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Meadowbank

Rocketing Quality from one of the Jewels in Tasmania’s Wine Firmament

When Gerald Ellis started planting vines on his sheep farm in 1976, conventional wisdom said you couldn’t grow grapes in the cold wilds of Tasmania. Too wild, too unpredictable, too ‘at the edge of the world’, they said, ‘it can’t be done’. They would have been right, except that he did, and it could: the Meadowbank vineyard is today held up as one of the jewels in Tasmania’s wine firmament.

High in Tasmania’s Derwent Valley, hidden at the end of a winding dirt road, Meadowbank’s vines are rooted in loose sand and sandstone overlying dark brown coffee rock, rich in iron oxides and organic matter. This is what our gumbooted wine grower friends might call ‘quality dirt’, and it is a terroir that has developed an impressive fan base, ranging from Kate Hill, Domaine Simha, Glaetzer Dixon and Ministry of Clouds to larger producers such as House of Arras and Bay of Fires.

While the vineyard operation has long been positioned at the pinnacle, the winemaking fortunes of the Meadowbank label had ebbed and flowed over the years. In late 2015, all that changed with the arrival of Peter Dredge. 

When the news of the partnership broke in 2016, Campbell Mattinson wrote, “Peter Dredge at Meadowbank? Now that should be interesting.” He wasn’t wrong.

Aside from being a ‘natural’, Dredge arrived at Meadowbank with a cast-iron Curriculum Vitae. Immediately before his partnership with the Ellis family, Dredge spent five years as the leading man at Bay of Fires and House of Arras when Accolade was Meadowbank’s largest customer. Before that, there was a long stretch at Petaluma under Brian Croser. He’s one of Tasmania’s and Australia’s finest (and cheekiest) winemakers, respected and admired industry-wide, and when a talented winemaker meets the established vineyards of a renowned grower, the results can be explosive.

Following four major vineyard expansions, Meadowbank now spans 52 hectares, of which just eight, planted on their own rootstocks, are cherry-picked for the Meadowbank wines. Gerald’s passionate and thoughtful daughter, Mardi, is the current custodian, and the vines are managed without herbicides with the plan being to explore complete organics—something scarce in Tassie and an evolution that can only result in even higher quality.

Heading the range are Meadowbank’s pristine Chardonnay and lacy, ethereal Pinot Noir. There’s a juicy and spine-tingling dry Riesling, a lip-smacking Gamay (complete with its own cult following), and this place clearly has something exciting to say with Syrah. In 2022, Meadowbank released its first wines from its Traditional Method sparkling wine program. Peter Dredge has a storied history with sparkling wine, and the initial results are predictably impressive; both the Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs shimmer with crystalline purity and exciting breadth of flavour.

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Meadowbank Blanc de Noirs 2020

Meadowbank Blanc de Noirs 2020

Meadowbank started producing its Blanc de Noirs in 2018, so 2020 marks the third release. Peter Dredge tells us that Pinot Noir takes on lees characters quicker than Chardonnay, so his Blanc de Noirs will always be released from a more recent vintage than the Blanc de Blancs. The fruit grows on a northeast-facing block with sandy soils over coffee rock on a rolling, five-degree slope in the Far Horse Vineyard. This release was vinified in stainless steel, and Pete only extracted the cream of the crop, using just 300 litres of juice per tonne in its production (the norm is 500-550 litres). The wine spent three years on lees before disgorgement with zero dosage.

Meadowbank Blanc de Noirs 2020
Meadowbank Riesling 2023

Meadowbank Riesling 2023

Meadowbank’s Riesling vines are spread across three sites planted in 1974, 2005 and 2015. The block planted in 1974 predates the establishment of Meadowbank, and the clone is unknown. The 2005 block, which accounts for 65% of the blend, is planted to Geisenheim 198, a clone susceptible to botrytis—something winemaker Peter Dredge lets run in most years (provided conditions are dry). You learn something new every day! He advocates for the botrytis influence to add intensity and weight to his Riesling and points to the practice used widely in Germany—he’s in a cool climate, using a German clone: what’s good for the goose… All blocks were handpicked. The fruit from the 2005 block fermented in stainless steel and was handled oxidatively, with a touch of residual sugar remaining and some integration of clean botrytis. The fruit from the other plantings was fermented in old oak barriques to round out the texture. Both parcels were matured on their lees before blending and bottling without fining. Pete told us last year that the 2022 Riesling was the best he’d made at Meadowbank. He may already have surpassed it. The 2023’s recent inclusion in Halliday’s Top 100, clocking in at a cool 98 points, is likely just the beginning of the acclaim this wine will receive. It’s a case of grab-some-while-you-can. Ravishing indeed!

