In Australia, Tasmania is the only wine region that is also an entire state, one rather vast region, and, naturally, only a fraction of it is under vine. In truth, Tasmania can be more helpfully divided into its seven unofficial subregions, with three in the north around and either side of Launceston, the fourth stretching down the length of the east coast, and with the last three clustered around the southern centres of Richmond, Hobart and Cygnet. For the visitor, Hobart and Launceston are ideal lunching points to explore most Tasmanian wine regions, and with over 160 wine producers and 95 cellar doors, there’s a lot to discover.
Tasmania likely had the first vines committed to Australian soil, when William Bligh optimistically planted some cuttings along with fruit trees when the Bounty dropped anchor off Bruny Island in 1788. Neglect was not kind to them, though an apple tree did survive. Those twin fates neatly predicted the history for both fruits up to the latter half of the 20th century, with orchards thriving and meaningful vineyards barely featuring until the late 1950s, when the Tasmanian wine industry started to take a firm grip.
Bartholomew Broughton planted vines at his Prospect Farm property on the banks of the Derwent in the early 1820s, and there is documentation that he made wine from them from 1826, even foreshadowing Tasmania’s future in sparkling wine: “FOR SALE, at MR BROUGHTON’S at Newtown, 200 Gallons of GRAPE WINE, made in imitation of Champaigne [sic], from the last year’s Grapes, in Casks of 20 Gallons each.”
By 1830, there were commercial vines in both the north and south, with grape cuttings imported to the mainland to plant some of the first South Australian and Victorian vineyards. But the continuity that was maintained in South Australia, and to a much lesser degree in Victoria, eluded Tasmania, with the industry never really establishing a commercial face.
In 1885, Diego Bernacchi planted a significant vineyard on Maria Island, off Tasmania’s south-east coast. And while the commitment and ambition were there, with grand plans for the island to become a thriving community and centre of industry – the town of Darlington was even renamed San Diego – Bernacchi’s venture was doomed. By 1892, Bernacchi’s grand scheme was scuttled, as was the immediate future of the Tasmanian wine industry.
It wasn’t until 1956 that commercial grape-growing took hold, though that foray started as a hobby. Jean Miguet planted vines on land he rented, and later bought, in what is now the Pipers River region. He named the vineyard La Provence. Miguet was a fitter, who emigrated to work on the Trevallyn hydroelectric dam and power station, but he was also a fifth-generation winemaker.
Miguet tried to source varieties that he was familiar with, such as gamay, but the bulk of his plantings were initially based on a handful of furtively imported cuttings, as well as those from local nurseries and backyard vines in and around Launceston. The property was no haphazard affair, though, with Miguet having selected the family home based on its viticultural capacity – according to legend, not even viewing the house before agreeing to the lease.
Down south, Claudio Alcorso, a very well-educated textile merchant originally from Rome, but having lived in Australia since the 1930s, began a similar exploration by planting vines on what was known as “Frying Pan Island”, a promontory extending into the Derwent in the northern limits of Hobart. His first 90 vines for Moorilla Estate came from South Australia, courtesy of David Wynn, and were all riesling. The first harvest came in 1962, made in a very classic hands-on, or feet-on, way.
While Miguet’s venture was beset by local opposition and an unshakeable bureaucracy, he expanded plantings and built a winery, though his untimely death in 1976 saw the La Provence venture only continue for another four years under the supervision of his wife before being sold. (The vineyard still exists with some of those original plantings, though it is now called Providence.) Alcorso’s venture was more successful, with it rightfully credited with shaping the Tasmanian wine industry.
Interestingly, although Alcorso had wisely, or luckily, planted Riesling, and Miguet pinot noir and chardonnay, the direction many subsequent producers took was to favour Bordeaux varieties. Both Alcorso and Miguet also planted cabernet sauvignon, as did Graham Wiltshire. Inspired by the writings of Max Lake, but fiercely opposed to his contention that Tasmania should be written off for wine-growing due to its cold climate, Wiltshire sourced cabernet vines from South Australia to plant at Legana (now Veló Wines).
That first planting led to interest from the mainland, and in 1975, working in league with wine merchant Bill Fesq and Colin Haselgrove from Reynella Wines, Wiltshire founded the iconic Heemskerk by planting at Pipers River. Meanwhile cabernet-based wines were making a stir coming off the vines in Legana, with Sydney Hamilton, who had just founded Coonawarra’s Leconfield, teaching Wiltshire some modern winemaking methods. A Heemskerk cabernet from 1976 won gold at the Royal Melbourne Show, and Tasmania was on the map.
Adjacent to the Heemskerk site, and apparently coincidentally, brothers Andrew and David Pirie had bought land for vines in 1974, also planting in 1975 for their Pipers Brook vineyard. In fact, the two operations pooled resources to propagate nursery material, mainly riesling, chardonnay and cabernet. It wasn’t until the 80s that pinot noir started to make much of an impression (Heemskerk’s first was the 1982). But cabernet was still seen as key, and when a wine each from Pipers Brook and Heemskerk racked up gold medals in 1981 at Royal Melbourne, a Bordeaux emulating culture was further bolstered.
