Ultimate Guide to Tasmanian Wine Regions

Tasmanian Wine History and Culture

There has been some debate over the years as to which wine region in Australia can claim to be the first. Let's look at the facts. Victoria and South Australia didn't have vineyards until 1834 and 1837, respectively, and they used vine cuttings f­rom Tasmania to start them. There is no evidence of vines showing up in Hunter until 1832 and Bartholomew Broughton founded the first vineyard in Tasmania in 1823, almost a decade earlier. On top of that, the country's oldest-known bottles of wine were recently found in an abandoned cellar there [source: Wine Tasmania]. Some of them were even still sealed. As a result, Tasmania has laid claim to the title of Australia's oldest wine-producing region and there are few who would argue.

Although the early 1800s were good for wine production in Tasmania, the second half of the century would see the industry all but disappear. In 1852, workers fled the land with visions of gold nuggets in their heads. There was a gold rush in Victoria and everyone was hoping to cash in on the discovery. Without enough men to work the land, the vineyards of Tasmania slowly died. Many were replaced with apple orchards [source: Wine Tasmania]. Around the same time, in hopes of creating a more sober country, laws were passed that forbid the production of fortified spirits, Tasmania's specialty. The region fell to the way side as other wine producing regions began to thrive. It looked as though Tasmania's winemaking days were over, and that didn't change for almost a century.

Tasmania's wine industry rose from the ashes in 1956 with the help of Jean Miguet [source: Wine Tasmania]. His vineyard, known today as Providence, was successful and other wine makers followed his example. The 1960s and 1970s saw some of Tasmania's most popular wineries come to life, no doubt a result of the growing popularity of table wines throughout Australia. Today, Tasmania is also known for its sparkling wines thanks primarily to Heemskerk and Roederer.

Things are looking up in Tasmania. At least as far as wine production is concerned. Today, they produce a huge variety of wines and in the past 30 years, they have increased their yield of grapes from a meager 340,000 pounds (154 metric tons) to almost 17.5 million pounds (7,937 metric tons) [source: Wine Tasmania]. That's pretty impressive.