Wine South Tasmania: www.winesouth.com.au
Southern Tasmania consists of several dozen small boutique wineries dotted around the spectacular valleys and mountain ranges near Hobart. It is an area where flinty, crisp white wines and powerfully flavoured Pinot Noir rule supreme with one world class exception - Domaine A's Cabernet's
As mentioned in the Tasmanian introduction the history of viticulture in Southern Tasmania dates back to Bartholomew Broughton's vineyard at Hobart's New Farm in 1820. Broughton died in 1828 and his business was taken over by Charles Swanston (who has main streets in Hobart and Melbourne named after him).
Like Northern Tasmania the population exodus (chasing the Victorian gold rush) and changed drinking preferences meant that the local industry had disappeared by the end of the nineteenth century. It was not until 1957, just after Jean Miguet's efforts in the north of the state, that Claudio Alrosco resurrected commercial viticulture in the Derwent Valley at Moorilla Estate. Like the Miguets the early days of the Moorilla Estate were a battle against the state's licensing laws and the lack of technical winemaking knowledge in the state.
Today there are about fifty boutique wineries and vineyards brimming with graduate wine makers. Since the early 1990s Tasmanians have embraced wine tourism with many of the Southern Tasmanian wineries also providing accommodation and sponsoring cultural events as well as establishing fine restaurants often with an emphasis on Tasmania's fine seafoods and cheeses - and more recently truffles.
There are three main clusters of viticultural activity. Hobart's Derwent Valley is one of the emerging ( and unofficial) wine districts. Some of Australia's earliest wines were made in this valley for the officers in the old prison colony. According to one the area's contemporary wine pioneers, Stefano Lubiana, the west bank region of the River Derwent offers a variety of wine friendly soil types that are low in basic nutrients and water-retentive qualities.
A thin layer of fine silty / gravelly loam predominates on the upper slopes which creates micro-environment suited to cool climate red grape varieties. On the Derwent Valley's lower slopes a layer of well-drained coarse gravel features prominently, which are suitable for white varieties. Natural rainfall is rarely over 600 mm and the large bodies of water nearby help moderate against temperature extremes. Well known wineries from the Derwent Valley include: Moorilla Estate, Stefano Lubiana and Derwent Estate.
A second cluster of wineries lies even further to the south in the spectacular Huon River Valley including wineries such as Panorama, Elsewhere Vineyard, Hartzview and No Regrets Vineyard. Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are the staples in both areas with tangy fruit expression and zesty acids. Ripening is always difficult at such a bracingly cold southerly latitude with the harvesting in Derwent and Huon Valley occurring from late March - May depending on the variety - and improbable for late ripening varieties such as Cabernet. Bruny Island has Australia's most southerly commercial vineyard.
However, just to the north east of Hobart is the Coal River Valley taking in the towns of Cambridge, Richmond, Campania and Tea Tree. In 1973 George and Priscilla Park founded a vineyard (now part of Domaine A) in the area and discovered southern Tasmania's warm spot (milder than much of southern Victoria) where it was possible to ripen Cabernets and even Zinfandels.
There are now about 10 cellar doors mainly along the main tourist route connecting Cambridge and the airport with the historic town of Richmond. The growers like to claim that the colder clime (slower ripening) allows them to develop more complex, perfumed Bordeaux style wines. This is true in some patches and some vintages as Domaine A has proven with some really outstanding Graves-style Cabernets.
It is sometimes too cold for the reds to ripen fully so they end up with herbaceous features and metallic tannins. While the Coal Valley is not as far south of the equator as the Bordeaux is north, the big difference is that the west of France is warmed by the Gulf Stream, while Tasmania is surrounded by cold Antarctic currents.
Despite its southerly latitude the Coal Valley is able to mitigate against climate by being in a rain and wind shadow. During the growing season it is significantly drier than the Derwent and Huon Valleys. It is a place like New Zealand's Central Otago that should be too cold for good wine but somehow pulls it off in more vintages than not. The 2000, 2005, 2007 and 2008 vintages are regarded as the great recent vintages for reds. The Germanic-infuenced Rieslings can also be very good. The Coal Valley's small producers include: Pooley, Meadowbank Estate, Domaine A, Hood/Frogmore Creek and the Coal Valley Vineyard. top