A partnership with Champagne Louis Roederer in 1986 saw Heemskerk launch the Jansz brand some years later – which furthered the cause of chardonnay and pinot noir – while Pipers Brook launched their Pirie sparkling in 1995. That interest in sparkling wine grew rapidly, with Bay of Fires founded by Hardys in 2001 after several years sourcing Tasmanian fruit.
Some other key players in the early days included George and Priscilla Park’s Stoney Vineyard (1973) in the Coal River Valley, Geoff and Susan Bull’s East Coast winery, Freycinet (1979), Gerald Ellis’ Meadowbank (1976) in the Derwent Valley, and Lake Barrington (1986), the first in the North West region.
The 90s saw land under vine increase dramatically, with a narrowing focus on pinot noir and chardonnay, and for both still and sparkling wine. At the same time, there was an increased professionalism in winemaking, with both formally trained locals and makers lured from the mainland, like Steve Lubiana (Sefano Lubiana), as well as overseas, such as Peter Althaus (Domaine A). It was also a time when contract winemaking became a vital cog in the state’s burgeoning wine industry.
Andrew Hood and Julian Alcorso became Tasmania’s most famous winemakers, and especially in the case of the latter, not for their own wines. While Hood was also known for his Wellington label (and later an involvement with Frogmore Creek), the vast weight of the influence of both men was in making everything from a tonne or two to several thousand tonnes as contract winemakers. It is not unusual for a wine region to have contract facilities, or for other wineries to bolster their income by making wine for others, but there is no region in Australia that has been so dominated by the practice as Tasmania has been.
As Tasmanian firmed as a cool climate gem, the value of fruit skyrocketed, and large companies vacuumed up grapes to make regional and multi-regional blends. This affirmed the quality of Tasmanian wine in general, but it lost much of the detail in the process. Chardonnay vineyards like Pooley’s Cooinda Vale site was blended to make Penfolds ‘Yattarna’, while the Hardys flagship ‘Eileen Hardy’ chardonnay bottling had a large Tasmanian component. Without those contract services, even more individual expression of site would have ended up in those blends, but contract making was only a stepping stone, and it was never going to result in true pinnacle expressions.
Tasmania is a region that is both easy and hard to generalise about. Legally, there it is one GI. Its border are the state borders, even though large portions of the island are allotted to national park and the like. It’s a blanket GI and one that desperately needs subregions. The Northern Territory and the ACT are the only other states/territories that are defined by their political borders. The former is more a formality (with no industry), while the latter is, well, essentially the same, with only one winery within the ACT boundary, and the Canberra District actually a wine region of New South Wales. Tasmania deserves better, subregions that have distinct general climatic and geological differences. Those zones are already established, with climatic and soil differences that demand individual classification, if not further division within those subregions.
In the north-west, the aptly titled North West wine region is focused around Devonport, extending inland to around Sheffield. Heading east, the Tamar Valley wraps around Launceston and extends down the Tamar to Bass Straight. A little further west, Piper’s River is the other northern zone, while the rather long, if sparsely occupied, East Coast region extends from St Helens down the length of the coast, terminating a little further south than Hobart’s latitude. From the south, heading further west, the Coal River Valley has the town of Richmond at its approximate geographic centre, while the Derwent Valley extends to the northwest from Hobart. The Huon Valley and D’Entrecasteaux Channel make up the seventh region, and the most southerly, starting south of Hobart and extending past Cygnet.
The regions have a great deal of geological variation, with generalities about the subregions just that – soils can vary greatly over short distances. Pipers River, which is a sparkling wine centre, has friable, free-draining soils over sandstones and silt stones. Volcanic deposits of dolerite characterise the east of the state, with sandy loam, stony brown, and black, cracking topsoils all features. The Derwent Valley, Coal River Valley and Huon Valley contain sandstone and clay sediments under various duplex soils. The Tamar Valley features gravelly basalt over clay and limestone, along with sandy loam. Again, though, these are generalities, with a range of alluvial deposits also complexing the geology. Added to this is the potential for more subregions, with areas of great potential not yet planted.
Tasmania’s climate is essentially maritime, though some of the more inland sites lean towards continental conditions, with greater diurnal temperature shifts. Frost is a major limiting factor on viticulture, with significant wind also posing some challenges at budburst and flowering, but those same gusts help to moderate disease pressure. In general, the growing season is a long one with ample sunshine and relatively mild temperatures, set up by winter and spring rains, and supplemented by growing season falls. This well-timed rain, along with the attendant water resource for irrigation is a great advantage for much of Tasmania, though this benefit is not statewide. Hobart is the nation’s second driest capital, but the general availability of water means that irrigation can readily fill the gaps in the drier zones.
