Tasmania - vineyards and cellar doors

By Mark Smith
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Cellar door at Freycinet Vineyard on the east coast of Tasmania

Cellar door at Freycinet Vineyard on the east coast of Tasmania [©Winepros/VisitVineyards.com]

There’s no doubt about it. Tasmania’s viticulture is small scale. Apart from the State’s two largest companies – Tamar Ridge and Kreglinger Wine Estates – the majority of vineyard operations are small to medium-sized family businesses. It is common practice for some vineyards to grow grapes for other companies as well as for their own premium wine labels.

In 2008, Tasmania’s total vineyard area amounted to 1549 ha of vines. That’s roughly three times the planted area of Geelong, or twice that of the Mornington Peninsula - two of southern Australia’s best known cool climate wine regions.

Some 204 of the State’s 265 individual vineyards are less than 5ha in area. Dropping by the vineyard cellar frequently sees visitors shaking the hand of the person who grew the grapes and made the wine as well.

Few tasting rooms are open all year round. Check details in the vineyards listing on this site. A small tasting fee may be charged by some operators, but this is often refunded with the purchase of wines from the vineyard.

Tasmania is home to many of Australia’s best cool climate wines. In particular, the State’s Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and bottle-fermented sparkling wines have national and international reputations for superb quality and varietal character. Wine show successes of the modern era have an historical precedent. A Tasmanian white wine won an award at the Paris Exhibition of 1848.

In years gone by, leafy, light-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon wines helped lay the foundations for the region’s reputation as a producer of premium quality, European-style red wines. Today’s wine industry has a predilection for Pinot Noir. Almost half the State’s total vineyard area is planted to Burgundy’s classic red grape.

No matter where you travel in Tasmania, you are never far from top quality Pinot Noir. Wines marketed by the State’s smallest vineyards are often the most highly regarded, and in part owe their excellent quality to the highly skilled expertise of specialist contract winemaking operations in the north and the south of the island. Seek out the wines of Apsley Gorge, Barringwood Park, Bay of Fires, Bream Creek, Clemens Hill, Dalrymple, Domaine A, Freycinet, Home Hill, Josef Chromy, Kelvedon, Moorilla, Pipers Brook Vineyard, Stefano Lubiana, Stoney Rise, Tamar Ridge, and Winstead.

Chardonnay accounts for almost a quarter of the State’s total vineyard area, with Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling approaching the 10 percent mark. It is estimated that as much as a third of the zone’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir harvests are purchased each vintage by mainland wine companies, chiefly for sparkling wine production.

Vineyards in North East Tasmania are widely respected for their key role in creating many of the country’s best bottle-fermented wines. Bay of Fires, Clover Hill, Jansz Tasmania, and Kreglinger Wines Estates all figure among the State’s best vintage sparkling wine brands, with Freycinet Radenti, Josef Chromy, and Lake Barrington Vineyard adding to the mix in certain years.

Bay of Fires, Craigow, Freycinet, Frogmore Creek, Goaty Hill, Moores Hill Estate, Moorilla, Pipers Brook Vineyard, Pooley Wines and Tamar Ridge are the zone’s celebrated Riesling producers. Many of the companies listed also produce fine, well structured barrel-fermented Chardonnays.

A good selection of these wines are available at the Launceston restaurant Stillwater, which has recently been awarded The Australia's Best Food Destination in Australia. See their offer to visiting Members below

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January 13th, 2009
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