Like Abel Tasman back in the day, the Dutch explorer who discovered Tasmania, The Wine Junkies went on an exploration in Tasmania. We discovered Jansz- probably Australia’s best sparkling wine producer- and struck gold.
On a cold but sunny afternoon in May we were warmly welcomed by Jennifer Doyle, the vigneron at Jansz in Pipers River, Tasmania. Their tastefully decorated wine room, that previously functioned as a winery, was the perfect backdrop to have an interview with Jennifer to learn more about her and about Jansz, the top sparkling wine producer from Tasmania.
Could you share a bit of history of Jansz?
Jansz is located in Pipers River, north east Tasmania, and has been a true pioneer when it comes to sparkling wines from Tasmania.
The first vines were planted here in the 1970’s, and the vineyard at the time was called Heemskerk, named after the ship that Abel Tasman sailed when he first discovered Tasmania. As the climate in Pipers River showed similarities with the climate in the Champagne region, Heemskerk partnered with Louis Roederer in 1985 to make Tasmania’s first premium sparkling wine, named Jansz, the middle name of Tasmania’s discoverer, Abel Janszoon Tasman.
In 1997 the Hill-Smith family purchased Jansz. Using the méthode traditionnelle made famous by Champagne, the winery produces excellent sparkling wines and we proudly call our approach méthode Tasmanoise®.
Back then, we only produced vintage cuvée, but since, the portfolio has gradually grown. Different varietals and styles were added, and Jansz now produces 6 individual wines.
In 2012 the Hill-Smith family purchased the Parish vineyard in southern Tasmania, in the Coal River Valley.
When did you join Jansz?
It was about seven years ago now. I was based in southern Tasmania, in the Coal River Valley, managing the property now owned by Jansz.
I grew up in New South Wales. Some of my earliest wine industry experience was in Western Australia, before returning briefly to New South Wales, and finally to Tasmania. The wine styles from Tasmania have always attracted me. I love sparkling, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir. It was a natural progression for me to find myself here. I’ve been in Tasmania for over ten years and I’m very glad that I made the move – Tasmania is now home.
You mentioned that besides the vineyards in the north the company also owns some vineyards in the south. Why did they not purchase some more vineyards in the north?
Although Tasmania is a small state, the differences between the fruit produced in the north and south are very different. We have vineyards here in the north, in Pipers River and White Hills, and we own two vineyards in the south, in the Coal River Valley. The conditions are very different and therefore creates diversity and interest in the winemaking. For example, Pinot Noir from the north has more red fruit flavours such as strawberry and raspberry while Pinot Noir from the south has more savoury, earthy character.
Our non-vintage wines are blends of northern and southern fruits.
How do you divide your time between vineyards?
I spend most of my time in the south, as this is where I live, though I travel often to the north. In Pipers River we have a vineyard manager taking care of the daily vineyard tasks, and I make the picking decisions at vintage.
We have mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir but have also planted two hectares of Pinot Meunier in our vineyard in the south. This will make its way into our non-vintage cuvée blend in the next couple of years. We’re obviously very excited about those developments.
How do you decide on the character of the wine?
We have our own house style at Jansz, focussing on Chardonnay-dominant sparklings. Although each vintage expresses itself differently and is reflected in our individual vintage wines we make a consistent non-vintage, which our customers are familiar with.
We don’t produce big robust wines, but instead, wines of a more delicate and subtle nature. All our wines go through malolactic fermentation, softening yet maintaining the beautiful natural acidity that defines Tasmanian sparkling.
Our wines represent the freshness and crispness of the environment in which they are grown.
Premium Cuvée (NV)
60% chardonnay, 40% pinot noir
Minimum 18 months yeast lees, second fermentation in bottle.
Great chalk and lemon notes with subtle toast.
The current blend consists of reserve wines from 2010, 2013, 2014 and the backbone is from the 2015 and 2016 vintages. Delicious with oysters.
Premium Rosé (NV)
78% pinot noir, 22% chardonnay
A distinguished fuller flavour of the Pinot Noir on the palate. More fruit from the north as this wine is dominant Pinot Noir.
Typical for Pinot, you’re welcomed with aromas of strawberry and rhubarb. Beautiful pinkish colour.
The current blend consists mostly of the 2015 and 2016 vintages and goes beautifully with salmon, as an aperitif or even after dinner.
2014 Vintage Cuvée
51% Chardonnay, 49% Pinot Noir
Just under 4 years on yeast lees.
Full nose of brioche and citrus aromas. Nice acidity yet creamy and a long finish. Excellent alternative for Champagne.
2014 Vintage Rosé
100% Pinot Noir vintage only made during outstanding years.
Their rosé wines are made as a white wine and the colour is added only at dosage using a slight bit of still Pinot Noir giving it an elegant pinkness of colour. It is an indication of what you are about to taste.
Fruit is from the northern vineyard adjacent to the Chardonnay block used for the Vintage Chardonnay. Yeast lees just under 3 years to retain its fruit and freshness. Full nose of strawberries
2011 Single Vineyard Chardonnay
100% Chardonnay vintage only made during outstanding years
A bit longer on yeast lees (over 5 years).
Best blocks selected, the fruit comes from one of two blocks, on the top of the hill of their northern vineyard. The vines have to work a bit harder there which results in just that little bit better quality fruit.
It’s a definition of the Chardonnay that grows there.
As the other Jansz wines, it’s a fine and elegant wine, but has a power behind it from the yeast lees. That also gives it a creamy character with hints of butterscotch, green apple, oyster and bread crisp. Outstanding wine and a must for Champagne lovers to try.
For us, it was such an eye-opener to taste the sparkling wines of Jansz. These wines are such a great alternative for other quality sparkling wines such as Cava, Franciacorta and even Champagne.
What’s your favourite non-Champagne sparkler? Share it with us in the comments below.
Albert & Willem