Tasmania’s sparkling wine industry has come of age, with an extraordinary run of prestigious national and international awards in the last two years.
One of Australia’s top champagne and sparkling wine critics, Tyson Steltzer, said “Tasmania’s sparkling wines are now a global benchmark”.
“In 2016 the House of Arras took out the Best Wine in Show at three capital city wine shows, trumping every still wine in the country,” he said.
“And late last year, the House of Arras was named the Best Australian Producer at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in the United Kingdom.
“That’s never before happened in history.”
The House of Arras’s winemaker, Ed Carr, said such accolades were unimaginable five years ago.
“It’s not just the House of Arras; it’s all the other brands that are coming along, as everybody can see the potential of Tasmanian sparkling,” Mr Carr said.
“It just proves it’s getting very serious.”
Future wines will be ‘next level’
The awards and positive wine reviews have had a big impact.
Tasmanian producers can’t keep up, vineyards are expanding, new ones are being established and in 2017, grape prices skyrocketed to a record of $2,871 per tonne.
To ensure new investors plant in the right areas, the Tasmanian Government has produced a map identifying potential vineyard sites.
It shows a substantial amount of land available for development.
Winemaker Natalie Fryar said she believes the best sites are those yet to be planted.
“I’m actually getting excited right now, just thinking about the possibility of what could come in the future,” Ms Fryar said.
“We will find those sites and we will be making wines that are just next level.”
‘Logical’ for France to buy into Tasmanian industry
Winemaker Andrew Pirie said the map is a great resource for those considering investing in Tasmania.
“This process will enable people to rapidly assess sites and we won’t have failures which we don’t want in the industry — we don’t want people investing in the wrong sites,” he said.
“Tasmania is unusually blessed with sparkling wine potential.”
Mr Pirie was one of the pioneers of the state’s sparkling wine industry.
In 2017, popular wine blog The Wine Wankers held a blind tasting in Stockholm: New world versus old world, Champagne.
Mr Pirie’s sparkling wine, Pirie, beat out four French champagnes.
He said it’s just a matter of time before a French champagne house buys into the Tasmanian industry.
“It’s logical; they’ve started to invest in England, which is not as advanced as we are,” he said.
“England’s a bit easier for them to get to, but apart from the geographic isolation, there’s no negatives in investing in Tasmania.”
‘Sky’s the limit’ for Tasmanian wines
Josef Chromy Wines’ head winemaker Jeremy Dineen said the industry is not worried about a glut.
“We have a really, really strong focus on market-led growth rather than production-led growth, and at the moment, if you doubled grape production, you would still find a home for all the grapes,” Mr Dineen said.
“Tasmania is undoubtedly the most exciting place in Australia making sparkling wine at the moment.”
Tyson Stelzer tastes thousands of champagnes and sparkling wines every year.
“I can tell you there are Tasmanian sparklings that run rings around many champagnes,” Mr Stelzer said.
“Price point is another key — under $40 in Australia, champagne is not worth drinking, but there are beautiful Tasmanian sparklings at those prices.”
Head winemaker at Jansz, Louisa Rose, warned the industry must not get greedy or it would risk ruining its current premium sweet spot.
“We don’t want to try and stretch these wines because we know we can sell more; we don’t want them to be lesser quality,” she said.
“The sky’s the limit. I can’t wait for the next few years to see how it grows and how many more exciting wines come out of Tassie.”
By Pip Courtney