Grape Varieties & Wine Styles
Tasmania’s wine industry may have been founded on Bordeaux varieties, but it has been the grapes of Burgundy that have emerged triumphant, and by quite a margin. Towering over all is pinot noir, which accounts for nearly 95 per cent of red varieties planted. Styles can vary from quite opulent and rich to pretty and red fruited, and to more savoury and structured styles, which vary more due to individual vineyard location and producer than they do due to broader subregion. Chardonnay is easily the next most planted variety, with it comfortably filling more sparkling bottles than pinot noir does, both for everyday fizz and profound lees-slumbered vintage wines.
The national trend for relatively frugal riesling plantings is echoed in Tasmania, even though it is arguably the most promising territory for the grape – with ample supporting evidence. Makers like Pressing Matters, Kate Hill and Pooley are mounting a strong case for a more Germanic style, some with palpable levels of sweetness, and some with barely perceptible ones that contribute to texture and weight. Sauvignon blanc and pinot gris trump riesling for plantings by some stretch – rightly or wrongly – and pinot meunier, due to its traditional role in sparkling production, has a modest but meaningful presence.
Once dominant, a smattering of red Bordeaux varieties is still present, and in the right locations produce wines of significant merit, with Domaine A the leading exponent. Shiraz is still represented in only a nominal way, though with a robust consumer interest in cool climate styles, that can be expected to grow, as will gamay, with many vines planted but not yet in commercial production. Some growers are working with trousseau and blaufränkisch, and grüner veltliner will be a more common sight in years to come. However, the experimentation with ‘emerging’ grape varieties is very much embryonic in Tasmania, with pinot noir and chardonnay still the most common vines going in the ground.
Tasmania in numbers*
Annual rainfall: 915 mm
Mean temperature (Jan): 15.6°C
Area under vine: 1,505 hectares
White grapes: 52%
Red grapes: 48%
Average yield: 9.8 t/ha
Top five varieties crushed (2018)
Pinot Noir 44%
Sauvignon blanc 10%
Pinot gris/grigio 9%
*Statistics courtesy of Wine Australia
Top Wine Producers to Know
The Iconic Wineries
Domaine A & Stoney Vineyard
Peter Althaus’ Domaine A made a powerful impression, not just for the quality of the wines, but for the determined championing of Bordeaux varieties in a place where they had been extensively tested, and had largely come up wanting. Althaus is not one to be swayed by the opinions of others, though, and his plans resulted in startling successes. Swiss-born Althaus bought the Stoney Vineyard in 1989, which had its first vines planted in 1973, after an extensive worldwide search for a great cool climate site. What followed was a patient project that saw the pinnacle reds being released a decade after harvest, while his ‘Lady A’ sauvignon blanc redefined the grape when it was at a low ebb in the eyes of discerning drinkers. Pinot noir got just as much attention at Domaine A, with darkly hued, structured yet deftly poised wines a contrast to many being made at the time. Today, although Althaus has retired, returning to Switzerland, MONA/Moorilla’s David Walsh is ensuring the legacy continues for both Domaine A and Stoney Vineyard.
Claudio Radenti and Lindy Bull’s east coast winery is one of the few small Tasmanian makers that has been focused on producing their own wines onsite from early on – Radenti and Bull are both oenology graduates of Roseworthy. The vineyard was first planted to its unique sheltered amphitheatre in 1979 by Geoff and Susan Bull, Lindy’s parents. Their vineyard site is quite protected, making it a little bit of a heat trap in the cool climate, meaning they typically harvest earlier than most, and also weather cold vintages more readily than others. However, the wines, principally pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling, are classically fine and fragrant, with that little extra warmth not translated to weight, but just a ripeness of fruit, tannin and acidity. Sparkling wine fruit comes from a site further inland, which has a more continental climate. That wine bears the Radenti name.
Rosemary and Terry Bennett’s Huon Valley property Home Hill was planted to grapes in 1992, with pinot noir, chardonnay and sylvaner going in the ground. Those grapes were displacing apples, which is somewhat of a mirror of agriculture on the island – though plenty of apples are still grown, of course. Expanding to 6 hectares over time, Home Hill has collected an intimidating trove of wine show awards, including the 2015 Jimmy Watson for their 2014 Kelly’s Reserve Pinot Noir. The direction of the wines for almost the last decade has been guided by Gilli and Paul Lipscombe of Huon Valley rising star Sailor Seeks Horse. The Lipscombes began in the notoriously difficult 2011 vintage, and over time have imbued the still-powerful wines with new levels of graceful detail. Home Hill also boasts a significant cellar door with an acclaimed restaurant and events/weddings facilities, too.
