by Juel Mahoney
There are people whose job all day is to predict trends (I’m just being glared at by the Market Insights guy as I type this…). So a surprise hit like the Pepik Sekt NV must make the trend-spotters wish to have focus groups with angels.
If you had told me before the Annual Tasting that a bottle-fermented Riesling from Tasmania was going to be the most “favourited” wine on the digital tasting book and twitter then I would have said, “Good luck.”
I mean, really? The most popular wine from over 950 wines is a sparkling Riesling. From Tasmania. Even the German producers at the Annual Tasting wanted to find out more about his Pepik Sekt NV saying, “We keep getting told to come over and taste your Riesling”.
I asked the winemaker, Jeremy Dineen, why he decided to make a sparkling Riesling, he replied “I make 5 different Rieslings, it seemed like fun thing to do so I did it.”
Jeremy Dineen looks like he should be in an Australian rock band in the 1980s. The earring, black clothes, the hair. He has spent a lot of time getting his hands dirty working vintages, mostly in Tasmania, where he looked after 38 vineyards under his care. When Josef Chromy knocked on his door to ask him to be Chief Winemaker at his new state-of-the-art winery, it was an opportunity too good to resist.
If Jeremy looks like he plays in the band, then his wines are singing. This is not a cover band; they are original. Jeremy makes wine “appropriate to the land rather than not what has been done before.” What I liked most about his wines is that they have no reference to Europe or anywhere else for that matter.
Josef Chromy has a knack for trusting his instincts. As a refugee running from post-war Czechoslovakia in the 1950s with his two friends (that sadly did not make it out), he was the first master butcher in Australia. At the time, cured and smoked small goods did not have a market in sleepy Tasmania, but his entrepreneurial spirit lead him to buy land and vineyards, including some of the big names in Australian wine including Jansz, Heemskerk, Tamar Ridge and Rochecombe (now Bay of Fires). At the youthful age of 76 (sound familiar? Angelo Gaja set up his Ca’Marcanda vineyards at a similar age) Josef Chromy launched his own eponymous winery.
Located in northern Tasmania, it sits on the same 42 degree latitude as Blenheim but the weather in Relbia is colder and slightly drier. The big difference between New Zealand and Australia is the soils in New Zealand are younger. The island of Tasmania broke from Australia millions of years ago and this region’s black cracking clay soaks up water then dries very quickly. As it is so close to Antarctica, and very isolated, the air is pure and clean. When the South African producers were invited by Jeremy to visit Tasmania they drily joked, “Sure, when I am in the area…”
And so. Why does it work? To paraphrase Francis Bacon, there is no excellent beauty without a touch of the strange. The Pepik Sekt NV is technically a very good wine: pure, linear and refreshing. And it certainly ticks the top box for a good sparkling: it is fun. But there is something more. Apart from it speaking honestly of the land in Tasmania, it is also a sparkling Riesling. The second fermentation in the bottle gives it an extra dimension: it has a depth of fruit that is unexpected in a sparkling wine. Exceptional.
The visitors to this year’s Annual Tasting have spoken. Of course, as the name of this year’s tasting suggests: it’s A Matter of Taste. So don’t take our word for it. Here is master palate and Panel Chairman of the International Wine Show Challenge, Joe Wadsack, talking about why the Pepik Sekt NV was his favourite wine from the day: