In a relatively short period of time, Tasmania has developed a reputation for its ability to produce high-quality still and sparkling wines. Anyone unconvinced by this statement should try, for example, Eileen Hardy Chardonnay 2010 or Jansz Brut NV to get some appreciation of the high quality production potential from this cool climate region.
The Tasmanian vineyard has expanded considerably since 1993. Then the bearing area as reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) was only 177 ha, but their latest report suggests that this had expanded to 1,229 ha by 2012. Wine Tasmania has released their own vineyard data which suggests that the total vineyard area for Tasmania in 2013 was 1,538 ha. (There are some inconsistencies between these two datasets which are currently being investigated.)
Since Tasmania has a pronounced topographic relief with mountains reaching above 1,500 m, vineyard plantings have so far been restricted to alluvial plains and valleys. The prevailing westerlies are responsible for western Tasmania receiving most of the rainfall, having lower temperatures and making it unsuitable for winegrowing.
The largest winegrowing region of Tasmania is the Tamar Valley, situated in northeastern Tasmania with ca. 500 ha – about one third of the island’s vineyards. The East Coast, North East and Coal River Valley regions each have 250 – 300 ha.
Black and white grape cultivars have been planted at approximately the same rate so the vineyard area of black and white cultivars has remained roughly equal for the past twenty years.
Black winegrape cultivars are dominated by Pinot Noir. Chardonnay is the leading white cultivar, but with a less dominant position. The remaining white vineyard consists mainly of roughly equal amounts of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.
In contrast with many other parts of Australia where vineyard area is being reduced, the current demand for high quality Tasmanian grapes exceeds supply. This has led the Tasmanian State Governement to encourage new planting and to seek overseas investment. This will likely lead to additional vineyard planting – but care will be needed to ensure that Tasmanian grape supply does not leap ahead of demand.