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Working in Tasmania stories

Sam’s vintage move

Sam's vintage move - Sam Connew

Top winemaker, Sam Connew, packed her bags and headed south in search of the perfect grape – and the perfect lifestyle.

And, as fellow vignerons across the State celebrate the season’s harvest, Sam reflects on the past few years. She has fulfilled her dream of buying a small vineyard in Tasmania where she runs a "one-woman band,” and has just picked the last fruit of her fourth vintage.

She has also swapped the heat of the Hunter Valley for a beautiful temperate climate and couldn’t be happier.

"The summers in the Hunter were just getting too much for me. One of the big things about moving to Tassie was getting back to cool weather, and not just from a grapevine point of view, but from a lifestyle point of view as well,” Sam explains.

"And, it’s been more rewarding, and more fulfilling than I ever thought it would be.”

Tassie bound
Sam's vintage move - Sam Connew with dog

Sam's vintage move - Sam Connew with dog

In February 2016 Sam and her chocolate Labrador, Murphy Brown, put down roots in a "tiny vineyard” in the Coal River Valley, east of Hobart, where she would produce her Stargazer Wine.

"From my first visit down here it has always felt like home. There has always been that connection to place which is so important to me,” Sam remarks passionately.

"There is also a really great little grape growing community out here, and everyone has been so welcoming and so helpful.

"Also, where else in the world can you live in a fantastic city like Hobart and then travel half an hour out to your vineyard, which is in one of the best wine growing areas in the country. It’s just unheard of!”

Then there’s the wine!

Sam says the Coal River Valley is perfect for grapes with its "really good dirt” and long growing season that allows fruit to ripen richly on the vine.

"The varieties of grape that I’m passionate about are pinot, riesling and chardonnay, and Tasmania is really the only region in Australia that can grow all three to a world class level.”

Stargazing!
Sam's vintage move - Stargazer bottle

Sam's vintage move - Stargazer bottle

Sam wanted a vineyard to supply grapes for Stargazer Wine which she set up as a side hobby seven years ago while working in the Hunter Valley.  But, from the very start she only used Tasmanian grapes: "Always Tasmanian fruit – only Tasmanian fruit, which is second to none!”

Sam has a wealth of experience – including a stint as senior winemaker for Wirra Wirra Vineyards – and this is reflected in her own premium "interesting and complex wine” which is quickly snapped up by top restaurants, including Aria and Quay in Sydney.

When Sam moved into her vineyard there was just one hectare under vine which grew pinot and riesling grapes. She now has three hectares and has added chardonnay fruit. Last vintage Sam produced 1,800 dozen bottles of Stargazer Wine.

She has also just been awarded Tasmanian Vineyard of the year.

"The last three years I have been here I have worked my butt off. It’s been a long slog, but I love it. Moving here has been the best thing I ever did,” Sam adds.

A good vintage
Sam's vintage move - grapes

Sam's vintage move - grapes

Sam is confident her fourth Tasmanian vintage is another beauty, and it appears this sentiment is shared by winemakers across the State.

Sheralee Davies from Wine Tasmania, who is also on the Brand Tasmania Board, says we are on track for another "solid year in terms of yield, and an excellent one for quality".

"The reports we've been receiving are very high across each of the varieties, with particular praise for sparkling fruit, which this year is some of the best ever,” she says.

Meanwhile, as our world-class reputation for wine continues to grow, it’s clear that Sam isn’t the only person heading south in search of the perfect grape.

"Quite a few winemakers have moved to Tasmania because they recognise the quality of the fruit down here – and the lifestyle!” Sam concludes.

Images courtesy of James Broadway

26 May 2019, Edition 205

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Facts about Tasmania

Tasmania

Tasmania is the southernmost state of Australia, located at latitude 40° south and longitude 144° east and separated from the continent by Bass Strait. It is a group of 334 islands, with the main island being 315 km (180 miles) from west to east and 286 km (175 miles) north to south.

Tasmania

Tasmanians are resourceful and innovative people, committed to a continually expanding export sector. In 2012–13, international exports from the state totalled $3.04 billion. USA, China, Taiwan, India, Japan and other Asian countries account for the bulk of exports, with goods and services also exported to Europe and many other regions.

Geography

Tasmania is similar in size to the Republic of Ireland or Sri Lanka. The Tasmanian islands have a combined coastline of more than 3,000 km.

Geography

The main island has a land area of 62,409 sq km (24,096 sq miles) and the minor islands, taken together, total only 6 per cent of the main island’s land area. The biggest islands are Flinders (1,374 sq km/539 sq miles), King, Cape Barren, Bruny and Macquarie Islands.

Geography

About 250km (150 miles) separates Tasmania’s main island from continental Australia. The Kent Group of Islands, one of the most northerly parts of the state, is only 55km (34 miles) from the coast of the Australian continent.

Climate

Twice named ‘Best Temperate Island in the World’ by international travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler, Tasmania has a mild, temperate maritime climate, with four distinct seasons.

Climate

In summer (December to February) the average maximum temperature is 21° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit). In winter (June to August) the average maximum is 12° C (52° F) and the average minimum is 4° C (40° F). Snow often falls in the highlands, but is rarely experienced in more settled areas.