Claudio Alcorso was one of Tasmanian wine’s great pioneers, with his Moorilla Estate first planted in 1958, two years after Jean Miguet planted vines. Alcorso had emigrated from Italy in the 1930s, eventually buying the outcrop of land on the northern outskirts of Hobart that would become his home and that of Moorilla Estate, and later, after his time, MONA. Alcorso was originally a textile merchant, and he founded the iconic Australian brand Sheridan. Against the best advice, he planted vines, rather than apples, importing vine cuttings of riesling from South Australia. Alcorso later acquired the St Matthias vineyard near Launceston in 1993. The estate fell on hard financial times a few years later, with David Walsh famously acquiring it in 1995. Today, Alcorso’s little peninsula is now Tasmania’s most famous cultural hub. For most of Walsh’s ownership, Canadian expat Conor van der Reest has been making the wines with a free hand at the winery. His focus, across a slew of varieties, is wines of texture and structure, “with new-world fruit and old-world complexity.” Today, along with the Estate and everyday Praxis labels, Domaine A and Stoney Vineyard are made under his supervision.
Dr Andrew Pirie and his brother David founded Pipers Brook Vineyard in 1974. The location of that site was directed to a degree by the doctoral thesis in viticulture that Pirie was undertaking at the time. By what he regards as somewhat crude determining methods now, Pirie judged that location to be ideal for growing grapes for sparkling wine production. Whatever those methods, the results were sound, with sparkling wine under the Pirie banner (that label persists, but it is now made by Tamar Ridge) proving to be some of this country’s most significant examples; exemplary chardonnay, pinot noir and riesling also flew the flag for the nascent Tasmanian wine industry. Pirie left Pipers Brook in 2003, now making wine from his tiny “grand cru sparkling site” under the Apogee imprint. Pipers Brook is still going strong, though, under the ownership of Belgian company Kreglinger. Pipers Brook has stuck to its core principles, while the Ninth Island label provides more everyday options. The cellar door, with café, is one of Tasmania’s most popular.
Steve Lubiana is a fifth-generation winemaker, with his father a grower and maker in South Australia before him, and a family history stretching back further in Italy (Lubiana’s son Marco is continuing that tradition further with his own label). Planting a site near Granton overlooking the Derwent River estuary in 1990, Lubiana’s initial aim was to produce top-flight sparkling wine. Today, those benchmark examples nestle up against highly regarded still expressions of chardonnay and pinot noir, with single block and estate blends and the emblematic ‘Primavera’ bottlings, which celebrate the brighter side of things. The Austrian varieties blaufränkisch and grüner veltliner have joined the fray of late, complementing riesling, pinot gris, syrah, sauvignon blanc and a smattering of Bordeaux varieties. Lubiana also makes an amhora-raised white blend, with a nod to the wines of the Jura. The vineyard has been farmed with biodynamic principles since 2010, and they lay claim to be the first and only certified producer in Tasmania. The cellar door and much-loved osteria (open weekends only) are must visits.
Natalie Fryar is one of this country’s most accomplished makers of sparkling wine, having worked at Seppelt Great Western before helming Jansz for 14 years, both in South Australia and in Piper’s River. Founded in 2014, Bellebonne is her ambitious project to make pinnacle sparkling wine on a micro level. But Fryar believes that Tasmania is sparkling wine territory of rare pedigree, with natural advantages that you just don’t fine elsewhere – excepting Champagne, of course. She currently makes rosé, pinot noir and chardonnay cuvées, and a blanc de blancs with five years on lees – and all are vintage wines. Fryar also produces gin under the Abel Gin Company banner, employing local native botanicals, and pairs with partner Hugh McCullough on the Wellington & Wolfe label, making structured and delicate rieslings.
Adelaide born and bred, Peter Dredge came to wine via a sporting career derailed by injury, with a decade-long stint at Petaluma in the Adelaide Hills leading to running winemaking operations at Bay of Fires. One thing led to another, and Dredge founded a relationship with the Ellis family of Meadowbank to make their wine and take some fruit for his own Dr. Edge label. Dredge is now a partner at Meadowbank, making their Derwent Valley wines, as well as growing the lines in his micro-batch label. Pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling lead the way, with expressions from far flung corners labelled by their compass points (north, south, east), as well as cross-subregional blends. A pét-nat and explorations further afield in Oregon, USA, where Dredge worked vintage for many years, complete the picture.
In 2011, Brothers Jonathan and Matthew Hughes bought an old cherry orchard in the micro-hamlet of Flowerpot near the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and planted it to chardonnay, pinot noir, riesling and syrah. Matthew provided the financial wherewithal for the project, while Jonny is the engine room for the viticulture and winemaking. It was a bold move for a young maker, buying a greenfield site and planting from scratch, but it’s one that’s paid off handsomely. That site is one of Tasmania’s most southerly, and Jonny has been fashioning layered and complex cool climate expressions, with texture and structure on an equal footing with flavour. Along with estate wines, fruit is sourced for the Hughes & Hughes label from vineyards across Tasmania, and the catalogue takes in a little more experimentation, with some skin contact whites, cresting in their ‘Living Wines’, which are sulphur free. A winery and cellar door were in the final phase of construction at the time of writing.
