The wineries of the Southern Highlands are the closest to Sydney. Yet I must admit I had not visited there before. I am sure the same is true for many Sydney wine lovers. And there are some valid reasons. It is a relatively new region, started in the 1990s, I think. Many original vineyards were managed by hobby farmers with a focus on selling as many grapes as possible. And the volumes are small. Yet, the attraction is cool climate and an elevation of 500m plus. In the meantime, some wineries have become serious about quality. I visited two; Artemis and Tertini.
The focus of Artemis is on Pinot Noir with a sloped 3ha home vineyard started in 1996 on sandstone and clay soil. However, there are many different wines on offer, based on purchased fruit. The Sparkling Riesling, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc were all quite attractive with typical varietal character. These wines had good drive and well-known acidity for the area. The 20% oak fermented portion in the Sauvignon Blanc added additional interest.
The 2018 Pinot Noir from purchased fruit had a slightly brown tinge. It is fruit forward with licorice and earthy notes being quite prominent - a strange, I would say slightly faulty wine. The tasting highlight was the 2016 Artemis Close Vine Pinot Noir from the home vineyard, planted from 760 to 710m elevation. The yield is 800g per vine, half of the other Pinot Noir. There are pretty red cherry flavours, some creaminess and excellent acidity in this wine. It was matured in used 350 l french barrels (92 points).
Artemis produces a number of full bodied reds. The 2017 Petit Verdot is blue fruited and quite tannic. The Southern Highlands are not ideally suited for these varieties. Maybe in 2100?
Tertini produces an even wider range of wines, but some are from Tasmania and Tumbarumba.
The 2015 Riesling from the Southern Highlands is excellent. The citrus flavours are flanked by subtle acidity. There is enticing minerality on the back palate, overall a complex mouthfeel (93 points). The 2018 Chardonnay is equally good. This wine is fresh and pure, with white peach the dominant flavour. It delivers a well-rounded mouthfeel (93 points).
The highlight was the comparison of the Southern Highland Pinot Noir and the Tasmanian Pinot Noir. The 2018 Southern Highlands Pinot Noir has a surprisingly dark colour. It includes 20% whole bunch. It is a fruit driven wine with red and black cherry flavours, and quite a firm structure (92 points). The wine of the day (maybe unfortunate?) goes to the 2017 Tertini Tasmanian Pinot Noir. It won a trophy there against Tolpuddle and all others. It is a very elegant wine, with a slightly orange colour. On the palate, cherry, strawberry and raspberry flavours seek your attention. Some creaminess rounds out the complex flavour profile (94 points).
Overall, there is great potential, already partly realized, in the Southern Highlands for Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. The production of full-bodied reds is a distraction. It is part insurance policy, part to satisfy stranded Shiraz drinkers, but in the end, these wineries need to focus on those varieties that do best in the region.