Exclusive Q&A with Nick Glaetzer

Winemaker and founder of
Glaetzer-Dixon, Hobart

Exclusive to The Vinorium

Tell us about Tasmania, what makes the region so special? What drew you here in the first place?

My Dad worked for Avery’s in Bristol in the early 70s and then worked a harvest for Remoissenet in Burgundy in ’74. He brought his love and knowledge gained in the UK/Beaune of French wines back to Australia - I was lucky enough to taste many of his cellared Old World wines growing up. Burgundy made an impact on me also, though back in the 90s Australian versions of pinot were generally insipid and poorly made. After working vintages in the Languedoc and Pfalz I visited Burgundy for my first time in 2001. I formed a plan to return to the Old World once I’d completed my oenology/viticulture degree, but this all changed when I was working harvest at Leeuwin Estate in ’04 and saw a Tasmanian pinot noir in a blind tasting. It was spectacular and most of us at the bench thought it was a legit Grand Cru.

"I saw the huge potential offered by the island state. Here I could make wines like those of the great regions in Europe"

I emailed the winemaker of this stellar pinot, Andrew Hood and asked for a job. He obliged and I decamped to Tasmania at the end of 2005. After a vintage working in Tassie and tasting a few rare bottles of local pinot, riesling and shiraz I saw the huge potential offered by the island state. Here I could make wines like those of the great regions in Europe, though also be part of a brave new wine frontier. I could craft wines I enjoyed drinking yet be free of excessive legislation and avoid having to rely on my schoolboy French.

Being such an isolated island, what is life in Tasmania like?

Tasmania is a mix of English style countryside and the most amazing, rugged wilderness, with a tiny capital city (Hobart), which is enjoying a bit of a tourism moment thanks to a great arts scene and some exceptional food (and wine). Hobart is only a 50-min flight to Melbourne and less than 2-hours to Sydney. Instead of peak-hour traffic it tends to be peak-minute, although this is changing as people start cottoning on to how great it is here and relocating from the big smoke. Many Tasmanians are descended from His Majesty’s finest convicts who were shunted down here 200-years ago and there’s still a proud uniqueness to them possibly related to this.

What are the advantages and what are the challenges of winemaking in Tasmania?

The cool climate is due to southerly latitude and clean, pure air off the Southern Ocean. The Roaring 40s winds that swell up in spring can be an issue if they’re late in the season when the vines are flowering - I’ve seen yields drop by 50 percent due to poor set.

Do you meet with other Tasmanian producers and winemakers and exchange views/experiences? Do you swap wines?

When I first moved to Tassie there were maybe a dozen qualified winemakers and viticulturists in the state. I definitely missed the regular camaraderie of larger winemaking regions. In the last decade that has changed hugely. We all get along immensely well, sharing equipment, knowledge, packaging equipment, wine and many beers.

Coming from such a Barossa dynasty, were you ever tempted to continue with winemaking there?

Not really - Barossa pinot has never been good.

You travelled extensively and worked across Australia, France and Germany. What did you learn from each travel and which region influenced your winemaking the most?

In Australia I learnt the rigid and analytical structures of winemaking, as per textbook - which are very important to new winemakers, as they have to know the boundaries. In Europe I saw how the winemaker is able to take a step back and let the site or the vintage conditions take more of an influence.  

Which sub-regions do you source from for each wine? What are the unique characteristics of each sub-region and how do they influence your wines?

Even though Tassie is classified as only one GI (geographical index) the sub-regions contained are vastly unique - there’s 200km between the Coal River and Tamar valleys.

Pinot noir from the Tamar tends to show bright raspberry, Upper Derwent has cassis while the Coal River Valley is darker plum. My brighter and earlier-drinking pinots are grown in the Derwent and Tamar, while the deeper and more complex wines come out of the Coal River.

Are there any vineyards in Tasmania which you would highlight as particularly superior?

I think it’s still too early in the game to make this call. However there are a couple of vineyards in the Coal River Valley that suit my style of winemaking tremendously well, providing a riper fruit spectrum and superb tannin structure. These are the sites destined for our La Judith Wines.

How do you see Tasmania developing as a region? Do you think that both still and sparkling wine sectors will continue to grow? Will sparkling wine continue to dominate the export market or do you see it changing?

Aussie’s love sparkling wine and the best grapes for these styles are grown in Tasmania. As our reputation for still pinot noir is strengthened I can see the tables turning slightly. Only 3-4% of Tasmanian wine is exported, so it won’t take too many bottles of awesome pinot to shift the balance.

Do you have a favourite variety to work with? Do you experiment with different varieties and are you planning to expand the range?

That’s kind of like asking who’s your favourite child. While I was working at Frogmore Creek (’06-'12) I worked with a number of varieties. We made some great examples of pinot blanc, petit verdot, blaufrankisch etc. However I’d rather focus on what I can do best - riesling, pinot, shiraz and the occasional chardonnay. One day I’m going to make a single barrel of epic chardonnay for our house wine, as I can’t afford white Burgundy and sometimes I need another white after riesling.

