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Saturday 25 September 2021

Septuagenarians began a Tasmanian family wine dynasty

John and Libby Pooley; Shelley and Matt Pooley

English migrants Denis and Margaret Pooley were in their 70s when they decided they would like to plant a vineyard and make some wines in their adopted homeland in Tasmania. 

Many of their friends told the septuagenarians that were crazy, but with the help of Tasmanian wine industry pioneers Fred Peacock and Andrew Hood, they set off on their wine journey in 1985. 

Almost 40 years on, the third generation of Pooley vignerons includes Matt Pooley and wife Shelley; and Anna Pooley and husband Justin Bubb. 

Under the keen eye of parents John and Libby Pooley, the latest generation is making the world of wine sit up and take notice with world-class pinots noir and remarkable, long-lived rieslings.

The first Pooley vineyard was a few rows of vines planted on the banks of the Coal River, north of Campania, but still just a short drive from Hobart in southern Tasmania. 

The 16-hectare farm that began as a retirement project is still part of the family vineyard portfolio, along with the Butcher's Hill vines next to the family cellar door just outside the hamlet of Richmond.

Cooinda Vale yielded its first vintage in 1989 and Denis continued working in the vineyard until he died in 1994. Margaret Pooley lived on until 2010. 

In 2003, their son John Pooley - a well-known Hobart prestige car dealer - and his wife Libby bought Belmont, a heritage-listed Georgian home on the outskirts of Richmond. 

Pooley Wines expanded and established a second vineyard, the adjacent Butcher’s Hill, with its first vintage produced in 2007.

Until the passing of Margaret Pooley, three generations of the Pooley family were working in the vineyards with John’s son, Matthew Pooley, taking on the responsibility as viticulturist and with Margaret’s granddaughter, Anna Pooley, returning to the family business in 2013. 

Pooley wines have been made entirely by family hands from that point onward.

Former viticulturist Matt Pooley is today the brand representative and sister Anna Pooley is the award-winning winemaker. 

The 2020 Margaret Pooley Tribute Riesling ($75) - named in honour of the family matriarch - was named the best riesling in Australia in the 2022 James Halliday Wine Companion

It has, predictably, already sold out, but a few of the remaining bottles were the stars of the show at a small celebration at the Pooley cellar door on Friday night - along with back vintages including stellar wines from 2018 and 2015 - both ageing gracefully and drinking beautifully. 

Both Hood and Peacock were in attendance at this week's celebration. 

Also being enjoyed were the two recent release single-vineyard 2020 pinots noir; the Butcher's Hill and the Cooinda Vale (both $70 and worth every cent). 

The Butcher's Hill is a stunning wine, full of delicate deliciousness and sweet and savoury notes, while the tighter Cooinda Vale is one destined for a long happy life in a dark cellar.

Further evidence of the talent of Anna Pooley, formerly of Treasury Wine Estate's and a stint as a winemaker in Italy, is the lip-smackingly vibrant Pooley 2021 Pinot Grigio ($36), a superb summer wine with great vivacity that has concentrated flavours and a persistent acid line along with a subtle Italian accent.

Any wine lovers visiting Tasmania should make sure to check out the delightful old Georgian home that houses the Pooley cellar door. 

Belmont is a grand heritage-listed, convict-built home circa 1832, purchased by the Pooley family in 2003. 

The original coach house and barn is now home to Pooley's cellar door and tasting room,  open seven days a week and known for excellent pizzas at weekends. The staff, like everyone employed by the family, are consummate professionals. 

The Pooley family also operates Prospect House, a country manor-style hotel just across the road from the cellar door. 

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