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Tasmania: set for stardom?

Tasmania is "the new, exciting frontier" for Australia, according to Ross Brown, owner of Brown Brothers.

Last year the family-owned business bought Tasmanian producer Tamar Ridge. Founder Andrew Pirie has officially retired but, said Brown, "is staying on as a consultant".

Explaining this move outside the Brown Brothers’ base in north-east Victoria, Brown observed: "We’d had 10 years of drought and we’re in the coolest, wettest part of Australia.

"We started looking in South Victoria but these assets were coming on the market in Tasmania and we saw an opportunity to make a significant entry there."

The acquisition has allowed the company to get involved in the production of both high quality sparkling wine and Pinot Noir, which Brown highlighted as "one variety with a big future".

Indeed, he noted: "It is the only category seeing strong growth in Australia and we didn’t have any". Moreover, Brown set out his belief that "Tasmania can really take the lead for Pinot Noir in Australia".

Likewise, Brown stressed the growth potential for Tasmanian sparkling wines, saying: "Sales are really strong and there are only three or four producers really in the top end".

Having inherited a winery in a "really sound" position, Brown’s plan now is "to leverage all the good things and gradually see how to make it better".

As for the scope of his ambitions for the Tamar Ridge wines, Brown pointed out: "With the size of production, there’s no need to look beyond fine wine store and on-premise locations".

Having stepped down earlier this year from his former responsibilities as CEO of Brown Brothers, Brown has not only freed himself up to spend more time representing his family business, but also plans to help build awareness of Tasmanian wines.

"Over the next two years we’re putting a lot of work into brand Tasmania", he revealed. This activity will be focused "not least in Australia", although Brown is also setting his sights on export markets, especially as the island will play host to the International Cool Climate Conference next February.

This chance to catch the attention of a global audience, combined with Australia’s ongoing concerns about climate change, leads Brown to predict a bright future for Tasmania as he anticipates that other winemakers, including larger brand owners, are likely to look in this direction.

Pointing out that fellow Australian First Families of Wine member Yalumba is already Tasmania’s third largest producer, thanks to its ownership of Jansz, Brown concluded: "I think more producers will naturally happen; I think people will follow our example".

Gabriel Savage, 19.05.2011

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