Samantha Connew studied winemaking in her native New Zealand before helming the winemaking at Wirra Wirra, in McLaren Vale, and Tower Estate, in the Hunter Valley. She had a pretty dazzling career – even being crowned Red Winemaker of the Year at the 2007 International Wine Challenge in London – before the lure of the Tasmania proved too great. Connew started the Stargazer label while still in the Hunter, but its success pushed her to buy a vineyard, which she named Palisander, at the northern end of the Coal River Valley. The wines are both familiar and surprising, flavoursome, delicate and strikingly individual, without being polarising, with chewy grape tannins structuring whites, and judicious applications of sugar in riesling, from both estate and sourced fruit. Pinots noir and meunier share a blend, as do pinot gris, gewürztraminer and riesling, with the estate riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir the flagships.
A Tasmanian by birth, with a wine interest kindled by growing up on the family’s hobby vineyard, Joe Holyman actually started his Stoney Rise label while working at a winery near Robe, South Australia, using local fruit. Buying a vineyard on the banks of the Tamar in 2004, Holyman settled for good in his home state, with chardonnay and pinot noir the mainstays. Stoney Rise is the imprint for the more accessibly priced wines, while the more ‘serious’ offerings bear the Holyman name, and a pair of no-sulphur wines have been added of late. Holyman has also been a pioneer of grüner veltliner and is now flying the flag for trousseau (bastardo), while also making a range of experimental, crown-sealed wines in league with Peter Dredge and wine writer and drinks evangelist Mike Bennie under their Brian label.
Ricky Evans’ mantra is “Small parcels. Big love.” It’s a neat summation for the maker who works with discreet parcels of high-quality fruit, both sourced and from the old Three Wishes vineyard, which he has a long-term lease on. Like several key makers before him, Evans worked at Bay of Fires, though unlike other notable alumni, such as Peter Dredge and Fran Austin, Tasmania was already home, with the family property now bearing new vine plantings. Evans focuses mainly on the Tasmanian strengths of chardonnay, pinot noir and riesling, with more classic expressions bookended by a deeper push into whole-bunch pinot with the ‘Dog & Wolf’ flagship wine and the Ziggurat range which is a canvas for experimentation. Evans has also recently added the Havilah label, after his Launceston wine bar (and default cellar door) of the same name.
Both a cradle for talent and the home of arguably the nation’s finest sparkling wines, Bay of Fires is a must-visit cellar door. Nestled up in the north-east in Pipers River, the key zone for sparkling production, BOF may sit under the banner of wine giant Accolade (formerly Constellation, formerly BRL Hardy…), but it has also been the home to one of the most ambitious projects in Australian wine – rivalling Champagne with the Arras brand. Ed Carr has led that immensely costly – time and money – exercise to its undeniable fruition. Bay of Fires is also home to their excellent range of more accessibly priced BOF sparklings and varietal wines from cornerstone Tasmanian varieties. The cellar door offers a range of options, with guided and more casual tastings – there’s even a riesling masterclass – as well as experiences that incorporate wildlife watching and wine. Picnic hampers are also available for whiling away the afternoon on the lawn.
While traditional cellar doors are the norm, there’s a growing movement for operations with broader aspirations. When Ricky Evans created a vehicle to showcase his Two Tonne Tasmania wines it was never going to be in a winery shack with old wine barrels as tables (nothing wrong with that, but it’s just not his style). Evans and partner Chanal Parratt opened Launceston’s Havilah wine bar in mid-2020 – pandemic be damned! Along with the discreet and stylish wine bar came a second string to Evans’ bow with an attendant Havilah wine label. Sundays are true cellar door days, with Evans leading the way, but you can sample his wares throughout the week alongside prime wines from his peers as well as long-established icons, both local and from around the world.
A master butcher and smallgoods maker by trade, Josef Chromy is also one of the state’s most influential wine identities. Playing key roles in developing brands such as Heemskerk, Jansz and Tamar Ridge, Chromy founded his eponymous winery in 2007. Led by winemaker Jeremy Dineen, the Josef Chromy wines trace through the everyday Pepik label through the Estate range and up to the pinnacle Zdar expressions. The wines happily rub shoulders with Tasmania’s best, as does the cellar door and restaurant experience. The cellar door is situated in the property’s 1880s weatherboard homestead, while the restaurant, helmed by Head Chef Nick Raitt, occupies the adjacent timber-slatted architectural box. Both are major destinations in their own right, but in tandem they make a visit here hard to pass up.
It’s hard to imagine there are many visitors to Hobart that don’t make it onto the stubby Berriedale peninsula that accommodates David Walsh’s MONA. So, a tasting at Moorilla Estate, which shares the acreage, seems an almost forgone conclusion, but it is a destination in its own right. Yes, go for the history, with this being one of the pioneering hubs for Tasmanian wine, with Claudio Alcorso embracing Italian tradition alongside innovation. Go for the sleek modern architecture nestling happily against the stunning mid-century buildings designed by architect Roy Grounds (who also designed the National Gallery of Victoria). And go for the stunning views of the Derwent. Yes, go for all this, but also go for the superb wines being crafted by Conor van der Reest under the Moorilla imprints, as well as the more recently acquired Domaine A and Stoney Vineyard labels. Oh, and there’s beer, too – Moo Brew are also on-site.
