We’re a dram fine state

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - Graeme Phillips

WAN­DER­ING through Brand Tas­ma­nia’s Meet the Pro­ducer show­case at Wrest Point a fort­night ago, it brought home to me just how dra­mat­i­cally our food and bev­er­age scenes have changed since I ar­rived in 1980, a time when Ho­bart’s largest veg­etable whole­saler didn’t know what dill was.

Of the ex­ten­sive range of prod­ucts on show, only four were avail­able in 1980. And of the 45 pro­duc­ers proudly show­ing their wares, only Cripps Bak­ers, Mures and, I think, Betta Milk were then in busi­ness.

The first farmed salmon was re­leased to mar­ket a few years af­ter my ar­rival.

At the Brand event, Huon Aqua­cul­ture was pro­vid­ing tast­ings of what is now a $ 400 mil­lion in­dus­try, with de­mand grow­ing at more than $ 1 mil­lion a week.

Four olive grow­ers were at the event of­fer­ing tast­ings of vivid green and pep­pery oils from early picked fruit, golden and less spicy mid­sea­son oils and milder late- picked oils from dif­fer­ent olive va­ri­eties.

I won­dered how many of them re­alised that they, and the many other pro­duc­ers across the state, owed a legacy to the late At­tilio Min­nucci who planted the state’s first com­mer­cial olives near Huonville in 1985.

Peo­ple laughed up their sleeves at him at the time, and thought he was just a crazy, old, home­sick Ital­ian. Now it’s an in­dus­try.

Of the 10 par­tic­i­pat­ing vine­yards at the event, none were around in 1980.

To­day, Tas­ma­nia boasts more than 250 vine­yards and about 160 dif­fer­ent pro­duc­ers in an in­dus­try con­tribut­ing about $ 90 mil­lion a year to the state’s GDP and em­ploy­ing more than 1000 peo­ple.

Jansz was there, 24 years af­ter it was re­leased as Tas­ma­nia’s first sparkling wine in 1989.

To­day it is but the first of many, with James Hal­l­i­day re­cently writ­ing about sparkling wine that “Tas­ma­nia now and in the fu­ture [ is] the keeper of the Holy Grail”.

There were four of Tas­ma­nia’s nine dis­til­leries rep­re­sented at the event, all part of an in­dus­try that started with Bill Lark’s sin­gle barrel of home- dis­tilled whisky in 1992, their sin­gle malts and other spir­its now re­ceiv­ing wide in­ter­na­tional ac­claim with ex­ports to the United States, Asia and Europe.

As Bill Lark said, “I had absolutely no idea it’d end up like this. The Scotch malt whisky in­dus­try is cen­turies old and to think we could achieve the sort of recog­ni­tion that we have in the world of whisky in just 20 years is re­ally quite stag­ger­ing.’’

Then, of course, there were sev­eral pro­duc­ers from the boom­ing cider and ar­ti­san brew­ing in­dus­tries as well as rel­a­tively re­cent en­trants such as Ham­mond Farms Wagyu, Flin­ders Is­land Meat, Miel­lerie Honey, Is­land Berries and Is­land Cur­ries.

Es­pe­cially pleas­ing was to see – at a time when hun­dreds of mil­lions of dollars are be­ing in­vested in the milk and cheese pro­cess­ing in­dus­tries – was that there’s still room for new, small, hands- on, spe­cial­ity pro­duc­ers such as Red Cow Dairies and Yon­dover Farm­house Cheese to es­tab­lish a qual­ity niche. This is just as Frank Marc­hand, Joe Gretschmann and John Bignell did with Heidi Farm, El­gaar Farm and Tas­ma­nian High­land Cheeses, re­spec­tively, decades ago.

So, for me, it was a bit of a nos­tal­gic trip.

But my, how things have changed from the days when you couldn’t get dill to how lucky we are 30 years later. What a fab­u­lous and com­plete, multi- course feast we could man­age to­day.

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