The Tasmanian wine region is located at a more southerly latitude than the rest of Australia and its other wine regions. Tasmania has a much cooler climate than the mainland and has the potential to produce distinctly different wines than in the rest of the country.
The early migrants from Europe recognised the similarities in Tasmania of the soils and climate with the great grape growing regions of their homelands, and began to challenge and disprove the theory that Tasmania was too far south for grapes to fully ripen.
Tasmania’s first efforts at grape growing resulted in a wine that was recognised at a Paris wine exhibition in 1848. However, after this early and impressive start, the island’s wine production all but disappeared until the 1950s.
Today, Tasmania enjoys a global reputation as a producer of premium cool climate wines, winning high acclaim and international accolades from wine judges and oenophiles alike.
Tasmania currently has 160 licensed wine producers with 90 having cellar doors - of these wine producers, the vast majority - more than 100 sell all their wines within Tasmania. If you like your wines grown in cool climate, that are elegant, intensely varietal and well structured, visiting the island is the best way to taste some of Australia’s best wines. The island has a total 230 individual vineyards - with approximately 1800 hectares under vine, with as of the 2014 harvest 1611ha bearing fruit.
The Tasmanian landscape is dominated by dolerite-capped mountains that shelter the islands wine regions from high winds and rainfall. On the lower slopes, the vineyard soils are formed from ancient sandstones and mudstones and also from more recent river sediments and igneous rocks of volcanic origin.
Tasmania has an influential maritime climate, cooled by the predominant westerly winds coming off the Southern Ocean, along with winds from the Indian Ocean, Bass Strait and Tasman Sea, providing growing conditions free of extremes in temperature. The island typically has mild spring and summer temperatures, with warm autumn days and cool nights which allows the grapes to slowly ripen on the vine, resulting in maximum varietal character and flavour development. This is achieved while retaining essential natural acidity that gives these unique wines both freshness and balance.
Due to the location and dramatic climate - vintage variations are greater in Tasmania than any other Australian wine region. This vintage variation is reflected in each unique wine and makes for an insightful tasting of multiple vintages from the same winery.
The majority of Tasmania’s grapes are grown in the following 7 areas:
The Tamar Valley wine growing area, produces approximately 40% - the East Coast area, produces approximately 20% - the North East (Pipers River) wine growing area, produces approximately 19% - the Coal River Valley area, produces approximately 13% and the remaining wine growing areas, including the Derwent Valley, North West and the Huon/Channel, contributed approximately 9% to the total harvest.
Cool climate grape varietals most common in Tasmania include:
44% Pinot Noir (used for both table and sparkling wine production) - 23% Chardonnay (used for both table and sparkling wine) - 12% Sauvignon Blanc - 11% Pinot Gris and 5% Riesling. Other varietals include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Gewürztraminer. The effects of global warming have caused the area's grapes to progressively ripen slightly earlier which has allowed most of the recent vintages to be successful. It has opened up the prospects of increasing red wine production with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz.