Tasmania now Australia’s top wine tourism region

Tasmania has long been the butt of jokes from the ‘mainlanders’, as Tasmanians refer to other Australians, but this rugged little island that started out as a prominent penal colony is fast becoming Australia’s premier wine tourism region.

A field of canary yellow canola near Launceston

This has come about thanks to outstanding wines that keep getting better and better, enchanting cellar doors, stunning scenery, excellent hotels and restaurants, as well as a fine road network and zero pollution. Throw in one of the most interesting museums in the southern hemisphere in MONA, as well as Australia’s top golf links course in Barnbougle, and you have all the ingredients for a memorable visit.

Tasmania is some 10,000 square kilometres smaller than Scotland, which it is often compared to on account of its mountainous terrain. Although the wilderness national park area in the southwest of Tasmania receives Scottish-like rainfall, Hobart, in the southeast of the island, has actually been the driest state capital in Australia in the last few years.

Top fizz from House of Arras

It is a common misconception that the populated parts of Tasmania are plagued by wet weather – indeed the east coast often suffers from drought – for it enjoys sunny summers, if not as hot on the mainland.

So much so that Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon even ripen in pockets of the island, which has multiple microclimates, although global warming has played a part in that.

Tasmania is still a cool-climate region, of course, and its most successful varieties remain Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, all blessed with natural high acidity thanks to cool nights and a wide diurnal range.

While Tasmanian Riesling remains relatively unsung on the world stage, despite its quality, its sparkling wines made from the traditional Champagne grapes have received deserved acclaim.

Your correspondent was fortunate enough to sample the gold medal winners in Hobart at the annual Tasmanian Wine Show in late January. Prominent among these was the House of Arras Grand Vintage 2007, made by the king of Australian bubbly, Ed Carr, from 75% Chardonnay.

While that had enjoyed eight years on the lees, his Arras Blanc de Blancs 2004 had spent eleven. Carr’s masterly sparklers can be tasted at the attractive Bay of Fires cellar door in northern Tasmania, half an hour’s drive from Launceston.

A few kilometres away is the Jansz Tasting Room, nestled in a gorgeous location overlooking their vineyards and lake.

Jansz makes only sparkling wine, and does so superbly under the overall direction of Louisa Rose, the Yalumba winemaker in South Australia, for Jansz is owned by Hill-Smith Family Vineyards. Next door is Pipers Brook Vineyard, whose Kreglinger label is another top-class fizz.

On the other side of the Tamar Estuary lies the Tamar Ridge winery, close to the settlement of Grindelwald. Both the cellar door and comfortable guest apartments have dramatic views of the river below.

Winemaker Tom Wallace crafts some excellent Riesling and Pinot Noir, while the sparklers, whose labels are named after his celebrated predecessor, Andrew Pirie, picked up three golds at the Tasmanian Wine Show. Article continued overleaf…

One Response to “Tasmania now Australia’s top wine tourism region”

  1. julie hextall says:

    Nice promotion of Tasmania and its wine industry. Intriguef by photo of ‘windmill near the Cataract Gorge’. Pretty sure this windmill is not in Launceston. There is a windmil near the Cataract Gorge at Joe Chromy’s Gunpowder Mill but this isn’t it. Even the birds look foreign. Great piece otherwise.

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