29 May 2020

Tumbarumba wines "hugely impress" wine's top critic

| Edwina Mason
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Jancis Robinson

International wine critic Jancis Robinson was hugely impressed with the Tumbarumba Chardonnays. Photo: Jancis Robinson.

The reviews are in and Tumbarumba wines appear to have won the heart of one of the most influential wine critics in the world.

It was only a few short months ago when the final screech and rip of masking tape signalled an end to the careful packaging of 33 bottles of premium cool climate wine in readiness for a journey to the UK.

Last month About Regional brought you that story which was one of hope and anticipation amid a year ignited by fires which segued into brimstone with COVID-19.

But straight from hell to the heavens is as lofty as it gets as international wine critic Jancis Robinson lavished praise on the collection.

The wine writer and author of many acclaimed books on wine, was named the world’s most influential wine critic in the US, France and internationally in 2018.

In May, Ms Robinson tasted through those 33 Tumbarumba wines – including sparkling wines, chardonnays, pinot noirs, as well as other varietal wine – which represent most Tumbarumba owners, growers and winemakers.

Her review of the region was published on both her website and in the Financial Times.

“I was hugely impressed by some of the wines, especially the Chardonnays,” she wrote.

“The best of these Tumbarumba Chardonnays were just right: whistle-clean, well-constructed and packed full of interesting, savoury flavour. Oh, and cheaper than comparable white burgundy.”

The tasting was also a revelation to Ms Robinson, who has never visited the region.

Johansen Wines

Johansen Wines vineyard near Tumbarumba after the January 2020 bushfires ripped through the region. Photo: Johansen Wines.

“The discovery of 100 per cent Tumbarumba wines was well worth making,” she wrote on JancisRobinson.com.

“Previously I had come across Tumbarumba fruit only as an ingredient in some of Australia’s most ambitious Chardonnays from the big companies: Penfolds Yattarna and Eileen Hardy,” she said.

Seven of the 33 bottles were given a score of 17, designating a “superior” wine while a majority scored 16, recognising a “distinguished” wine.

Bill Mason of Kosciuszko Wines said the endorsement was heartily welcomed after a tough start to 2020 as bushfires tore through the Tumbarumba region in January, wiping some vineyards out and the remaining 230 hectares of fruit under vine – an estimated harvest of 2000 tonnes – lost to smoke taint.

Cellar doors in the region then closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and tourism, usually one of the region’s main industries, ground to a halt.

“From a world-leading critic such as Robinson, these scores are truly a testament to the quality of Tumbarumba,” Mr Mason said.

Tumbarumba Vignerons Association president Juliet Cullen said the recognition from one of the world’s most respected wine judges was a real boost to the spirits of the Tumbarumba growers.

“Jancis Robinson is an icon in the wine world, so to receive her praise for the quality of our Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, is a real pick-me-up as we get on with growing an even better vintage for 2021,” she said.

“We’ve been knocked down, but we’re getting back up again. The autumn weather has brought steady rain, so the vines are recovering from the summer stress. We now feel energised to start pruning in a few weeks, and there will be new areas planted this spring to meet the increased demand for Tumbarumba wine,” she added.

In shipping the 33 bottles of wine to Ms Robinson, the idea was to focus the international spotlight on the tiny Tumbarumba region and the quality of the wines produced there.

Coordinated by Mr Mason, the project was the result of the wine community coming together in the toughest of times.

Most Tumbarumba growers, owners and winemakers donated wines to be shipped to London, as well as winemakers from the neighbouring wine region of the Canberra District, and further afield.

Alex McKay from Collector Wines, Celine Rousseau of Eden Road Wines and Bryan Currie of Hungerford Hill Wines volunteered their expertise in tasting and deciding the final selection of wines to be shipped.

“I wanted to increase the recognition of this pristine grape-growing region,” Mr Mason said.

“Although Tumbarumba is a young wine region, its high elevation, brilliant sunlight, and dedicated growers mean that we are producing some outstanding wines. From here, I can only see Tumbarumba’s reputation growing – both nationally and internationally,” he added.

The project was supported by Australia Post, who shipped the wines to London.

Read Robinson’s articles on Tumbarumba wines:

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