Tasmania is better known as Australias freezer on account of
its cool climate. Wines were momentarily made in 1826 before re-emerging in the
1960s/70s with plantings near Launceston and Hobart; 1974 saw the famous
Pipers Brook area put on the map by Dr Andrew Pirie. Since 1994
the small industry (approx 1000ha) has developed as the corporates have taken a
renewed interest in the quality of its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, particularly
for sparkling wines. Increasingly some of the 250 growers are, as Tasmanias
climate warms up, beginning to bottle their own wines.
The region (Tasmania is viewed as a single wine zone) is spread over two
distinct, if not officially recognised, sub-regions: the cooler
north-eastern zone around Launceston, focused on the Tamar
River Valley and Pipers Brook area, and the warmer southern zone
around the Derwent River Valley north-west of Hobart.
Pipers Brook is the coolest spot due to the icy influence of the
Bass Strait, its north-eastern location at the islands tip at 120 metres
above sea level and exposure to the Roaring Forties. Further west the weather
is warmer, lower (80m) and more humid around Launceston; typically the harvest
here is 2 weeks ahead of Pipers Brook. The southern, Derwent area is
warmer still on account of its low-lying (60m) shelter from the prevailing
winds and rain. The soils vary from the deep iron-rich, gravely clay in the
north to the thinner, sandstone based soils of the south.
Pinot Noir is increasingly grown to make fine, suave table wines,
rather than simply as a sparkling constituent, along with Chardonnay. Given the
islands southerly latitude, UV levels are similar to New Zealands, giving deep
colours and pungent aromatics, especially for the up-and-coming Rieslings. Cabernet Sauvignon is
found in the south, if a marginal variety.
Apsley Gorge and Domaine A are top-class producers. Jansz is a reliable
source of sparkling wines.