International wine critic Jancis Robinson has lavished praises on the premium cool climate wines hailing from Tumbarumba.
The bushfires that tore through the region at the start of the year left some vineyards completely burnt, and all 230 hectares under vine and an estimated harvest of 2000 tonnes were lost to smoke taint.
Cellar doors in the region were closed indefinitely 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.
Mr Mason arranged for 33 bottles of Tumbarumba wine to be sent to Ms Jancis, who was voted the world’s most influential wine critic in the polls in the UK, France and internationally in 2018.
Throughout May, Ms Robinson tasted through each of the wines, representing most Tumbarumba owners, growers and winemakers.
Among the vineyards represented were Obsession, Mount Tumbarumba, Johansen, Courabyra, Excelsior Peak, Coppabella, Tumbarumba Wines Escape and Maragle.
Once the tasting was complete, Ms Robinson published her review of the region on both her website – https://www.jancisrobinson.com/ – and in the UK’s Financial Times.
The Financial Times article was published on Saturday, May 23.
Ms Robinson said she was hugely impressed by some of the wines, paying particular credit to the Chardonnays.
“The discovery of 100 per cent Tumbarumba wines was well worth making,” she wrote on her website.
“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.”
However, tasting through the 33 wines was a revelation for Ms Robinson, who tasted sparkling wines, chardonnays, pinot noirs, as well as other varietal wines.
To the delight of local vignerons, she awarded seven of the 33 wines a score of 17, designating a ‘superior’ wine.
Most of the other wines scored 16, recognising a ‘distinguished’ wine.
Locals in the industry believe these scores, given that they have come from such a renowned world-leading critic, are truly a testament to the quality of Tumbarumba.
President of the Tumbarumba Vignerons Association, Juliet Cullen, said the recognition from one of the world’s most respected wine judges was a real boost to the spirits of 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 even better vintage for 2021,” Ms Cullen 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.
Bill Mason of Kosciuszko Wines said the project was designed to focus the international spotlight on the Tumbarumba region and the quality of wines produced here.
“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.”
The project was the result of the wine community coming together in the roughest 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 Canberra 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 fine selection of wines to be shipped.
Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud, said he was well aware of the quality of wine produced in Tumbarumba.
“With Aussie wine exports globally reaching $2.91 billion in the 2019 calendar year, our product is the toast of the world, no question,” Minister Littleproud said.
“Our wine regions are among the most stunning landscapes you’ll find anywhere and I can personally vouch for the quality of drop from beautiful Tumbarumba.
“Tumbarumba is beautiful in its own right. Take in a glass of the locally produced wine as well and you’re knocking on heaven’s door.”
The project was supported by Australia Post, who shipped the wines to London.