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PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 November, 2003, 12:00am


Moorilla cabernet sauvignon reserve 1999, $248

The heartland of southern Tasmanian winemaking is in the Derwent Valley around Hobart. Just a few minutes out of town is Moorilla, on a glorious spur of land surrounded almost completely by river. This elegant wine has a delicate nose of sweet cherries. The taste is soft and a little sweet, with light acids. There is enough tannin so it will age well, but it is ready to drink now. The cool climate around Hobart makes it difficult to properly ripen grapes that love the sun. Boutique Wines specialises in Tasmanian labels, with 13 island wineries on its list. Because so many of them have tiny outputs, their wines are available only at this shop in Ap Lei Chau, which is worth the trip.

Boutique Wines [tel: 2525 3899]

Freycinet merlot/cabernet sauvignon 1999, $330

One night long ago, I ran out of money and petrol in the tiny port of Bicheno on the Tasmanian east coast. It was winter, with driving rain and bitter cold, and I had two hungry children who wanted, not unreasonably, to be fed. A stranger in a pub gave me some cash - I posted it back to him from Hobart - so we managed to survive. The kids ate and I bought a bottle of the local red to fight off the cold. That is when I first tasted this label; despite the unhappy circumstances, I have liked it ever since. It is really not sunny enough on the scenic Freycinet Peninsula to grow hot-blooded vines like cabernet and merlot, but nobody has told this winemaker: he picks his own estate-grown grapes and makes a hearty red. It is nice and spicy and - take my word for it - it keeps you warm.

Boutique Wines [tel: 2525 3899]

Meadow Bank pinot noir Henry James 2000, $318

If This is a nice example of a cool-climate pinot; typical strawberry jam flavour predominates with background hints of earthiness. There is ample ripe fruit on the palate, making it a pleasant pre-dinner drink as well as a good companion for anything from roast chicken to grilled fish. Tasmania's difficult climate seems to attract enthusiastic wine-making eccentrics who deliberately choose to grow the notoriously tricky pinot noir vine; I guess they like the challenge.

This lean wine comes from an 11 hectare estate dedicated to holistic agriculture.

Kedington Wine [tel: 2898 9323]