Our Winemaker, Alan Irish, has developed a reputation for being a bit of a maverick. When making wine, Alan doesn’t set out to make wines that are uniform and predictable. He allows wines to ferment and develop naturally, intervening only when needed. He is passionate about creating wines with real personality. The results are classic, premium wines that are delicious and a bit quirky.
Alan began making wine in Tasmania about 12 years ago, having established a vineyard in Tasmania just south of Hobart. When Alan and Marji became partners, we decided on a new start, moving to our small farm on the North West Coast. We started Blue Penguin Wines in 2008, with not much more than a handful of winemaking equipment, two people, and a dream. 2010 saw our first vintage, a 2010 Chardonnay. From that modest start, we’ve grown to the point where we now supply wine to the best specialty outlets in the state.
From our beginning, Alan set out in earnest to meet Tamar Valley grape growers, believing that some of the best grapes in Tasmania are grown there. He gradually developed solid relationships with growers who are passionate about quality. We now source fruit from some of the best independent producers in the valley.
After paying our dues and sometimes waiting in long queues to get access to the best grapes, we’re now able to produce four or five very high quality vintages per year. Our wine offerings vary from year to year. Alan selects grapes based purely on what grapes grew best that season, so that he can make the best wine possible for that harvest, whatever the variety.
We visit our growers throughout the year to assess how the vineyard is shaping up and how the grapes are developing. At harvest, we work with the growers to choose exactly when to pick the grapes. We are present to help with the picking, where we make sure that only the best grapes are harvested. We quickly load and haul the grapes back to Penguin, where we immediately crush them. We strive for no more than a few hours to lapse between picking and processing—a goal that larger producers can seldom achieve.
Marji and Alan bottle and label each wine we produce at our winery. We then load up the ute and take our products to markets and events, where we are proud to be able to claim that we successfully win over our customers through individual tastings. Our presence at markets and events has given us many opportunities to make contacts in the hospitality arena. From these small tastings have grown important, long-term stocking arrangements with Tasmania’s finest wine purveyors.
We chose to grow Tempranillo grapes in our Penguin vineyard because this grape is rarely grown in Tasmania. Alan likes challenges—he wants to see how well we can grow this warmth-loving grape in our cool climate.
We hope you will join us at our cellar door and at the markets and events we attend. We enjoy nothing more than sharing our enthusiasm about what we do. And how better to do that than over a glass of wine?
We are proud to be “Negociant’ Winemakers.
Our position as grape buyers gives us a unique edge. We are able to select the best grapes available, targeting vineyards who have succeeded in producing fine fruit even during difficult growing seasons. We choose not to make wines during poor-producing years.
Our Winemaking Approach:
We look at winemaking as a supreme adventure. Every vintage provides the opportunity to forge a unique partnership between the winemaker and a particular batch of grapes.
The “big players” in the wine industry tend to engineer their wines chemically to ensure that their wines taste the same from year to year. This allows them to meet the expectations of a large chunk of the consumer market that demands that consistency.
In contrast, we believe the fun in winemaking comes from allowing wine to develop along the track it wants to move.
We do not intervene in the wine process to stop or force the development of wine in a given direction. We take the stance that wines can become really interesting—and memorable—when they’re allowed to develop naturally and on their own timeline. We do not stop fermentation, artificially “fine” (remove sediments from) or filter our wines. We add only a minimal amount of preservatives to ensure that the bottled wine reaches the consumer in its optimum state.
We handle our wines gently and deliberately. When moving wines from tank to barrel and from barrel to bottle, we avoid mechanical pumping as much as possible to avoid shock. Instead, we raise containers and allow wines to move slowly, by gravity, from tank to tank. We allow sediments to settle out naturally, over time, and then dispose of them before bottling. That’s why you’ll occasionally still find a small amount of harmless sediment at the bottom of a bottle.