In January 2020 bushfires tore through the Tumbarumba wine region in NSW in Australia.
Vineyards and a major winery in the region suffered significant fire damage and some were totally burnt out.
All 230 hectares under vine in the region and an estimated harvest of 2000 tonnes of fruit, valued at up to $10 million when made into wine, were lost to smoke taint.
Cellar doors in the region have closed indefinitely due to the bushfires and now the Covid-19 pandemic has ground tourism, one of the region’s main industries, to a complete halt.
With this in mind, Kosciuszko Wines owner Bill Mason came up with a project idea in an attempt to ensure Tumbarumba would be remembered more for its excellent quality of wines, rather than bushfires and the tragic vineyard losses that resulted.
“So, amidst all of this adversity, we decided to see if we could focus some international attention on the Tumbarumba region – one of the 10 or so smallest wine regions in Australia,” Mr Mason said.
“We communicated to the leading international wine writers, letting them know of the hardships growers and winemakers were experiencing in Tumbarumba, and the first writer to come back to us was Jancis Robinson in the UK.”
Voted the world’s most influential wine critic in polls in the US, France and internationally in 2018, Ms Robinson is a wine writer and author who writes daily for JancisRobinson.com and weekly for the Financial Times.
She is the founder-editor of The Oxford Companion to Wine, co-author with Hugh Johnson of The World Atlas of Wine and author of many other acclaimed books on wine.
“In her email back to us, Jancis expressed her deepest sympathies and we were heartened by her support and connection with the Tumbarumba growers and wine producers at that difficult time,” Mr Mason said.
In January, whilst fires and smoke smothered southern New South Wales, Mr Mason contacted Juliet Cullen, President of the Tumbarumba Vignerons Association, and Alex McKay, leading winemaker and owner of Collector Wines based in Canberra and long-time supporter of the grape growers in Tumbarumba.
With the support of local vineyards in Tumbarumba and with the commitment of winemakers and producers from Canberra and other regions who source the high-quality grapes from Tumbarumba, Mr Mason decided to gather together a wide selection of wines from Tumbarumba and ship them to Ms Robinson in London.
All local producers that presented wines for shipment to London were included.
These are Courabyra, On The Fly (Mount Tumbarumba Vineyards), Obsession, Coppabella and Tumbarumba Wines Escape. Unfortunately Johansen Wines did not have any wines available to be included, as they had sold out after the fires.
To the delight of everyone involved, they received information last Tuesday that the 33 bottles of wine had arrived safely in the office of Ms Robinson.
This marks the largest and most comprehensive selection of wines from Tumbarumba ever forwarded overseas to any reviewer or wine show.
Tumbarumba growers and producers are widely represented, as well as those wineries and producers from Canberra and other regions that have sourced grapes from the region, some for many decades.
Cool-climate chardonnay, a variety Tumbarumba is becoming well known for, was well represented in the mix and Pinot noir, Pinot Gris, Gruner Veltliner and a Gamay also made the grade.
“It was not a simple task to ship the wines from Tumbarumba to London amid the severely disrupted logistics that have resulted from the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Mr Mason said.
“The good news is that all the wines arrived safely and now we will wait to see what Jancis Robinson and her expert panel of reviewers think of the wines that we are all very proud of.”
Mr Mason thanked winemakers Alex McKay from Collector Wines, Celine Rousseau of Eden Road Wines and Bryan Currie of Hungerford Hill Wines for their expertise in tasting and deciding the final selection of wines to be shipped.
The project was made possible by Australia Post, strong supporters of the Australian wine industry and those in the Canberra and Tumbarumba wine regions.
Organisers also thanked Australia Post for their sponsorship and Capital Wines in Canberra, who also provided support in hosting the tasting of the wines as well as organising the shipping logistics of the wines to London.