The mofo guide to | Tasmania
Tasmania’s rapidly becoming an effortlessly cool spot - and we’re not just talking about the climate. Tassie winemaking is turning heads and forging the island’s reputation for producing premium drops that are built on the backbone of innovation, punching well beyond their weight. Here’s what you need to know.
Tasmania is emerging as the go-to region for premium cool climate wines, especially considering how climate change is wreaking havoc on the rest of the world’s wine regions. Currently Tassie wines account for only 1% of Australia’s total production, but it’s not expected to stay that way for long.
Climate can still be an issue here though - cool summers mean that vintage variation is prominent, and so winemakers are super savvy on site selection and vineyard management, plus adapting to whatever nature throws their way. Stony soils are especially prized, given that they are capable of retaining heat to help ripen the grapes.
“Tasmania” itself is the only officially recognised geographical indication for the wine region, and there’s no officially designated sub-regions - but hey, the island is a big place.
There’s 7 distinct growing areas, mainly on the eastern side of the island, given that the western side gets a wee bit blustery - Tassie happens to be smackbang in the path of the Roaring Forties, which blows in from that direction.
Tasmania’s biggest and oldest wine district is the Tamar Valley, sitting on either side of (wouldn’t you have guessed) the Tamar River, which flows from Launceston into Bass Strait. Pinot noir, savvy b and chardonnay knock around down here.
North-east of Launceston you’ll find Pipers River, famed for premium sparkling. Surprise surprise, chardonnay and pinot noir are the grapes you’ll find here, but there’s also some great riesling too.
Oysters and scallops from the East Coast of Tassie are family, and so it’s a perfect pairing for the sparkling wine you’ll find here, as well as still pinot noir and chardonnay.
North West, the state’s youngest wine region, is becoming a hotbed of winemaking innovation.
Coal River Valley
Just east of Hobart, many of the vineyards here sit on north-east slopes to best take advantage of the sun. Classic pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling call Coal River Valley home, as well as a few other grapes.
The Derwent Valley is close to Hobart on the Derwent River, and is influenced by both the river and the ocean. With its proximity to those cool kids at MONA, you’ll find trailblazing winemakers experimenting with biodynamic and alternative winemaking methods here.
South of Hobart is the Huon Valley - home of orchards as well as vineyards, and famed for its fertile soils.
The rest of Australia has to give some thanks to Tassie too for the birth of winemaking on the mainland - cuttings from the vines here became the first to be planted in both Victoria and South Australia.
The fields of Tasmania aren’t just reserved for apples and sheep - premium grapes are grown here too. Although climate change is gathering pace, Tassie has the security of a long-term, cool climate future, and it’s predicted that pinot noir and chardonnay will go from strength to strength (they already make up about ¾ of everything crushed here). Sauvignon blanc, pinot gris/grigio and riesling have also set down established roots though, and you’ll also find Tasmanian winemakers are branching out into new varieties as the possibilities for new sites are unlocked - shiraz/syrah being one to watch.
40% of all of the wine coming out of Tasmania is sparkling, and it’s no surprise when it’s this good - the world just can’t get enough. With a climate and growing conditions comparable to Champagne, you’ll find plenty of high-quality traditional method bubbles, crafted from chardy and pinot noir grapes selected from cooler sites to deliver the clean, zingy acidity, red apple and citrus that is the hallmark of Tassie fizz. You’ll find a range of styles based on the winemaking and time on lees too.
Chardy is the winemaker’s grape because it’ll grow in pretty much any climate, and lend itself to any style of winemaking. Tasmanian chardonnay grows across the island, so the style will depend on the growing conditions and what the winemaker is looking to do, but they are generally more medium-bodied given the cool climate, with a bright acidity and classic citrus, apple and pear aromas and flavours. Winemakers also tend to show restraint in their use of oak, as it can tend to overwhelm the more delicate nature of Tasmanian chardonnay.
It may be the “heartbreaker” grape for vignerons due to its fussy nature, but not here - pinot noir thrives in the Tassie soils and climate, and forms the backbone to its premium bubbles. When made into a still wine, Tasmanian pinot is typically on the more delicate and fruit forward end of the spectrum, with juicy red fruit notes.
While it only accounts for 7% of what’s crushed here, you can expect that to change over the next few years - we love Tassie riesling, as it seems does everyone else. Capable of making a range of styles from dry to sweet, with a fruit ripeness reminiscent of some of Germany’s best, underpinned by a clean minerality and fresh acidity that also makes the best capable of developing for years to come in bottle.
Keen to check out what Tasmania has to offer? Browse our latest and greatest finds here.