TASSIE DUO A PERFECT SPARKLING MATCH
"Kreglinger took majority ownership of Pipers Brook back in 2001 and the winery and cellar door setting could hardly be more striking."
PIPERS Brook and associated budget brand Ninth Island have been flagbearers for decades as Tasmania has attracted worldwide interest for the quality of its cool-climate wines.
Established in 1974, Pipers Brook is one of the state’s prime movers – making over 90,000 cases a year in good vintages under labels including premium sparkling wine brand Kreglinger – named after the family company.
Pipers Brook has close to two hundred hectares of vines – huge by Tasmania’s boutique standards.
For Belgian-owned wool and sheepskin business Kreglinger, headed by the Launceston-based de Moor family, the Pipers Brook business – and associated cellar door – are a major focus.
The de Moor family are related to the owners of the respected Chateau Vieux Certan in Bordeaux, owners of the respected Chateau Vieux Certan in Bordeaux, hence paying homage with the name New Certan for a premium single vineyard pinot noir.
Pipers Brook has undergone several changes, and regular changes of winemaker, over its close to half a century of existence but Luke Whittle is the current chief winemaker with the business overseen by Paul de Moor.
Kreglinger took majority ownership of Pipers Brook back in 2001 and the winery and cellar door setting could hardly be more striking. Pipers Brook is situated in Pipers River, an outpost of the Tamar Valley wine region and part of the Tamar Valley Wine Route.
Regional pioneers Andrew and David Pirie established Pipers Brook Vineyard in 1973 in Pipers River – about twenty-three kilometres east of the small town of George Town and around 45 minutes from Launceston in the north of Tasmania. The population is fewer than 500 people but the quality of the local wineries pulls in wine tourists from around the world.
The wines are Tasmanian with a European accent. The terroir is like some of the premium wine regions in France. In addition to the estate there is a small urban vineyard in Launceston – historic Mount Pleasant Estate – with over sixty different clones of pinot noir from around the world, as well as vines in the West Tamar.
In Pipers River, self-guided tastings of the wines as well as takeaway and dine-in bottle sales are offered on the winery’s behalf via Nadine’s Café.
Winemaker Luke Whittle grew up in the “awesome little town” of Whangamata on the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand and worked vintages in Central Victoria, Canada and Germany before settling in Tasmania. He was working as a vintage winemaker in South Australia immediately before accepting a 3 month vintage winemaker gig at Pipers Brook in 2016. He was soon given a permanent position with assistance at the start from Peter Dredge and Natalie Fryar “both with a wealth of local knowledge,” as well as pinot expert and consultant Jim Chatto.
“There was a bit of fortune involved,” Whittle recalls. “I wanted to get back to make the style of cool-climate wines that I had made back at home in New Zealand. Those are the wines I am passionate about making, so I did vintages in Canada and Germany before planning to head back to New Zealand.
“I did my three months here – and then never really left. Making sparkling wines and pinots are what really interested me, so I am certainly in the right place.
“There is just so much potential and so many great wines coming out of the state that it is great to be involved in what is happening in Tasmania. It is an awesome opportunity.
“As time has progressed, I’ve fallen more and more in love with the state and with the wines we are producing here.”
Whittle says he has made small but significant changes. “We’ve made some changes in winemaking style. It was not an upheaval overnight; it has been more of an evolution. I think we are really starting to get consistency in the wines that we are producing.
“One of the biggest changes has been investment into the vineyards – particularly between 2016 and 2017 – so we can get the most out of all the really magical sites we have here.
“I’m still learning something new every vintage in that continuing quest to make the absolute best wines that we can.
“Having access to fruit from different sites is excellent when we are blending wines like the Pipers Brook Estate Pinot Noir. They all have their really interesting specific characteristics and personalities, so that gives us a lot of options.
“The winemaking is fairly traditional, but we are certainly looking to highlight those outstanding parcels of fruit and then getting the fundamentals right in the winery.”
The vineyard rejuvenation program was headed by legendary viticulturist Ray Guerin and Fred Strachan, and the ongoing improvement and investment into the vines is managed by Kym Ayliffe, who was appointed viticulturist in 2019.
Projections for new plantings are underway, but there are no plans to look at alternative varieties.
“We need more chardonnay fruit and more pinot fruit,” Whittle says. “We will be looking to get more premium pinot into the ground rather than anything else. We’ve got vacant land close to some of our best sites that should perform really well.”
The Pipers Brook business is an interesting diversion for Kreglinger, a company that was founded in Antwerp back in 1797 as a trading company.
Kreglinger Europe engages in the food and beverage, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, plastic, rubber, logistics and petroleum products industries.
Kreglinger Australia was established in Keilor, Victoria, in 1893 with interests in the lambskin trade, land development and real estate, as well as the bottling of wine and rainwater.
The de Moor family has wine links back through generations. Paul de Moor’s great grandfather, Georges Thienpont, was a successful wine merchant who purchased Vieux Chateau Certan in 1924.
Nearly a century later, the Pomerol property remains in the family’s hands, with de Moor’s cousin Alexandre Thienpont in charge.
Highly regarded Chateau Le Pin, located nearby, is owned by another cousin, Jacques Thienpont, underlining the family’s love of the wine industry.
Pipers Brook is carrying on that tradition and is one of the largest Tasmanian-owned wine estates.
Pipers Brook Vineyard is today home to five labels: Pipers Brook Estate, Ninth Island, Kreglinger Sparkling, New Certan Pinot Noir and the newest addition being the Pipers Tasmania range, which is a modern expression of the more traditional estate wines. For details see www.kreglingerwineestates.com