Tasmania’s wine industry is on the national map, thanks to Nick Glatezer and more than a century of Barossa Valley history.
Nick, whose family first settled in the Barossa in 1888, has upped stumps and shifted south.
A positive cash flow
If he pulls off points one through four he will be one of the few urban wineries in the country – and the only one in Hobart.
Which, theoretically, should fix point five.
And when it comes to winemaking there’s no doubt this mercurial boy from the Barossa knows what he’s doing.
After all, in 2011 he was awarded Tasmania’s first Jimmy Watson Trophy – for his 2010 Mon Pere Shiraz which he assures is still drinking beautifully.
In the same year Glaetzer was also named Young Winemaker of the Year by Gourmet Traveller.
For a guy who made the trip south seven years ago planning to “craft beautiful cool climate wines” it really was a case of bingo!
But Glaetzer is under no illusion that you are only as good as your next wine, so he is in a hurry to get the building work done so he can get down to business. Unbelievably, though, Glaetzer and his associated Barossa background are in Tasmania only by pure chance.
“I was working at Leeuwin Estate (in Western Australia) in 2004 and tossing up between staying there and heading off to Europe,” Glaetzer says.
“Then there was this blind tasting event and I was really struck by a wine which was then revealed as Tasmanian, and I thought if that’s what they can do in Tassie that’s where I want to be,” he says.
“The next year saw me in Tasmania; first at Frogmore then in 2008 I did my first crush using fruit from four growers in the Coal Valley.
“Now I have a network of a dozen vineyards in the Derwent, Coal and Tamar regions and am working hard to get my brand established.”
The Dixon on the GDF label is wife Sally. Glaetzer says it gives him distance from the family’s successful Barossa business without losing that 126-year connection to Australian wine’s heartland.
Focusing on Pinot Noir, Riesling and Shiraz, Glaetzer says the Tasmanian wine industry, which still only accounts for less than 1 per cent of Australia’s annual crush, only has one way to go.
“As vine maturity improves we will get better, but you have to remember you can still have good fruit and stuff it up,” he says.
“Tasmania is all about pushing hard and trying different things. At Frogmore we gave it all a shot. Small parcels of fruit, wild ferment and multiple examples of what could be done with that. It was all very exciting and challenging.
“Now I go out to the growers I work with to check the progress of the fruit, and what and when I want picked. Some are single clone blocks and it is important to keep trialling like that.”
Glaetzer is proud to say his wines sit well on the national chart and his small South Australian bred Tasmanian operation is building an increasingly big business in Sydney and Melbourne, with prices between $24 and $56. About 10 per cent goes to the US, and a little bit to the Netherlands and Singapore.
“People on the mainland no longer see an ‘ordinary’ Tasmanian wine because the industry here has gone forward so quickly and so successfully,” he adds.
“I am doing around 3500 cases now and plan to keep growing that. When I launched the brand in 2008 I had to seek some initial funding, and like any start- up business you have to convince the banks you are good for it.
“I haven’t had to go back to them – until now. It was tough to convince them but I hope to get this right and then won’t have to go back to them for a long time.
“It has got to the point where I am almost sleeping at night. Fortunately Sally has a job as a journalist at The Mercury so at least the kids get fed.”
Glaetzer is not joking. He admits for what he shelled out for his urban winery he could have picked up 20ha – and a house – in Coal Valley.
“But this place is fantastic,” he enthuses, sitting on a pile of torn down plaster board, pointing out where his winery will go, how the big roller door out front will go up for his cellar door/tasting room.
“Just think of the branding value of our signage on this state’s busiest road,” he says. “I want the whole shebang here; it will really make the business one of a kind.”
Originally an engineering student at the University of Adelaide, Glaetzer had completed four-and-a-half years of his degree when his DNA programming kicked in and he swapped to oenology and viticulture at Curtin University in Western Australia.
It is a move he has never regretted and even if he is living in a caravan come winter he is determined at the very least his tasting room will be open at the new address.
A dedicated French oak guy, Glaetzer says that complements the spicy character of his wines, with their aromatics, savoury fruits, tannin and length.
This effervescent wunderkind is 34. He won his Jimmy Watson when he was 31. If you think DNA doesn’t count, you should also know in 1974 Glaetzer’s uncle John won a Jimmy Watson with a Black Label Wolf Blass. When he was in his 20s. He won again in 1975. Then in 1976. And just to prove there is life on the old dog, picked up his fourth in 1999.
“I thought I had had a good one, it had been given 94 points, but I didn’t think it was the right style to win one of these. I use it in my marketing, of course, but I like to think I don’t overdo it,” he says.
“I really believe I have come here at the right time. Tasmania has been building for a while and there is no doubt it is the next big thing in Australian wine even though we are still very small producers in the big picture.”
He is just waiting for the builders to move in so he can really get his own show on the road – the busiest road in Tasmania.