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Food and beverage stories

Grape expectations

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The 2019 vintage is off to a flying start, and it comes with news that Tasmania’s area under vines has grown by 25 per cent over the past two seasons.

The thirst for Tasmania’s cool climate wines shows no signs of abating.

“There is strong and growing global interest in the unique wines we can grow and make on our little island at the edge of the world,” Wine Tasmania C.E.O., Sheralee Davies, says.

Demand for Tasmania’s premium wines, coupled with increasing concerns about global warming, is fuelling an investment boom in the state’s wine industry which already contributes $115 million annually to the local economy.

“There has been consistent growth in the Tasmanian wine sector for a number of years now,” Davies adds.

“We’ve seen many people move to Tasmania specifically to grow some of the world’s best grapes and make some of the world’s best wine here.”

According to Davies, Tasmania’s vineyard area has grown by 20 per cent over the past two seasons, as both local and mainland producers expand their footprint.

Furthermore, plans to expand grape growing areas by a further 15 per cent is also in the pipeline.

She points to the Hill Smith family, of Yalumba in the Barossa Valley, who currently have 2,000 hectares under cultivation but plan to further increase their holdings in the next couple of years.

Smaller producers are also stepping up their vineyard sizes.

“Our vineyard has expanded – both through existing wine producers planting more, as well as new entrants to the Tasmanian wine sector, and there are new wineries and cellar doors,” Davies explains.

Meantime, the 2019 vintage is off to a strong start with the first grapes for sparkling wine being picked.

The harvest is expected to continue through till mid-May, although it will vary from region to region.

“It’s always a relief to get the first grapes harvested and safely into our wineries for another year!” Davies says.

In one of Tasmania’s premier wine producing areas, the Coal River Valley east of Hobart, hundreds of pickers are moving into the vineyards, and some wineries are gearing up for 24-hour operations.

At the Puddleduck Vineyard, chardonnay and pinot noir grapes for sparkling wine are being harvested, with owner, Darren Brown, telling The Mercury that riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc grape varieties for table wine would be picked later in March.

He also said his yield would be about 32 tonnes, which is down 10 per cent on last season.

And, for consumers who are eagerly awaiting the first tastings of Tasmania’s 2019 wine offerings, the news is heartening. 

According to Davies, early reports about this year’s vintage are very positive, in terms of both the quality of the grapes and overall volumes.

She expects yields will be roughly in line with the past three seasons, although variable conditions mean they will vary across the island.

“It’s been a varied 2018-19 season so far, we’ve had dry conditions, wet conditions, cold weather, warm weather, hail, fires, frost – you name it, we’ve probably experienced it somewhere on the island!” Davies continues.

“This is what is involved with growing grapes in Tasmania, high risk but high quality in terms of the quality of wine we are able to produce.

“Growers are used to being agile and reacting to the ever-varied seasonal conditions and this always stands them in good stead to manage whatever is thrown in their way.

“Keep an eye out for wines from 2019 over the coming months and years.”

Image courtesy of ABC News

19 March 2019, Edition 203

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