What are your long-term aspirations as a winemaker and for Glaetzer-Dixon as a brand?

Last year we planted our very own vineyard in the Tea Tree region of the Coal River Valley. Really looking forward to one day harvesting this site and potentially releasing some single site/block wines.

Do you have a personal favourite out of your wines (or fondness of a particular vintage)?

The 2011s were a tough sell as the rest of Australia suffered a pretty poor vintage with cool, wet weather. In the Coal River Valley it was cool though very dry. Our 2011 Rêveur Pinot has these amazing savoury and spice notes - it’s definitely one of my favourite pinots. The 2010 Mon Père Shiraz was a hit with the locals.

Your Mon Pere Shiraz offers a fantastic contrast to many Australian powerhouse styles, showcasing great depth without pushing the extraction / ripeness levels. Did you always aspire to create a Shiraz of such elegance?

It’s impossible to make a full-bodied shiraz in Tassie, it’s just too cold. We’ve harvested shiraz in the middle of May, nearly 2-months after the mainland vintage. The clones of shiraz we have down here have lovely aromatics of white pepper and clove. They make themselves really. I have a fond memory of a family dinner in the Barossa with dad opening a bottle of Hermitage - he was like an elder thanking the gods for giving us the shiraz grape, adamant that his sons knew its original home.

We know that it’s a very busy time for you at the moment. How is the harvest going? Anything of particular note from the current vintage?

We had our last pick last Wednesday (April 24). It’s been a hectic though rewarding month, not least because our third child June was born a month before vintage got underway. It is probably one of the most peculiar vintages I’ve experienced (out of a total of 27). Summer was warm and very dry so harvest was looking early, yet if anything the vintage has been a week later than average. With lower than average sugar levels as the same tannin ripeness, we expect alcohol levels to be 0.5-1.0% less. 

Finally, would you like to pass any message to our world-wide customers?

Come and visit Tasmania before the rest of the world catches on. Oh hang on ...

Glaetzer-Dixon La Judith Shiraz 2014

97 Points - Joe Czerwinski (robertparker.com) "Nick Glaetzer's incredible 2014 La Judith Shiraz smells something like pfeffernüsse and cherry preserves, offering layered aromas of cracked pepper, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg and red fruit. It's medium to full-bodied, feeling bigger and more expansive than its modest 13.7% alcohol, while being rich, silky and long. The oak, entirely new, has been nicely absorbed into the wine, contributing spice and texture without getting in the way of the fruit. It's a tour de force of Tasmanian Shiraz, albeit one produced in micro quantities of 232 bottles. If Mon Père is Saint-Joseph, this is Hermitage."

£100.00 per bottle

 

Glaetzer-Dixon Mon Père Shiraz 2016

97 Points - Stuart McCloskey “A Shiraz which is lighter on its feet but full of pedigree. The flavours are layered and beautifully defined with cherry, violets and sweet spices. Silky, expressive without being brash which is very much the skill of Nick. Fresh, nuanced and again, produced with a captivating sense of elegance.  There is nothing missing with Nick’s Shiraz, just a different and refreshing, new perspective. Gorgeous and I am looking forward to seeing how this develops over the next five years. Just lovely."

£42.50 per bottle

 

Glaetzer-Dixon Rêveur Pinot Noir 2015

97-98 Points - Stuart McCloskey “Ethereal is a good place to begin and certainly one of the best bottles of Pinot Noir I have drunk sub fifty-pounds. You would be mistaken to believe this wine has a decade of aging behind it due to the tawny rim. The bouquet is astonishing, and again would deliver a verdict of a mature wine; dried rose petals, cherry, warm minerals and a lovely savoury undercurrent. Close your eyes and think autumn with a splash of wild strawberry. The palate is fresh, medium-bodied, precise, with acidity judged to perfection. The wine fans-out with a lovely garden savouriness with bay leaf, cedar and finishes with dried, blood orange. As with many wines, I am drawn to the wines texture and this is ultimately blessed. It’s simply effortless, harmonic and will fill you and your glass with serenity”. Served in a Zalto Burgundy glass

£37.95 per bottle

 

Glaetzer-Dixon Avancé Pinot Noir 2017

96+ Points - Stuart McCloskey  “The Pinot Noir for the ’17 Avancé was sourced from three vineyards in Southern Tasmania’s Upper Derwent and Coal Valleys. Sweet, succulent entry with an abundance of red cherries, wild strawberry, plums and sweet spices all laced together with bright, perfectly judged acidity. Medium-bodied, with pure silky tannins. The quality of racy, plush fruit is exquisite however, it’s the wines overall balance and completeness which stands out the most. You will have to look very hard to find a better buy for the money. A wine of pure and total pleasure. Just gorgeous and not to be missed”. Served in Zalto Burgundy glass (Highly-Recommended by the way! ), drinking beautifully now but will develop over the next 3-6 years."

£22.50 per bottle