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 Pinot Noir 2023
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Meadowbank Pinot Noir 2023

The lion’s share of fruit for Meadowbank’s lithe, detailed Pinot is drawn from a north-facing parcel of vines planted by Gerald Ellis in 1987 (which Pete thinks is probably a combination of MV6 and D5V12 clones). For the last two years, a small portion (about 20%) of younger-vine fruit grown on the Top Woolshed block has been included in the blend. These vines were planted in 2014 on a lofty outcrop with more volcanic presence in the soils than the sand, sandstone and dark coffee rock in the old-vine block. The fruit from here lends savoury, graphite undertones to the wine, as well as driving power and grunt to the back palate. Last year’s release took out the Australian Pinot Noir Challenge, and this year’s wine (in our humble opinion) is a cut above its predecessor. Once again, Pete’s instinct has paid dividends. “The Top Woolshed block is pretty unique; without doubt, it’s the soil type making the difference”, he told us.The fruit was picked over two weeks and fermented in two batches. The early pick was fully destemmed, while the later pick fermented with 50% bunches. Maturation took place in a mix of old and new oak (about 10%) for nine months. It shimmies out of the glass with lacy berry purity kissed by floral perfumes. Equally vibrant on the palate, the multi-layered texture deals in gorgeous red fruits flecked with sweet, earthy notes and fine, melting graphite tannins. Wow, delicious. There’s terrific depth throughout, yet the delivery is one of elegance, buoyancy, pretty flesh and subtle mineral-scented length of flavour. Quiet power meets Burgundy-leaning charisma. Killer.

“It fairly pops with red cherry and ripe strawberry, there’s also some spice, dried flowers and something a little bit earthy, like brown mushrooms, with a just a hint of smoky reduction. It’s juicy and succulent, with cool balanced acidity, and if you swish it around in your mouth, there’s fine emery board tannin that feels very nice, along with a pleasantly sappy edge. The finish is long, spicy and sweetly fruited. It’s lovely now, though likely better again with a couple more years under its belt.”
95 points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
“Complex aromas of cherry, dried herbs, spice, sap, underbrush, earth and bramble. There’s plenty of fleshy blue and red fruits here, along with some bunchy funk and lift. The fruit is vibrant, textured and layered and there’s lovely, firm, shapely tannins and snappy acidity.”
95 points, Aaron Brasher, The Real Review
Meadowbank Pinot Noir 2023
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Meadowbank Chardonnay 2023
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Meadowbank Chardonnay 2023

Meadowbank’s Chardonnay yields were down considerably in 2023, yet quality and concentration were through the roof—so much so that Peter Dredge puts this year’s release up there with the very best he’s made. This comes off the property’s oldest vines, which are P58 clone and well into their 30s. Peter Dredge describes the vineyard as a “beautiful little spot” with loose sand and sandstone overlaying dark brown coffee rock rich in iron oxides. The fruit was picked over two passes at slightly different ripeness levels, ensuring sufficient acidity to balance the ripe-leaning nature of the clone. The fruit was pressed as whole bunches to French puncheons for fermentation. This year, Pete upped the percentage of new wood (20%) to balance the density of the fruit from this low-yielding year.In the classical Meadowbank mould, it’s focused and chiselled with a rocky palate layered with citrus, white flowers and crunchy stone fruits, all pulled taut by that mouth-watering, cool-climate acidity. Dredge’s superb winemaking has drawn out a cracker this year, right down the tapered, pulpy finish teeming with slaty drive, Va va voom. 

“This year maybe offers a little extra richness and fruit power, though it’s still a tight little devil, with a driving grapefruity acid line though white peach and lime zest, a little lemon butter gloss and richness, along with cedar and spice. The finish is very long and a bit on the flinty side. It sizzles and pops, and it’s an outstanding Chardonnay all up.”
95 points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
“Bright and vibrant in the glass. Lifted aromas of grilled nuts, nectarine, white flowers, nougat and just-ripe white peach. The palate is fine, focused and multi-faceted. There’s lashings of white stone fruit, grapefruit and punchy, lemony acidity. The oak is subtle and supports the fruit beautifully and there’s a real seamlessness to the impressively long finish.”
95 points, Aaron Brasher, The Real Review
Meadowbank Chardonnay 2023
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Meadowbank Blanc de Blancs 2018
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Meadowbank Blanc de Blancs 2018