A: 651-655 Main Rd, Berriedale TAS 7011 Ph: (03) 6277 9960 W: moorilla.com.au
The Pooley cellar door is almost as well-awarded as their wines, crafted by dynamic husband and wife team Anna Pooley and Justin Bubb. Situated in the historic Belmont House, an 1830s sandstone building on their Butcher’s Hill property, the Pooley range is all on show, from the regional riesling, pinot grigio, chardonnay and pinot noir, to their single-site wines and rare small-batch riesling, syrah and pinot noir ‘tribute’ wines, named after family elders. Up the stakes and book a tour of the winery and Butcher’s Hill vineyard, as well as a premium tasting, guided by a family member no less.
A visit to the Derwent Valley, north of Hobart, necessitates a trip to the Stefano Lubiana cellar door, both for the expansive suite of excellent wines and the cellar door experience, as well as the osteria, which serves rustic Italian fare. Spill onto the deck and enjoy salumi and antipasti while you taste, or take lunch under the awnings surrounded by the lush gardens and expansive views across the vineyard and Derwent River. The food offering is built around produce grown in their biodynamic vegetable garden, with proteins ethically sourced.
Eating Out – Tasmania's best restaurants and cafes
Agrarian Kitchen Eatery
Situated in the Bronte building in New Norfolk’s Willow Court, which happens to be an old mental asylum, the Agrarian Kitchen Eatery is the simple way to sample the Agrarian fare without having to prepare it yourself at the legendary cooking school, a few minutes up the road. The paddock-to-plate ethos is the same, unsurprisingly, with the produce sourced from their own farm and lovingly prepared under the watch of owners Rodney Dunn and Séverine Demanet.
Black Cow Bistro is the sister restaurant to Stillwater, with the name giving away the style. A bistro? Yes, and one with a bovine focus. Working primarily with Cape Grim Beef, Great Southern Pinnacle, King Island Beef and Robbins Island Wagyu, this steakhouse also pays homage to the surrounding ocean, with pristine seafood studding the entree selection. The wine list focuses on local wines from the Tamar, with pinot noir a strength, but it travels more broadly, too.
Although mid-2020 was difficult for the most established of restaurants, Ollie and Dan Lancaster’s Dāna Eating House was swinging its doors open for the first time. However, with a bowerbird take on Asian cuisines and a modern spin, the pair have hit the ground running, quickly inserting the restaurant as a Hobart favourite. Pick through the selection of share plates or hand the menu back and opt for the “chef’s feed me” option. And every meal eaten at Dāna is for a good cause, too, with a donation being made to a nominated charity – and you can add your own contribution, making dining there feel especially good on many levels.
Before Lucinda, Kobi Ruzicka made his mark with Dier Makr – and continues to. It’s a degustation-only restaurant in the belly of the Georgian building that Lucinda also occupies. Ruzicka is both chef and chief wineslinger, crafting largely snack-sized plates from the compact kitchen. The menu gets chalked up daily, not that you get a choice, with ever-changing cocktails also listed. The wine options are delivered via a conversation, though, rather than any explicit list, with the thread decidedly lo-fi and ‘natural’ in its leaning.
Federica Andrisani and Oskar Rossi’s Fico opened in 2016 and has firmly established itself as one of Tasmania’s finest restaurants. With a bistro sensibility but a menu laced with their fine-dining experience, the pair’s modern cooking is unbound by tradition but delivered with an Italian accent. The wine list roams more broadly, but the focus is on small producers from Tasmania and Italy, including from ‘natural’ icons Radikon and Frank Cornelisson. Menus are either six or eight courses, with a bar menu available for those wanting a glass of wine and a snack or quick bowl of pasta.
Kobi Ruzicka’s Dier Makr has become one of Hobart’s most acclaimed dining experiences, with Lucinda its more casual late-night foil. Ruzicka describes the food as taking a caves à manger route with house-made charcuterie, terrines, chou farci, quenelles with crab sauce, gougères and truffle crème caramel, and naturally the bounty turned from an essential meat slicer. Wine takes a lo-fi and high-environmental-welfare route.
Situated in Launceston’s Quadrant Mall, Pachinko is a cosy 24-seater turning out modern pan-Asian cuisine with a focus on locally sourced produce. Al fresco dining expands the seating somewhat, weather permitting. The wine list walks down the more natural line, with lo-fi biodynamic and organic producers a feature.
– In its first year of operation the Port Cygnet Cannery quickly became a buzzing 200-seat restaurant in the normally sleepy Huon Valley town of Cygnet. But owner Franca Zingler took the opportunity that the COVID crisis provided to refocus on her original intention for the historic site. That was to create a multi-purpose facility, a “hub of food, beverage and agricultural businesses.” A wood-burning stove powers the kitchen, which turns out perfectly blistered pizzas as well as wood-roasted vegetables and proteins, for both casual visits and increasingly for both public and private events. The Cannery is also home to Huon Valley star wine producer Sailor Seeks Horse, operating as their winery and cellar door.
