It is not easy to pinpoint when Tasmania’s wine industry started. Of course there were the explorers who brought European ideas of agriculture and ownership, and in so doing, irrevocably changing the life and landscape of Tasmania forever.
Abel Tasman was the first European to sight the island in 1642 when he sailed by on his warship Heemskerk. Then there was Captain Bligh, who is said to have planted the first fruit trees and vines on Bruny Island in 1788. George Bass sailed up the Derwent in 1802 on his circumnavigation of Tasmania with Matthew Flinders and noted the suitability for viticulture. Each journey added a new layer to what has become the modern wine industry.
Yet no matter how brave the explorers or how bold their plans, none of this would be possible if Tasmania’s natural history hadn’t made it suitable for viticulture. Tasmania’s position on the high latitudes means it is exposed to the weather from the Indian Ocean, Bass Strait and Tasman Sea. These prevailing winds lash the coast with rain and cooling winds. In addition, a series of ancient volcanic uplifts have created the valleys and mountains that contribute to the rugged terrain and complex terroirs.
Today, the evolution continues as a new band of explorers focus their viticultural attentions on Tasmania. This activity is driven in part because of the effects of global warming, sending winemakers in search of cool climate vineyards; and part because drinkers have become more aware of the pleasures of cool climate wines, of which Tasmania makes some of the finest.
For Tasmania’s new band of explorers, the state abounds with new frontiers and possibilities. Here are a few reasons why …
Bay of Fires Riesling 2013
“Find balance and beauty will follow,” says winemaker Peter Dredge of his approach to winemaking across a range that includes still and sparkling wine.
“We share our ideas, our knowledge and our curiosity to bring out the best in every parcel of fruit. We balance acidity against sweetness to create delicate Rieslings.”
This wine, the 2013 Bay of Fires Riesling, manages just that. An attractive and intriguing expression of Riesling, it brims with aromas of grapefruit, lime, blossom and musk. It delivers more of the same on the palate, all zipped up with a lovely line of acid.
Tolpuddle Chardonnay 2012
Coal River Valley
The latest venture from Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith of Shaw + Smith in the Adelaide Hills, this project came about when the pair travelled to Tasmania in 2011 ‘for a look’ and came back as owners of the esteemed 25-year-old vineyard. This is the first release of the Tolpuddle label, which includes two wines – a Pinot Noir and this, the Chardonnay, a lean and racy wine of elegance and finesse.
Brimming with lemon and citrus notes, the palate offers minerality, some nutty complexity and a long and racy finish. And the name?
“The Tolpuddle Martyrs were English convicts transported to Tasmania for forming an agricultural union.”
Stargazer Tasmania 2012 Pinot Noir
“Stargazer is about stopping every now and then to look upward towards the heavens,” nand is the new venture from winemaker and wine judge Samantha Connew.
The label pays tribute to Abel Tasman who “must have spent a fair amount of time gazing towards the heavens”. For Sam, a native New Zealander, Tasman was an obvious link as he was the first European to sight both Tasmania and the South Island of New Zealand. This first release also includes a Riesling from the Derwent Valley.
This wine, the Pinot Noir from Huon Valley, spills with cherry, raspberry and herbal aromas while the palate continues with nicely woven oak and a pleasing hint of spice.
Holyman Pinot Noir 2012
Like the original explorers, Joe Holyman has seen a lot of the world. A native Tasmanian, he has completed vintages in Douro, Provence and Burgundy and travelled to many other parts of the world making and drinking wine.
In 2004, he and wife Lou returned to Tasmania, purchased a vineyard and started making wine under the Stony Rise and Holyman labels. The results are excellent.
This, the 2012 Holyman Pinot Noir is an intense and vibrant wine that brims with red berries and wild strawberries flecked with a hint of spice. The ride continues on the palate with intensity, spice, berry aromas, a firm structure and long and lovely length.