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.

The Range

Meadowbank Blanc de Noirs 2020
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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
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Meadowbank Gamay 2023
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Meadowbank Gamay 2023

Since its first release, Meadowbank’s Gamay has generated considerable excitement in the trade. With some foresight, Meadowbank’s original Pinot Block was planted to Gamay in 1987. Then, in 2015, a second small Gamay block (descriptively named Top Woolshed) joined the fold. The soils in each block are loose sand over sandstone and dark brown coffee rock. The second block has a component of dolerite. Both sites are farmed sustainably. 2023 was another low-yielding year for Peter Dredge and the Meadowbank team, but, as in 2022, the fruit was excellent. The blocks were picked separately and fermented as whole bunches over 12 days. The wine was foot-stomped over the next few days before being pressed to old French barriques. The wine then matured for three months in barrel before being bottled without fining or filtration. Peter Dredge has turned out a beautifully scented, bright and pure Gamay in 2023. Teeming with blue fruits and flowers, it pops on the palate, unfurling and flowing with moreish charm and vibrant energy. Sapid, punchy and fragrant, it’s up there with the best we’ve tasted.

“I'm really digging Tasmanian gamay. Here from Gerald Ellis' Meadowbank vineyard in the Derwent Valley and made by Peter Dredge. Bright and bouncy in hue with wildflower and spice-flecked plum, cranberry and blue fruits, a crushed riverstone savouriness balanced just so with a nice tension between pure fruit and minerally acid velocity. Vivid, delicious and so easy to drink. Will take a chill easily if you want to whack it in the fridge and take it to the beach for rehydration purposes.”
93 points, Dave Brookes, The Wine Companion
Meadowbank Gamay 2023
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Meadowbank Syrah 2021
Meadowbank Syrah 2021
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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 Syrah 2021
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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

National

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