Matt Breen’s homage to handmade pasta, handmade wine and music delivered solely via vinyl has become a Hobart institution in its short but rich life. This is close quarters stuff, with only 20 hotly contested seats available – luckily, Sonny is also one Hobart wine bar that welcomes late evening traffic.
Stillwater was raising the bar and praising Tasmanian produce twenty years ago, well before the boom of interest in the Apple Isle’s finest was in full swing. Pioneers, that’s for sure, but the restaurant has also remained at the cutting edge. Sample Craig Will’s acclaimed food from breakfast through to dinner, from casual right through to the finest of dining. You can also drop in for a snack and a glass of wine, with James Welsh’s wine list offering the best of Tasmania as well as a compelling collection from around the country and the world.
Situated at Veló Wines, a short drive north of Launceston, chef Matt Adams’ Timbre Kitchen is a homage to local produce and wood-fuelled cooking. Choose from the à la carte shared plate list of small and medium offerings, or opt for one of the two tiers of set-course options. And vegan options can be expanded upon on request, with the kitchen – unusually – welcoming the challenge of creating interesting animal-product-free dishes on the fly – just ask.
Whitney Ball and Tom Westcott took over a notoriously rowdy pub on Macquarie Street in Hobart, turning down the volume and turning in the focus on eating and drinking well. Ball and Westcott had both previously worked at the now sadly departed Franklin, and took the locally focused ethos with them, with Westcott favouring nose-to-tail cooking and Ball featuring the best local wine, beer and cider makers on her generally lo-fi lists. And while the food and drink is some of the best in town, Tom McHugo’s is still very much a pub at heart.
Pioneer of wine bar culture in Tasmania, Willing Bros. is a bustling affair with classic bistro and wine bar fare – think charcuterie and steak frites – and a list of 300-odd wines with a good 20 typically offered by the glass. Owners Carl Windsor and James Kingston also own Ettie’s Bar & Bottle Shop – a wine bar with a more genteel feel and a dedicated dining space.
A: 390 Elizabeth St, North Hobart TAS 7000 Ph: (03) 6234 3053 F:@willingbros
The Winston Bar
Kris and Caroline Miles took over their local pub in North Hobart, in 2013, reshaping into a buzzing mecca for craft beer and American-themed eats. There are a dozen taps, which feature local and imported brews, as well as ones from the pair’s Winston Brewing Company micro-brewery. You can take food and drinks away, or sink in for a bit and shoot a few racks of pool to while away the time.
Housed in a charming 19th century schoolhouse in the Derwent Valley, The Agrarian Kitchen was founded in 2008 by Rodney Dunn and Séverine Demanet. The aim was to offer paddock-to-plate cooking classes with produce supplied from their own farm. Today, that school is thriving alongside what has become one of Tasmania’s most lauded restaurants, which is a short trip down the road in New Norfolk.
A Mona offshoot, In The Hanging Garden occupies nearly a city block in central Hobart, with a tiered, multi-purpose open-air space that has flexibility in its DNA, with the venue originally a servant of MONA’s Dark Mofo festival, feeding and watering attendees and staging live events. It still does this, but operates year-round, with a roof now shielding patrons from rain, if not the cold. Eat, drink be merry and catch some live music while you’re at it.
The Museum of Old and New Art is the most significant private gallery in the southern hemisphere. Situated on a promontory that intrudes into the Derwent River, which also accommodates David Walsh’s other flagship enterprise, Moorilla Estate, Mona has become a focal point for the cultural explosion that has enveloped Hobart. With several food and drink options, dazzling temporary installations – complete with a digital guide that lets you choose between “Art Wank” or “Gonzo” explications of the works, with the latter authored by Walsh himself, and even “Love” and “Hate” voting buttons on the pieces – and a movable feast of temporary shows, MONA, to use a well-worn phrase, is truly a feast for the senses.
A: 655 Main Rd, Berriedale TAS 7011 Ph: (03) 6277 9978 W:mona.net.au
Craft beer aficionados rejoice! Launceston’s temple to craft beer has 14 taps pouring an ever-rotating roster of beers from Tasmania, the mainland and around the world, with somewhere close to 200 also available in bottle or can. At lunch, takeaway food is welcome, with excellent nearby options, while in the evening, a food truck parked out back caters to those needs, with salads snacks and, of course, burgers – and vegans and vegetarians are well-catered for, too.
Strapping on a backpack and setting off into the wilderness on foot isn’t for everyone, and time doesn’t always allow for it. If you fancy taking in the natural beauty of remote Tasmania in comfort and abbreviated form, Above & Beyond is Tasmania’s only seaplane charter service, with scenic flights across the rugged wilderness of the south-west to tours up the west coast, past Wineglass Bay and The Hazards. If time is even tighter, a short scenic flight over Hobart and surrounds is no problem either.