Annual Rainfall

Tasmania’s west coast is one of the wettest places in the world, but the eastern part of the State lives in a rain-shadow. Hobart, the second-driest capital city in Australia, receives about half as much rain as Sydney.

Annual Rainfall

Annual rainfall in the west is 2,400 mm (95 inches), but hardy locals insist there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. If you travel 120 km east to Hobart, you experience a much drier average of 626 mm (24 inches) a year.

Population

The 512,875-strong community spreads itself across the land; less urbanised than the population of any other Australian state. Hobart, the capital city, is home to more than 212,000 people.

Capital City

Hobart nestles at the foot of kunanyi / Mount Wellington (1,270 m / 4,000 ft) and overlooks the Derwent Estuary, where pods of dolphins and migrating whales are sometimes seen from nearby beaches. Surrounded by thickly forested rolling hills, the city is home to the state parliament and the main campus of the University of Tasmania.

Capital City

Its historic centre features Georgian and Regency buildings from colonial times. Hobart is home port for coastal fishing boats, Antarctic expeditions and vessels that fish the Southern Ocean.

Land Formation

Mountain ranges in the south-west date back 1,000 million years. Ancient sediments were deeply buried, folded and heated under enormous pressure to form schists and glistening white quartzites.

Land Formation

In the south-west and central highlands, dolerite caps many mountains, including Precipitous Bluff and Tasmania’s highest peak, Mt Ossa (1617 m / 5300 ft). More than 42 per cent of Tasmania is World Heritage Area, national park and marine or forest reserves.

Flora

Vegetation is diverse, from alpine heathlands and tall open eucalypt forests to areas of temperate rainforests and moorlands, known as buttongrass plains. Many plants are unique to Tasmania and the ancestors of some species grew on the ancient super-continent, Gondwana, before it broke up 50 million years ago.

Flora

Unique native conifers include slow-growing Huon pines, with one specimen on Mt Read estimated to be up to 10,000 years old. Lomatia tasmanica, commonly known as King’s holly, is a self-cloning shrub that may well be the oldest living organism on earth. It was discovered in 1937.

Fauna

Tasmania is the last refuge of several mammals that once roamed the Australian continent. It is the only place to see a Tasmanian devil or eastern quoll (native cat) in the wild and is the best place to see the spotted-tailed quoll (tiger cat), all carnivorous marsupials.

Fauna

The eastern bettong and the Tasmanian pademelon, both now extinct on the Australian continent, may also be observed.

Fauna

The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was Australia’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is a modern day mystery. The last documented thylacine died in captivity in 1936 and although the animal is considered extinct, unsubstantiated sightings persist.

History and Heritage

Aboriginal people have lived in Tasmania for about 35,000 years, since well before the last Ice Age. They were isolated from the Australian continent about 12,000 years ago, when the seas rose to flood low coastal plains and form Bass Strait.

History and Heritage

Descendants of the original people are part of modern Tasmania’s predominantly Anglo-Celtic population.

History and Heritage

Tasmania was originally named Van Dieman’s Land by the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642. The island was settled by the British as a penal colony in 1803 and the original name was associated with the convict era. It was changed to Tasmania when convict transportation stopped in 1853.

Economy

A resourceful island culture has generated leading-edge niche industries, from production of high-speed catamaran ferries and marine equipment to lightning-protection technology.

Economy

Tasmanians produce winches and windlasses for some of the world’s biggest ocean-going pleasure craft; large-scale inflatable evacuation systems and provide specialist outfit-accommodation services to the marine industry.

Economy

The Wooden Boat Centre at Shipwrights Point has re-established the skills and traditions of another age and attracts students from around the world.

Economy

Tasmania is a world leader in natural turf systems for major sporting arenas and in areas of mining technology and environmental management. Its aquaculture industry has developed ground-breaking fish-feeding technology and new packaging.

Economy

Tasmanians sell communications equipment to many navies and their world-class fine timber designers and craftsmen take orders internationally for furniture made from distinctive local timber.

Economy

The state is a natural larder with clean air, unpolluted water and rich soils inviting the production of 100 varieties of specialty cheeses, as well as other dairy products, mouth-watering rock lobsters, oysters, scallops and abalone, Atlantic salmon, beef, premium beers, leatherwood honey, mineral waters, fine chocolates, fresh berry fruits, apples and crisp vegetables.

Economy

Tasmania is a producer of award-winning cool-climate wines, beers, ciders and whiskies. Other export products include essential oils such as lavender, pharmaceutical products and premium wool sought after in Europe and Asia. Hobart is a vital gateway to the Antarctic and a centre for Southern Ocean and polar research.

Economy

The industries in Tasmania which made the greatest contribution to the State’s gross product in 2010–11 in volume terms were: Manufacturing (9.4%), Health care and social assistance (8.2%), Financial and insurance services (7.2%), Ownership of dwellings and Agriculture, forestry and fishing (each 7.1%).

Getting to Tasmania

Travel is easy, whether by air from Sydney or Melbourne, or by sea, with daily sailings of the twin ferries Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2 each way between Melbourne and Devonport throughout the year.

This site has been produced by Brand Tasmania © 2014–2019

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