Tasmania – a cool climate jewel

Wines of Australia's island state

By Mark Smith
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Views over vineyards on the East Coast of Tasmania
Signs - Bridestowe Lavender Estate, North East Tasmania
Views over rows of vines in a Tasmanian vineyard


You’ve got to hand it to Tasmania’s 162 licensed wine producers. With the world’s cleanest air, Europe’s best wine grape varieties, and Australia’s coolest wine-growing environments, they know when they’re onto a good thing.

It’s been that way for almost 200 years.

The State’s first small scale vineyards were established by those sent to the island at His Majesty’s pleasure. Today, the pleasure is in the eye, the nose and the palate of the consumer. And it’s easy to see why. Tasmanian wine producers are responsible for crafting some of Australia’s most stylish sparklings, pristine Pinots, and coolest, cool climate Chardonnays.

Getting to this treasure island in the vast Southern Ocean is easy. Tasmania is readily accessible by air and by sea. Getting back to reality is the hardest part of the journey. The State’s relative isolation, small population, and vast tracts of World Heritage-listed wilderness make it something of a Mecca for visitors seeking quality of life in a busy world.

Staying a week, or staying forever? The range of accommodation options begins with low-cost back-packer crash pads and extends to grand colonial retreats, family-run B&Bs and luxury villas overlooking deep harbours and scenic landscapes. With barely 350 kilometres of highway between the north and south of the State, you can drop a line in an alpine lake, cruise a majestic river, stroll among Australia’s oldest convict structures, and still have fuel in the tank for a quick trip to the fish punt or an award-winning restaurant.

Tasmanian specialties include farm fresh meats and seasonal vegetables; apples, apricots and berry fruits, all picked at perfection; hand-crafted cheeses and lip-smacking ice creams; sumptuous chocolates; micro-brewed beers and bitter sweet ciders. The island’s richest larder is stocked all the way down to the continental shelf.

Into vineyards? There are more than 260 to explore. Most are small and hand-tended operations. Just about everyone has a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir to share. The best sites have a dark and seamy side to them – tannin stained arms and legs, hallmark signs of a resident winemaker.

Visitors to the State can seek out their own indulgent form of Tassie mania:

  • Take in Hobart’s world renowned Taste Festival each January. Watch the world and its yachts go by from comfort of a dockside food and wine stall.
  • Hitch a ride on a hack and trek Tasmania’s high country trails. Less adventurous types might herd sea horses on a Tamar River farm.
  • Step back in time on a walking tour of Port Arthur or historic Richmond Village.
  • Spoil the family with a scenic flight or a 4WD tour on the edge of a wilderness.
  • Hang glide your way through tree tops on a flight to remember. Ditch the cable if you’re able.
  • Rejoice in the seasonality of fresh produce and flowering plants. To picnic in one of the State’s myriad parks and botanical gardens is a feast for the senses.
  • Practise your putting on Australia’s oldest golf course or play the links at Bridport’s Barnbougle Dunes. Where else can you enjoy sun, sand and seaside on your way to the 19th? 

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