After a decade running a winery in France’s Languedoc, Ashley Huntington and his wife Jane bought a farm in the Derwent Valley to continue the winemaking story. That story was disrupted by the hop-growing history of the area. So, instead of wine, Huntington embarked on a farmhouse ale and cider journey, with his range of naturally fermented offerings unlike any in the country – he even refers to his methods as brewing on the “lunatic fringe”. Taste for yourself onsite, with hand-pumped cider and ale, and bottle sales for takeaway. Barbecue facilitates are available and picnics welcomed. And the name? Huntington is rather tall.
A: 2862 Lyell Highway, Hayes TAS 7140 Ph: 0400 969 677 W:2mt.com.au
With much of Tasmania devoted to pristine wilderness, walking is a big attraction on the Apple Isle. Along with the significant commitment – and stunning rewards – of adventures like The Three Capes Track and The Overland Track, there’s a wealth of shorter outings that will have you back for dinner, or lunch, as well as cave explorations and waterfalls, gorges and waterholes aplenty. Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service have detailed information on the major treks as well as more leisurely sojourns on their website, as well as hard copies of their indispensable 60 Great Short Walks guide book.
Although first built and named in 1867, the Alabama Hotel survives on the middle floor behind an Art Deco facade on Liverpool Street in Hobart’s CBD. The hotel is an excellent budget option with a bar that spills onto a plant-filled balcony at the front of the building. The style here is distinctly retro, with nods to Pop Art and Americana. Twin rooms and queen, both standard and deluxe, are available, but you’ll need to walk down the hall for the shared bathroom facilities.
David Walsh’s Mona has had a transformative effect on Hobart. If you’re keen on keeping the spirit alive after viewing the outstanding art collection, tasting wine at Moorilla Estate and perhaps dining at The Source Restaurant or Faro, then Walsh has the accommodation for you. Self-described as “super flash luxury dens on the River Derwent” (adjacent to Mona and Moorilla Estate), The Mona Pavilions consist of eight striking architectural boxes perched with commanding views across the Derwent. Each “den” is named after an influential artist or architect (all male, mind you) and each is unlike the other, except for the level of luxury and style.
A: 655 Main Rd, Berriedale TAS 7011 Ph: (03) 6277 9900 W:mona.net.au
The Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel
Unsurprisingly, this hotel is situated in an old wool store building, centrally located in Hobart. The historic building has been converted to house a range of standard hotel rooms as well as self-catering apartments, including two-bedroom loft apartments. The hotel also has a restaurant, and it caters very specifically to those wanting to explore the many local mountain bike trails, with secure bike lock-up facilities, eco-friendly bike wash stations and a washer/dryer in every hotel room to deal with any muddy kit.
A major conversion of four 1960s grain silos on the banks of the Tamar gave Launceston its most significant modern hotel. Spanning nine stories, the hotel has a range of rooms, including premier suites on the top floor, with commanding views of the Tamar and Esk Rivers from private balconies. The hotel has all the expected gym, dining and conference facilities, as well as a day spa.
Across the road from Pooley Wines, and owned by the Pooley family, Prospect House is only 25 minutes from Hobart, on the fringes of Richmond. The building is an 1830s convict-built mansion, which has been converted into a five-star guest house with resounding echoes of an English country estate. The rooms are luxurious in a serene, traditional way, with views of the extensive gardens and orchard. Head Chef Kurstin Berriman turns out breakfast, lunch and dinner from the country kitchen (for guests and casual diners, too), celebrating local ingredients in a refined but unfussy way.
If you’re after an escape from it all, Pumphouse Point is a little bit of luxury in the wilderness. With 18 rooms housed in two historic buildings buried in Tasmania’s wilderness, this is a retreat to celebrate the outdoors. The modern rooms are stylishly spare rather than flashy, emphasising the grandeur of the views across Lake St Clair and into the bush. Stay in either of the two converted 1930s hydroelectric buildings, one on the shore and one 900 metres down a jetty in the lake, or book The Retreat, an architectural timber box secreted in the bush, where the style, luxury and seclusion is turned up even more.
With views across Coles Bay and to The Hazards mountain ranges in the Freycinet National Park, Saffire is one of Tasmania’s most luxurious and secluded lodges. This is accommodation as destination, with 20 private suites, a day spa and the acclaimed Palate restaurant all onsite. A lounge with library, five-metre fireplace, expansive deck – with stunning views, of course – and courtyard complete the picture. This is deep-pockets all-inclusive stuff, with breakfast, lunch and dinner covered along with beverages and some spa credits. Optional extras abound too, if that special bottle of wine from the cellar beckons, which it probably will.
Focusing on the raw produce, wine, cider, beer and spirits of the Apple Isle in the acclaimed restaurant, Stillwater has been a celebration of Tasmanian produce for two decades. Situated in a converted 1830s flour mill on the banks of the Tamar River, the upstairs space has now been converted to house seven hotel rooms. Each room has a king bed and is luxuriously appointed, with bedside views of the Tamar. And if you’re one to shun minibars, pause to reconsider, as the rooms at Seven have their own “pantry, bar and in-room fridge”, stocked with Tasmania’s finest consumables.