Pop into just about any wine bar in Sydney or Melbourne and there will be a glass or two of cool-climate Tasmanian wine on offer – and chances are it'll be a top drop.
The past decade has been one of extraordinary growth for Tasmanian wine producers, and while the Apple Isle represents less than 0.5% of the total national wine grape production, it punches well above its weight by producing 10% of the premium wine segment.
Prices for both Tasmanian grapes and wines are some of the highest in Australia, and much of the growth in this niche industry is being led by young, innovative winemakers with a strong focus on organic fruit.
"Australia has discovered the fact we are doing good things, so the next step is getting to Asia and further afield," predicts says Jonny Hughes of Tasmania's Mewstone Wines, which is tucked away in the state's south-east corner.
“Small brands are now much more viable with consumers able to access them through the internet, particularly if they have a good story to tell. The recognition is there now.”
Here are six boutique family-owned labels to look out for.
Mewstone Wines/Hughes & Hughes: Well-travelled winemaker Jonny Hughes and his brother Matthew, based in the hamlet of Flowerpot in the Channel region south of Hobart, produce estate-grown wines under the Mewstone label and purchase fruit for their Hughes & Hughes range. The small-batch wines tend be made with minimal intervention.
Sinapius: Injuries prevented Vaughn Dell from making the grade as an AFL footballer, but he and partner Linda Morice have built a formidable reputation for the quality of wines from their Sinapius vineyard at Pipers River in the north of the state. Their close-planted vines produce wines of intensity.
Sailor Seeks Horse: Paul and Gilli Lipscombe are the winemakers for Jimmy Watson Trophy-winning Home Hill in their Huon Valley. Their personal side project has seen them completely rehabilitate a deserted vineyard at Cradoc that now produces much-sought-after pinot noirs and chardonnays.
Tasmanian Organic Wines: One of Tasmania’s few organic producers going it alone in the remote Liffey Valley in the foothills of the Great Western Tiers, west of Launceston, which is not even a recognised wine region. The two hectares of vines have been farmed organically by the Cairns family since 1991. The range is limited to pinot noir and gamay.
Gala Estate: The Gala vineyard at Cranbrook on Tasmania's East Coast is producing some outstanding wines at realistic prices. Run by the seventh generation of the Amos family, Gala is a multi-faceted business that produces not only award-winning wines from estate vines, but also operates as a sheep farm.
Stargazer Wines: New Zealand-born Sam Connew, who is also a qualified lawyer, has worked in Italy, Spain, Oregon and several regions of Australia, including as chief winemaker for Towewr Estate in the Hunter Valley and Wirra Wirra in McLaren Vale. She has now planted her own vineyard in the Coal River Valley, concentrating on pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling.
It can be a challenge to find some of these labels, but they are well worth seeking out alongside more familiar Tasmanian names like Tamar Ridge, Pipers Brook, Bay of Fires and Jansz, which have more prominence of bottleshop shelves.
Tasmania's cool climate makes it a hot spot for boutique wineries
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