The Meadowbank sparkling program is in full swing, and this 2018 Blanc de Blancs―the third release―is some of Peter Dredge’s finest work, and that’s saying something considering this winemaker’s pedigree when it comes to wines of an effervescent nature. The source is the same as for the 2016 and 2017 wines: the Far Horse Vineyard block, located close to the vines used for Meadowbank Chardonnay. While the latter are exposed to the north, the Blanc de Blancs parcel faces south in a slightly cooler mesoclimate. The clone is I10V1. 2018 was a touch warmer than 2017, delivering intensely flavoured Chardonnay with glisteningly fresh natural acidity. The fruit was picked by hand and pressed as whole bunches, with just the first two-thirds of the juice siphoned off to old barriques (just 8 in total) for fermentation over three months. As in 2017, Dredge washed one new barrel with the sparkling base this year. After three months in oak, the wine was bottled and spent the following five years on lees before disgorgement with just 3g/L dosage. It’s another elegant, detailed wine from the sparkling maestro, balancing pure, potent flavour with delicate, creamy texture, zipline acidity and a long lingering finish. Given the price of Champagne at the moment, Pete’s proposition looks like an absolute steal!

“Lovely brightness in the glass and a super mousse and bead. Lifted and pretty aromas of brioche, baked apple, white stone fruit and bath salts. The palate is fine, focused and driven by a core of nectarine and green apple flavours. There's also lovely creaminess and mouth-feel, with the crunchy, punchy acidity doing its thing and delivering cut and purpose. Classy gear.”
95 points, Aaron Brasher, The Real Review
Meadowbank Blanc de Blancs 2018
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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 Riesling 2023
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Meadowbank Riesling 2023

Meadowbank’s Riesling vines are spread across three sites planted in 1974, 2005 and 2015. The block planted in 1974 predates the establishment of Meadowbank, and the clone is unknown. The 2005 block, which accounts for 65% of the blend, is planted to Geisenheim 198, a clone susceptible to botrytis—something winemaker Peter Dredge lets run in most years (provided conditions are dry). You learn something new every day! He advocates for the botrytis influence to add intensity and weight to his Riesling and points to the practice used widely in Germany—he’s in a cool climate, using a German clone: what’s good for the goose… All blocks were handpicked. The fruit from the 2005 block fermented in stainless steel and was handled oxidatively, with a touch of residual sugar remaining and some integration of clean botrytis. The fruit from the other plantings was fermented in old oak barriques to round out the texture. Both parcels were matured on their lees before blending and bottling without fining. Pete told us last year that the 2022 Riesling was the best he’d made at Meadowbank. He may already have surpassed it. The 2023’s recent inclusion in Halliday’s Top 100, clocking in at a cool 98 points, is likely just the beginning of the acclaim this wine will receive. It’s a case of grab-some-while-you-can. Ravishing indeed!

“It’s such a ravishing wine, as rich and deep as it is pure and fine. Redefines citrus.”
98 points, Halliday’s Top 100 2023
“Bright lemon yellow colour. Dried mango and lemon verbena aromatics. Powerful and intense at the core, mango and lime fruits build contrast and tension with an undertone of oyster brine that is accentuated by a racy line of acidity. Sweetness is in there, but it stays in harmony with the other elements, all ensuring length and poise to the finish.”
93 points, Stuart Knox, The Real Review
“Juicy stone fruit, honey and white flowers, lemon curd, lime, a little spice, and a subtle mineral/petrol note. It’s intense and flavoursome, really bursts through the mouth, green apple mouth-watering acidity, wonderful chalky grip to texture, and a kiss of sweetness on a very long and zingy finish. Is that some ginger in the mix too? It’s all the things, and also, it tastes very pure. Top shelf, though comes with the caveat that you have to like them on the more piercing side.”
95+ points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
Meadowbank Riesling 2023
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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 (evocatively 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 clusters 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. 

“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
“This is looking good. Squeaky clean, polished, perfumed and fruit-driven, but with enough flying about the edges to give it some breadth. Musk and bubble-gum cherries, sweet spice notes, a foresty element and a creaminess. It feels plush – at 12% alcohol – but then finishes dry. Apart from anything else – it’s delicious.”
93 points, Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front
Meadowbank Gamay 2023
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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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