Ap­ple Isle in the right place

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence - James Halliday

THE Tas­ma­nian wine in­dus­try has many rea­sons to feel it is in the right place at the right time. In­deed, there are so many rea­sons, it’s dif­fi­cult to know where to start. I’ll re­sist the temp­ta­tion to go straight to cli­mate change and in­stead opt for Brand Tas­ma­nia, which is now of­fi­cially part of the mar­ket­ing strat­egy for the state and spans all Tas­ma­nian goods and ser­vices.

In the food, wine and lifestyle seg­ment, the Taste of Tas­ma­nia ex­hi­bi­tion has long been a highly ef­fec­tive mes­sen­ger. There is no ques­tion that in do­mes­tic as well as over­seas mar­kets, Tas­ma­nia con­jures up images of the ex­otic, the un­spoiled, the beau­ti­ful and the mys­te­ri­ous. It’s a place peo­ple wish to visit.

This has been re­in­forced by the web­site pure­tas­ma­nia.com.au and, for wine, the for­ma­tion of Wine In­dus­try Tas­ma­nia, a peak body in­clud­ing al­most ev­ery win­ery, with the curious ex­cep­tion of Pipers Brook. In the com­pany of three other wine jour­nal­ists, a food writer and a travel writer, I spent four days mak­ing a rapid jour­ney through the south, the east coast, the north and the north­west as a guest of th­ese bod­ies.

Be­ing chair­man of the Tas­ma­nian Wine Show since 1991, and hav­ing had an even longer af­fair with trout fish­ing in the state, has made me the old dog, but the trip taught me new tricks. The win­ery lunches and the re­gional wine din­ners pro­vided food of, at times, su­perla­tive qual­ity and so­phis­ti­ca­tion, but al­ways with a strong re­gional ac­cent.

Tas­ma­nia’s var­ied and un­fail­ingly beau­ti­ful scenery en­livens all the 60 or so cel­lar doors and, as rel­a­tively few of the winer­ies have main­land dis­tri­bu­tion, visit­ing is the only way most wine lovers can taste the wines. (All winer­ies are will­ing to ship wines to the main­land, some freight-free for larger or­ders.)

The tyranny of dis­tance has proved no bar­rier of late and will likely turn into an ad­van­tage in the years ahead. As main­land Aus­tralia be­gan to swim in a sur­plus of grapes and wine be­tween 2004 and 2006, Tas­ma­nia was head­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. Ex­cess de­mand lifted prices, and the small amount of bulk wine dis­ap­peared the mo­ment it was put on the mar­ket. By 2007, Tas­ma­nian grape prices topped ev­ery ta­ble in the Na­tional Wine­grape Crush and Price Re­port with an av­er­age of $2475 a tonne. The price of pinot noir ranged from $1400 to $5100 a tonne, with an av­er­age of $2800, and all the in­di­ca­tions point to a fur­ther rise next vin­tage.

In 2007, pinot noir ac­counted for 46 per cent of the to­tal crush, 23 per cent for chardon­nay and 10 per cent for ries­ling. The va­ri­etal mix is not only fi­nan­cially per­fect but re­flects its four best wines: pinot noir, sparkling, chardon­nay and ries­ling. Hardy’s, lo­cally called Bay of Fires, was the first of the big com­pa­nies to move de­ci­sively to Tas­ma­nia for its sparkling wines, headed by Ar­ras, but is not alone. Fos­ter’s is buy­ing all the qual­ity grapes it can.

In some parts of Tas­ma­nia, per­fect viti­cul­tural land is still lu­di­crously cheap by main­land stan­dards (more so given the po­ten­tial value of the crop) but, in com­mon with the main­land, be­comes more ex­pen­sive with as­sured wa­ter avail­abil­ity.

It’s lit­tle un­der­stood that Ho­bart is the sec­ond dri­est cap­i­tal city and that all but a hand­ful of the vine­yards re­quire drip ir­ri­ga­tion.

What, then, of cli­mate change? Tas­ma­nia is bi­sected by lat­i­tude 42S and sur­rounded by the South­ern Ocean, Tas­man Sea and Bass Strait, all pro­vid­ing year-round cold air­con­di­tion­ing. Ini­tially, at least, this will tem­per ris­ing tem­per­a­tures: re­mem­ber that global warm­ing is a very loose phrase; lo­cal warm­ing is very dif­fer­ent. More­over, some medi­umterm warm­ing may make the grow­ing of high-qual­ity pinot noir and chardon­nay eas­ier and will open the door to a suite of va­ri­eties at present largely con­fined to the too-hard bas­ket.

If John B. L. Soule were alive, it’s a fair bet he would say, ‘‘ Go south, young man.’’


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