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What gives Tasmanian wine its unique character?

Chris Phelps

Pick a wine trail, chart a course between cellar doors and get ready to explore Tassie’s cool-climate terroir.

The Tasmanian wine industry is a broad church indeed. There are big-name producers and low-fi idealists, staunch traditionalists and experimental minimal-interventionists working from cellar doors in designer sheds and heritage stables.

So what does this mean for the adventurous traveller? Four wine trails make easy work of road tripping. Pick a trail and let the network of cellar doors be your GPS.

Tamar Valley Wine Trail

a woman looking at wine list while wine tasting at Pipers Brook in TasmaniaJarrad Seng

Sparkling wine tasting at Pipers Brook

Follow the trail through the premier cool-climate vineyards and cellar doors of the Tamar Valley to Pipers River in the north and Relbia in the south, winding past orchards, lavender farms and forests. This is the state’s oldest winegrowing region: compact, picturesque and packed with gourmet experiences for travellers. The trail links about 30 cellar doors on both sides of the Tamar.

The cool-climate region has a global reputation for its sparkling wines, sharing latitudinal position and similar growing conditions with the French region of Champagne. “The region really exemplifies why Tasmania is so good for sparkling wine, because the coastline lets the grapes have longer maturation without the sun heat developing the sugars too much,” says Elaine Curtis-Flynn, the cellar-door manager at Pipers Brook. This is one of the region’s most distinctive vineyards; a picturesque drive through the vines delivers visitors to an architecturally impressive winery, with a café for meals, sales and seated tastings of Pipers Brook, Ninth Island and Kreglinger wines. Make sure you look north: “On a clear day you can actually see our Ninth Island namesake in the distance,” says Curtis-Flynn.

“I’d just really recommend making a great afternoon of the Tamar, sampling wine and having some great food.” Fiona Turner, Jinglers Creek vineyard

There’s more to the Tamar than bubbles, of course. Much of its reputation rests on high-quality pinot noir, as well as chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc. There’s an appetite, too, for experimentation. Winter Brook Vineyard is trialling dornfelder grapes alongside staple varieties. Though little known in Australia, the red grape is popular in Germany and well known to Dutch emigres Nicole and Frank Huisman at Winter Brook. “We knew it was an excellent cool-climate grape,” says Nicole. “It’s intensely flavoured, more like a shiraz than a pinot noir.”

Winter Brook is a two-person, hands-on enterprise. The Huismans handle everything themselves, from pruning to hand-labelling bottles, and a similar ethos pervades the friendly cellar door, with the invitation to BYO lunch and enjoy it on a picnic table in the shade of the apple trees.

“I’d just really recommend making a great afternoon of the Tamar, sampling wine and having some great food,” says Fiona Turner, of Jinglers Creek vineyard. Only 15 minutes’ drive from Launceston’s CBD, Jinglers Creek is emblematic of both Tasmanian tradition and the island’s dynamism.

“It’s a real family affair,” says Turner. “People can touch the vines and look at the chickens running around and I’ll be in my gumboots, but we’re a smart vineyard, too.” They’re trialling new technology such as drone swarms to deter marauding birds, and a vineyard robot dubbed “the vine rover” designed to capture environmental data. “We only have 410 vines,” says Turner. “I feel I’ve almost given every one a name – and we want to make sure we get the very best quality of fruit.”

Southern Wine Trail

a group walking in the vineyard of Home Hill winery in Tasmania.Tourism Tasmania and Chris Crerar

What started as a hobby farm is now a welcoming cellar door at Home Hill Winery

Thinking Hobart? Think the Southern Wine Trail. Spanning the Derwent Valley, Coal River Valley and Huon Valley, all are within an easy day’s drive of the capital, and they combine some of the state’s finest wilderness and wine.

Thirty minutes’ drive south west of Hobart, Home Hill Winery has a striking rammed-earth cellar door, impressive views of kunanyi/Mount Wellington, and alpacas and cows in the paddocks.

“It started off as a hobby farm for a Saturday afternoon, then it grew and grew,” says Rosemary Bennett of the vineyard she owns with her husband, Terry. It’s cold in these parts, and that suits pinot noir and pinot gris: “They like the long, slow ripening process,” she says.

A white weatherboard cottage with a grey corrugated iron room stands amongst the green foliage of rows of wine grapes.Chris Phelps

Kate Hill Wines near Huonville

Also in the region, don’t miss Kate Hill Wines, produced in a century-old apple-packing shed on the outskirts of Huonville. And just 25 minutes’ north of Hobart in the Derwent Valley, Stefano Lubiana Wines is a Tuscan-style farmhouse idyll where biodynamic principles guide the winemaking.

East Coast Wine Trail

a group of people enjoying the relaxed vibe of Craigie Knowe winery on the east coast of TasmaniaSupplied Courtesy of Craigie Knowe Winery

The laidback Craigie Knowe winery on the east coast

Tasmania’s east coast is known for its spectacular coastal scenery, laidback holiday towns, and great seafood and wine to match. “It’s where Tasmanians go on their holidays,” says Sandy Travers, of Craigie Knowe winery. She and her husband, Glen, bought their vineyard after a holiday here.

“The life here is relaxed and beautiful, and we try to keep that feeling going at the cellar door. We hadn’t grown grapes before we bought the vineyard, so we’re a good way in for people just learning about wine. There’s no such thing as a stupid question here, but there’s a heck of a lot of good wine.”

Team a journey along the East Coast Wine Trail with one of the nation’s great coastal drives. The Great Eastern Drive spans almost 200 kilometres of coastal scenery from Orford in the south to St Helens, near larapuna/Bay of Fires.

Cradle Coast Wine Trail

The facade of La Villa vineyard in TasmaniaAdam Gibson

Catching the ferry back to the mainland? Toast your trip at La Villa Wines in Spreyton

In easy striking distance of Devonport, where the Spirit of Tasmania docks, the north-west region is known for its natural beauty, wild coastline and abundant high-quality produce – and a growing collection of cellar doors, distilleries and craft brewers. Team a trip along the Cradle Coast Wine Trail with pit stops dotted along the Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail, and fill a hamper along the way. Meet winemakers and bee keepers, fishermen and farmers, distillers and dreamers.

“We’re finding people are coming back just to try the region. They’ve done the Tamar and the east coast, now they want to try something a bit different,” says Gail Burns, of La Villa Wines. Known for pinot noir, chardonnay, sparkling nebbiolo and savagnin (“it’s good to have a point of difference”), La Villa can be the last stop before boarding the Spirit of Tasmania ferry. “People might drop in an hour early to have a glass of wine under the portico before they have to get to the ferry. It’s a nice way to end your journey.”

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