon. The wine was named Best White Wine of Show at the 2018 AWC Vienna International Wine Challenge, the world’s largest wine competition. As a wonderfully lithe and elegant youngster, it was also judged Best Chardonnay up to 12.9% Alcohol. Tasmanian seafood partner par excellence. breamcreekvineyard.com.au
2017 Holm Oak Pinot Noir $35
Bec Duffy and husband Tim are the quiet achievers of the Tasmanian industry. Since returning to the State in 2006, Bec has worked tirelessly to craft distinctive Tamar Valley wines from the 12ha vineyard Tim manages at Rowella. This spicy/savoury Pinot is no shrinking violet. It works very well with game dishes and roast meats, and it’s a keeper too if you’re happy to wait a decade. holmoakvineyards.com.au
2016 White Rock Dornfelder $34
Tassie could become the Dornfelder capital of the Southern Hemisphere, noted Chair of Judges Huon Hooke at the 2018 Tasmanian Wine Show. Maybe so. The obscure German red hybrid variety is certainly hard to find in its homeland. White Rock behind Devonport has had considerable success, however. The 2016 is deep and inky, with unevolved dark cherry and blackberry flavours and a touch of bitterness. Decant and serve with slow cooked lamb. whiterockvineyard.com