“It’s such a ravishing wine, as rich and deep as it is pure and fine. Redefines citrus.”
98 points, Halliday’s Top 100 2023
Meadowbank Riesling 2023
Meadowbank Syrah 2021

Meadowbank Syrah 2021

Meadowbank’s award-winning past with Syrah dates to the estate’s oldest vines (planted in 1974). In 2011 these vines famously led to the Jimmy Watson winning Glaetzer-Dixon Mon Pere Shiraz. Alongside a portion from those 45-year-old vines, the remainder of the fruit was hand-picked off a new, north-facing block. All the vines are rooted in Meadowbank’s soils of loose sand and sandstone over dark brown, coffee rock (rich in iron oxides and organic matter). Although the vines are technically farmed conventionally, the team has effectively practiced organics on these blocks for two decades.The 2021 was made with 100% whole bunches, was naturally fermented and spent 12 days on skins before it was pressed to old French oak barrels. It was matured on lees for nine months, before being racked and bottled with no fining and only a minimal sulphur addition. Meadowbank’s 2021 is a beautiful expression of Australia’s growing band of graceful, cool-climate Syrah. It draws you into the glass with sweet spice and red and blue fruits kissed by earth and liquorice. The palate has grip and drive, and impressive structure carries pure and silken fruits with underlying spice and a lick of minerality. There is a light, perfume-driven tread here—it’s a Syrah with true flavour, class, and nuance.

Meadowbank’s 2021 is a beautiful expression of Australia’s growing band of graceful, cool-climate Syrah. It draws you into the glass with sweet spice and red and blue fruits kissed by earth and liquorice. The palate has grip and drive, and impressive structure carries pure and silken fruits with underlying spice and a lick of minerality. There is a light, perfume-driven tread here—it’s a Syrah with true flavour, class, and nuance.

“It’s like a familiar face. Black pepper and cloves, florals and roasted nuts, twiggy spice aplenty, a touch of Mezcal. These characters of course are attached to cherried fruit, bordering on boysenberry and perhaps touching on cranberry too. The point being that it has all the characters you’d hope for in a Tasmanian Syrah, and the fruit profile to match, though it is quite slender, with apple-y acidity, and as a result its quality isn’t quite as emphatic as perhaps it could be. But it’s still delicious, in its style, and I certainly had no hesitation in taking it from the tasting bench to the dinner table.”
92 points, Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front
“100% whole-bunch syrah from Gerald Ellis' 1976-planted block, made by winemaker Peter Dredge. I'm loving Tasmanian syrah at the moment and this is a lovely example. Purpley-hued with vivid blue fruits, satsuma plums and some crunchy cranberry notes. Hints of exotic spice and amaro herbs, orange blossom, light meaty notes and a rocky minerality. Supple and super-pure with tight, compact granitic tannins and an energetic acid cadence, finishing plummy and very moreish.”
94 points, Dave Brooks, winecompanion.com.au
Meadowbank Syrah 2021
Meadowbank Pinot Noir 2023

