Wine and Viticulture

Bernacchi's vineyard on Maria Island, 1880s (AOT, PH30/1/1913)

The first vines were planted in 1788 by Bligh from the Bounty at Adventure Bay, Bruny Island, and the explorer Bass noted the potential of the Derwent Valley in 1798. Bartholomew Broughton pioneered commercial production of wine at Prospect Farm, New Town in the 1820s, which was continued by Captain Swanston, and production included sparkling wine. Early vineyards were established in current wine areas: the Derwent and Tamar Valleys, the Coal River Valley, the Relbia area near Launceston, the central east coast and Tasman areas. Cuttings from Tasmanian vineyards were used to establish vineyards in both Victoria and South Australia, including Reynella in 1838.

Industry rebirth began in the 1950s. Frenchman Jean Miguet established La Provence in 1956 in the Pipers River area but was thwarted by bureaucracy. Claudio Alcorso established Moorilla Estate in 1958 at Berriedale, assisted by CSIRO officer Dr Don Martin. Graham Wiltshire established the Heemskerk pilot vineyard at Legana in 1966, with the first commercial release being the Heemskerk Cabernet Sauvignon 1976. Winemaking switched to Heemskerk's Pipers Brook site in 1984, where Wiltshire developed Jansz Tasmania's first sparkling wine of modern times. Wiltshire was instrumental in forming the Pinot Noir Tasmania Forum in the late 1990s.

David and Andrew Pirie established Pipers Brook Vineyard in 1973. Dr Andrew Pirie gained his PhD in viticulture research for an area with equivalent climate and soil to the premium wine regions of France. The rebirth of the Coal River Valley began in 1973 when George and Priscilla Park established Stoney Vineyard, assisted by Dr Martin. George made riesling, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and zinfandel, plus experimental quantities of other varieties. The Glen Ayr vineyard followed in 1975, and Morningside in 1980. The east coast began production in the 1980s with Freycinet winery and Craigie Knowe vineyard. Bream Creek pioneered the Tasman area to the south. Lake Barrington Estate (1986) was the first vineyard in the north-west.

The 1990s saw an influx of winemakers who have had key roles in the expansion of the wine industry, and raised the quality bar. Tasmanian winemakers Andrew Hood (Wellington) and Claudio Radenti (Freycinet) returned, and Stefano Lubiana arrived from South Australia, Peter Althaus (Stoney Vineyard/Domaine A) from Switzerland, and Alain Rousseau from France. Michael Vishacki moved to Tasmania and purchased Panorama in 1995.

Statistics reveal remarkable growth. In 1986, 47 hectares yielded 154 t onnes. In 2003, 801 hectares yielded 5198 tonnes, of which pinot noir contributed 44 percent, chardonnay 30 percent, riesling 7 percent, sauvignon blanc 5 percent, cabernet sauvignon 3 percent and other varieties 11 percent. There were 168 vineyards, 137 licensed wine producers, 46 cellar door outlets, 13 major wineries and 15 minor ones.

The Tasmanian Wine Show, for Tasmanian wines only, began in 1991. The first attracted 43 entries from 16 exhibitors, and the 2004 show saw 342 entries from over 70 exhibitors. Tasmania's first organic vineyard, Tony Scherer's Frogmore Creek, won best wine of the show with its reserve pinot noir 2002. The Royal Hobart Wine Show began in 1974 and includes trophies for the best Tasmanian wines. The Vineyards Association of Tasmania was formed in 1973, and the Tasmanian Appellation of Origin system commenced in 1986, but petered out.

The past few years have seen Kreglinger acquire Pipers Brook Vineyard, following its public listing, Gunns Limited buy Tamar Ridge and rapidly grow vineyards, and the development of investment vineyards. Another generation of winemakers has entered the Tasmanian industry, including Francine Austin (Bay of Fires), Natalie Fryar (Jansz) and Kris Cush (Spring Vale), and are destined to make their mark.

Further reading: P Laing, Tasmanian wines, Hobart, 1997, th edition 2004;

Phil Laing