TASMANIA IS IN Ricky Evans blood, so when he left the island to head to university he knew he’d be back. It may have seemed in doubt when he finished at the University of Adelaide and travelled even further away – but this journey was all about searching for the best techniques to apply at home.
The boy who was born in the Tamar Valley is now making his mark with Bay of Fires and his own label, Two Tonne Tasmania. Daniel Whyntie spoke to Evans about the future of Tasmanian wine and his place in it.
It’s not so easy to escape Van Diemen’s Land; especially when it’s got everything you need to make your dreams come true. When Evans left his home state to go to University he did it without a clear idea of what his future would look like.
He knew he wanted to do something practical, hands on, perhaps agricultural science?
“I probably would have headed down that path. Who knows, I may have double backed into viticulture in the end,” Evans said.
He had worked on a winery as part of his high school work experience but made the choice to study winemaking more by default than design.
“When I was at school, I was like many, didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” Evans said. “I got into the Adelaide course, and I was lucky, because I loved it from the first day. I met great people, and keep continuing to do so, this is why I’m still doing what I’m doing.”
Since then he has found a whole new appreciation for a region with unique characteristics and rich with resources, experience that came to fruition in 2013 when he bottled his first Pinot Noir. There’s nothing easy about starting your own label, especially while working full time as a winemaker at Bay of Fires, based at Tamar Valley.
Evans’ label Two Tonne Tasmania (TTT) began in early 2013, a simple and literal name that reminds Ricky of what his wine is all about; small parcels of fruit from the land he loves.
An opportunity arose when he managed to nudge into the tightly held Tamar Valley, and he grasped it, TTT began, yes, with just a couple tonnes of Pinot Noir.
“Working full time at Bay of Fires, pretty much all my spare time is taken up by making TTT work. I genuinely love what I do, so TTT is my hobby I guess, although I’ve managed to drag my family and partner into that, in a good way.”
HIS OWN PATCH
The gusto in which Evans has forged his place in the Tasmanian wine industry has led him from success to success.
“You make your own luck. People who are ‘lucky’ probably worked very, very hard to create some of that luck,” Evans said.
“That’s something I think about a lot, when things aren’t going well, and also when things are nicely.
“You always need to take a moment to reflect and understand how something was successful, or alternatively why something didn’t work out.
“Not everything is due to chance.”
It’s as if Evans heard the advice given to his comedy movie namesake…
In Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby the fictional racing driver receives the following advice: “You gotta learn to drive with the fear”.
It is with this spirit most young wine brands are created, where the risk of not being able to sell the wine hangs large before the decision to pick the grapes is even made.
But Evans jumped in the deep end and created his own label, to run alongside his work with Bay of Fires.
“Starting a wine company I’ve had to learn a lot, very quickly. There’s some great people who have allowed TTT to exist firstly, and then evolve,” Evans said.
“I spend most of my weekends in the summer in my vineyard, very close to Launceston, it’s only a few minutes from home so spending a few hours here and there, mixing up my weekend works for me.
“It’s a nice release being in the vineyard, the mind can wander and it’s where I have most of my ideas.”
THE PEOPLE’S CHAMPION
After university Evans completed a vintage in the Napa Valley, before he headed home for the 2010 harvest in the cellar at Bay of Fires.
Since then he has worked in the Mosel Valley in Germany, the United Kingdom, and more recently at one of the most famous Italian wine producers, Vietti, in Barolo.
Evans’ Two Tonne Tasmania just took home the people’s choice award at the 2016 Young Guns of Wine Awards, he was also a finalist in the main category.
“Being named a finalist at Young Guns of Wine this year was a highlight personally. It was great to get such early recognition for my work with TTT.” Evans said.
“I don’t muck round too much with my wines. I spend plenty of time in the vineyards over the summer and develop clear ideas on what direction I want individual patches and parcels within patches to go.”
“I spend a fair bit of time fussing over picking decisions; the window for Pinot is so tiny; I reckon attention to detail here allows me to leave things alone thereafter.
“My ferments are natural, but I look after them carefully, I want the wines display natural poise and balance above all, but also express regionality in my own style.”
For Evans it’s all about representing his region, and building Tasmania as a wine destination.
“Generally, I just want to contribute positively to the industry, the Tamar Valley, and Tasmania,” he said.
“TTT is a platform for me to do this, as is Bay of Fires and Eddystone Point. Tasmania is so exciting.
“I just look forward to carving something into it, there’s plenty ahead of me, and this place.”
This is why he jumped when the opportunity arose to join the Bay of Fires team on a permanent basis, and hence a permanent move back to his home state occurred.
“The only problem here is finding available fruit. The Tamar Valley is the largest region in the state, yet, everything is so tied up,” Evans said.
“It’s the same all over, it’s a reflection of how the industry is tracking down here, its exciting times, challenging, but well worth it, and the resources here are just so good.”
Even though he has made his mark in his youth, the winemaker isn’t sitting back, reflecting on how far he has come.
“I feel that one day I’ll just stop, and realise that I have achieved what is was that I wanted to do, it’ll be a great day,” Evans said.
“Like a lot of winemakers, I’m never really satisfied, so perhaps that day may never come.
“I’m comfortable with that.”