Fryar embraces her bubbly side

Natalie Fryar (Photo: Chris Crerar Photography)

Natalie Fryar wants us to embrace variety – the variety of sparkling wine styles emanating from her home state, Tasmania. The former Jansz Tasmania sparkling winemaker, who now works part-time getting ‘fizzical’ at Pipers Brook Vineyard, has just released her own wine: a bubbly called Bellebonne. And a range of gins under the brand, Abel Gin Co.

We met just as the news broke that Ed Carr and the House of Arras had won the ‘grand slam’ – all seven Australian capital city wine show Best Sparkling Wine of Show trophies, in the one year.

Natalie has nothing but praise for Carr, but she would also like to think that there is room for diversity of style in Tasmanian and Australian bubbles.

“There is diversity in Tassie: it’s about a multitude of things (including vineyard site, subregion, time on lees, malolactic or not, oak or not, how the base-wine is fermented, etc), and these are not all the same for every producer. This is what I want to do: to create something of power and beauty and which represents Tasmania, and doesn’t taste like anything else.”

Natalie spent 14 years as sparkling winemaker for Yalumba’s Tassie bubble brand Jansz, then decided to go and do her own thing. Apart from the gin distillery, she’s consulting to various wineries, most importantly, Pipers Brook Vineyard, where she’s been for two years. It makes sparkling wine under the Kreglinger, Pipers Brook and Ninth Island labels. She’s moved to Tasmania to live and bought a house in Launceston.

A few weeks ago Natalie released the first wine under her own label: Bellebonne. The name means beautiful and good – in the feminine.

To procure top sparkling wine grapes in Tasmania is no easy feat. In fact, Natalie calls it a knife-fight. She’s not telling whose vineyard she is taking grapes from, but it’s a vineyard she contracted at the time she left Jansz, late 2014-early 2015. It’s a small, eight-year-old pinot noir and chardonnay vineyard in the Pipers River area.

“The wine had nine months in old barrels, and then two years on lees in the bottle. A lot of lees work went into making it. It was disgorged in October, so it’s had a couple of months on its cork, which is important. It has powerful fruit balanced against ethereal elegance, with a really long palate. It has real lightness of touch. Aromas of quince paste, pot-pourri, enoki mushrooms. I’d love to say it’s because I’m a genius, but it’s Tassie that makes the wine what it is.”

She’s produced just 1,472 bottles of the Bellebonne Natalie Fryar Vintage Rosé 2015. Its price is AUD $65 and it has a modest dosage of six grams per litre. Natalie explains that this is quite low, but it’s because it is all pinot noir, which normally has lower acidity than chardonnay, and this enables it to be a balanced wine at a lower sweetness level. It certainly finishes clean and dry.

Natalie has her ducks in a row. Waiting in the wings she has a 2015 Vintage Cuvée, to be released at the same time next year, and a 2015 Blanc de Blancs, to be released a year after that.

“Chardonnay needs longer on lees.”

There isn’t much of any of them, they will be scarce. But she is determined to make no compromises.

“I could have bought wine to get a wine on the market sooner, but I wouldn’t do that. I want to make the best Tasmanian sparkling wine I can.”

It doesn’t taste like Arras, or Jansz, or Clover Hill or Champagne, although she loves and respects all of them. She adds, with a final burst of passion:

“Diversity is about style, not quality!”

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