Tamar Valley, Tasmania
Cool climates wine growing regions are prized for their ability to produce fresh, bright wines with well-developed fruit character and good acidic structure. In Australia, cool climates are particularly valued because so much of the continent is warm. There are some great cool climate locations on “The Big Island” to be sure - special places like Eden Valley that have some altitude and that benefit from cooling effects from the ocean. And you might think that “the mainland” wouldn’t much need Tasmania’s help because the mainland is such a massive wine producer and wine exporter. How much, you might ask, could a remote island like Tasmania contribute to the behemoth that creates so many of the world’s great wines? Well, quite a lot as it turns out.
The fascination of Tasmanian wine is not only that it makes a disproportionate contribution to some of Australia’s greatest winemaking successes but it also maintains its local character and strong “cellar door” wine touring culture. So on the one hand Tasmanian Pinot Noir and Chardonnay make up a relatively high proportion of the raw material for top quality wine exports from some of Australia’s most renowned houses (and investment pressure from those big players is quite high). On the other hand, Tasmania’s cellar door wine touring culture is friendly and unpretentious. The winemakers run the gamut from the Tasmanian pioneers with long history, to family-run wineries, to the big corporates from the big island, to the young mavericks working out of custom crush facilities. The Tamar Valley is one of Australia’s most prized winemaking locations but with just enough distance and independence to maintain its very separate personality.
Why Tamar Valley For Wine?
It’s all about the cool climate. At 41 degrees latitude the Tamar Valley is about the same distance from the equator as Tuscany or Madrid. But the massive Bass Strait with its cold waters and the moderating effect of the estuary that forms the Tamar River mean that this is definitely a cool climate. And, you guessed it, the classic cool climate grapes thrive here including, particularly, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s serendipitous that the cool climate character of Tassie wines is matching up with current wine drinking tastes. Demand is high for Tamar Valley’s incredible sparkling wines and for its fresh, dry Riesling, PInot Noir and Chardonnay.
Where Is The Tamar Valley?
Located on the North Coast of the island and straddling the large estuary that makes up the Tamar River, the valley together with the Pipers River area form a sort of a triangular notch. The triangular wine route that covers this area is well established and allows visitors to cover a lot of wineries in a fairly short distance. Launceston is the largest town and sits at the inland end of the estuary. Launceston is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Hobart in the south.
Who Are The Winemakers?
The Tamar Valley website www.tamarvalleywineroute.com lists over 30 wineries along its wine route. This is not a full listing but is a very good place to start planning your trip. The following is a representative sample of some good ones:
When Is The Best Time To Visit?
Given the cool climate in Tasmania, the best time to visit is late spring to early autumn. So anytime between November and April with January and February perhaps being the most pleasant.
Map and photos courtesy of www.tamarvalleywineroute.com.au; Josef Chomry Vineyard; Leaning Church Vineyard