Tasmania’s Grape Varieties & Wine Styles

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)

*Statistics courtesy of Wine Australia

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