Meadowbank Pinot Noir 2023

The lion’s share of fruit for Meadowbank’s lithe, detailed Pinot is drawn from a north-facing parcel of vines planted by Gerald Ellis in 1987 (which Pete thinks is probably a combination of MV6 and D5V12 clones). For the last two years, a small portion (about 20%) of younger-vine fruit grown on the Top Woolshed block has been included in the blend. These vines were planted in 2014 on a lofty outcrop with more volcanic presence in the soils than the sand, sandstone and dark coffee rock in the old-vine block. The fruit from here lends savoury, graphite undertones to the wine, as well as driving power and grunt to the back palate. Last year’s release took out the Australian Pinot Noir Challenge, and this year’s wine (in our humble opinion) is a cut above its predecessor. Once again, Pete’s instinct has paid dividends. “The Top Woolshed block is pretty unique; without doubt, it’s the soil type making the difference”, he told us.The fruit was picked over two weeks and fermented in two batches. The early pick was fully destemmed, while the later pick fermented with 50% bunches. Maturation took place in a mix of old and new oak (about 10%) for nine months. It shimmies out of the glass with lacy berry purity kissed by floral perfumes. Equally vibrant on the palate, the multi-layered texture deals in gorgeous red fruits flecked with sweet, earthy notes and fine, melting graphite tannins. Wow, delicious. There’s terrific depth throughout, yet the delivery is one of elegance, buoyancy, pretty flesh and subtle mineral-scented length of flavour. Quiet power meets Burgundy-leaning charisma. Killer.

Meadowbank Pinot Noir 2023
Meadowbank Blanc de Blancs 2018

Meadowbank Blanc de Blancs 2018

The Meadowbank sparkling program is in full swing, and this 2018 Blanc de Blancs―the third release―is some of Peter Dredge’s finest work, and that’s saying something considering this winemaker’s pedigree when it comes to wines of an effervescent nature. The source is the same as for the 2016 and 2017 wines: the Far Horse Vineyard block, located close to the vines used for Meadowbank Chardonnay. While the latter are exposed to the north, the Blanc de Blancs parcel faces south in a slightly cooler mesoclimate. The clone is I10V1. 2018 was a touch warmer than 2017, delivering intensely flavoured Chardonnay with glisteningly fresh natural acidity. The fruit was picked by hand and pressed as whole bunches, with just the first two-thirds of the juice siphoned off to old barriques (just 8 in total) for fermentation over three months. As in 2017, Dredge washed one new barrel with the sparkling base this year. After three months in oak, the wine was bottled and spent the following five years on lees before disgorgement with just 3g/L dosage. It’s another elegant, detailed wine from the sparkling maestro, balancing pure, potent flavour with delicate, creamy texture, zipline acidity and a long lingering finish. Given the price of Champagne at the moment, Pete’s proposition looks like an absolute steal!

Meadowbank Blanc de Blancs 2018
Meadowbank Chardonnay 2023

Meadowbank Chardonnay 2023

Meadowbank’s Chardonnay yields were down considerably in 2023, yet quality and concentration were through the roof—so much so that Peter Dredge puts this year’s release up there with the very best he’s made. This comes off the property’s oldest vines, which are P58 clone and well into their 30s. Peter Dredge describes the vineyard as a “beautiful little spot” with loose sand and sandstone overlaying dark brown coffee rock rich in iron oxides. The fruit was picked over two passes at slightly different ripeness levels, ensuring sufficient acidity to balance the ripe-leaning nature of the clone. The fruit was pressed as whole bunches to French puncheons for fermentation. This year, Pete upped the percentage of new wood (20%) to balance the density of the fruit from this low-yielding year.In the classical Meadowbank mould, it’s focused and chiselled with a rocky palate layered with citrus, white flowers and crunchy stone fruits, all pulled taut by that mouth-watering, cool-climate acidity. Dredge’s superb winemaking has drawn out a cracker this year, right down the tapered, pulpy finish teeming with slaty drive, Va va voom. 

Meadowbank Chardonnay 2023
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“Meadowbank’s vineyard is one of the most important in Tasmanian wine; a whole host of the best quality and most interesting Tasmanian wine brands source fruit from it. The label and winery itself has had a bit of a hiatus but renowned winemaker Peter Dredge has teamed up with the Ellis family to kick things back into life.” Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front

“Wines from Peter Dredge are refined in their proportions. Flavour is always at the forefront, yet it’s the purity, structure and length of the wines that make them truly outstanding.” Toni Paterson MW, Gourmet Traveller Wine

Country

Australia

Primary Region

Derwent Valley, Tasmania

People

Winemaker: Peter Dredge

Availability

VIC, NSW, ACT, QLD, SA, WA

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