Tasmania is a land that should be savoured slowly… with a glass of fine wine in hand and friendly locals to guide you on your way.
The Tamar Valley Wine Route is a holiday and recreation destination in its own right.
The famous Tamar River defines the heart of northern Tasmania with its generous life-giving waterways. It is Tasmania’s principal wine producing area where wineries snuggle side by side with picturesque orchards, forests and fertile pastures.
The Tamar River is distinguished as Australia’s longest tidal navigable river. It’s long, lazy bends wind 65 kilometres inland, around hills and plains, beaches and bush. At the river’s head is the bustling city of Launceston. At it’s mouth – wide sandy beaches.
Fed by the fresh, flushing waters of the North and South Esk Rivers, the Tamar has created a glorious fertile valley of high-yielding vineyards, famous for our chardonnnays, sparklings, the aromatic whites and pinot noir.
Situated in the north of Tasmania at a latitude of around 42 degrees south, the Tamar Valley shares the same cool climate characteristics of the Cote d’Or, Burgundy, France – equally renowned for producing wine of a world class nature.
Very few areas of the world exist in the exclusive cool climate zone – distinguishable as the ideal location for the production of superior quality fresh produce. What does all this mean? For you – the visitor to our lovely valley – it means wines of distinction lovingly made in harmony with how nature intended.
Any time of the year is a good time to visit. Like our wines, the gentle turning seasons each boast their unique qualities. We grow, we pick, we prune and plant allowing Tasmania’s friendly cool climate to dictate the pace.
Our harvest takes place in March & April followed by pruning over winter, then budburst in September kicks off the growing season again.
Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer are all grown here. In red wines, Pinot Noir is king.
The Tamar Valley is naturally blessed with one of the purest environments in the world. Our pristine air and fresh, cool climate encourages a love affair with terroir.
Terroir is a French word that refers to how the general characteristics of a specific location can influence the taste and quality of something as delicate and exciting as wine.
Tamar Valley winemakers will tell you of their love affair with the valley’s terrior – the unique characteristics of the soil we grow in. Vastly different even from the sea to the slopes, the valley’s unifying characteristic is the rich and fertile soil, blessed with gentle rains that sweep in from the west, straight off the vast expanse of the wild Southern Ocean.
Terroir also describes the idea that good wine cannot be simply reproduced anywhere in the world with grapes and a standard set of agricultural practices. It’s the whole picture – soil type, sun exposure, altitude, weather, technique, passion and commitment.
Wine lovers and wine makers alike will tell you that terroir is the very essence of wine and in The Tamar Valley we have terroir in abundance.
The Tamar Valley is a place where exceptional wine is nurtured out of passion and a dedication to quality.
Our wines are like our friends. They are an interesting, lively and endearing bunch of characters.
Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer are all grown here, producing fresh, elegant whites.
Our sparkling wines are considered equal to those from Champagne.
In red wines, Pinot Noir is king. From the bright cherry and raspberry scented wines from the Lower Tamar, to the heady truffle and black cherry aromas from the Upper Tamar vineyards, our variety of styles prove our devotion to good taste.
Pure in quality, rich in character, friendly and most of all unforgettable. This is the Tamar Valley. We are what we drink.
Enjoy our wines at home with the Tamar Valley Vineyards Dozen
You can enjoy your Tamar Valley wine selection at home without the excessive baggage hassle. Simply purchase your favourite wines along the route, the last winery you visit will pack and send home your wines for you, for just the cost of freight. Travel lightly and send it home with the Tamar Valley Wine Route Dozen.
Tasmania is the oldest wine-producing region in Australia.
The Tamar Valley is even the source of cuttings for the first vineyards to be planted in Victoria and South Australia. Today, the valley produces 40 per cent of Tasmania’s premium quality wine.
As early as the mid 1800’s commercial vineyards operated in Windermere, a quaint riverside town on the Tamar’s lower eastern shore.
However, winemaking on a large scale didn’t prosper as well as the Victorian gold mines that lured most workingmen away.
Almost a hundred years later, in 1956, Jean Miguet, son of a winemaking family in Provence, France, planted the La Provence vineyard (now Providence) at Lalla, east of Launceston. Fortunately, around that time, Australia’s drinking habits turned from ports and sherries to table wines and Tasmania’s wine industry started taking off.
The Heemskerk vineyard at Legana (now Velo), and the original home of Tasmania’s famous sparkling “Jansz”, was established in 1966 by Graham Wiltshire. By the early 70’s, Piper’s Brook, one of the Tamar Valley’s most recognised brands, was also established.
In 1994, Andrew Pirie, one of the industry’s most significant contributors, launched his Ninth Island Chardonnay at the International Wine Challenge in London, and came home with the Best White Wine trophy. Hello world!
With a passion for tradition and a commitment to innovation, our winemakers continue the Tamar Valley’s premium quality tradition. Tasmania’s friendly temperate climate nurtures plump chardonnay, pinot noir, riesling, sauvignon blanc and pinot gris grapes, producing wines of natural elegance and intensity. The valley also produces some of Australia’s best sparkling wines.
So for all our visitors, there’s a wine for all seasons and a taste for all times in the Tamar Valley Wine Route.
Tamar Valley Wine Route life membership is an honour bestowed to members who have rendered special or invaluable services to the organisation well beyond that of a typical member.
Before coming to live in the East Tamar at Providence Vineyards, Brenda Radbone had no experience of viticulture, vineyards, or the wine industry. Despite this, a former teacher and banker, she turned her hand to running cellar door at Providence and helping in the vineyard during winter pruning.
Brenda also served as the longest running Secretary for the wine route, from 2002 to 2014. It was a period of significant growth, with membership numbers growing to over thirty, and the development of many initiatives which would take the Tamar region’s brand and Tasmanian wine generally to the broader market. As Secretary and often behind a stall or table in person, Brenda was involved with many such initiatives, including Taste of the Tamar events in Hobart and Melbourne, annual presentation dinners and the awarding of Life Membership and other awards, and the facilitation of the Tamar Valley Wine Route Trophy in the Canberra International Riesling Challenge. Brenda was awarded Life Membership for her contribution as Secretary for over a decade, and her generous contribution during this time.
Dallas and Richard Richardson
Delamere is one of the original vineyards planted in the Pipers Brook region established in 1982 by Richard and Dallas Richardson.
The fertile soils on the property had previously supported a successful fruit orchard and market garden. It was the pioneering vision of the Richardsons which saw the more elevated areas of the property planted out to the classic and cool climate cultivars of pinot noir and chardonnay. Today the vineyard continues to produce exceptional single vineyard sparkling and table wines.
Dallas Richardson has been practising printmaking for a number of years. Her work is depicting the land and river-scapes of the Tamar Valley is included in the collection of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.
Dr Andrew Pirie AM
Over the last 4 decades, Dr Pirie has become the most influential figure in the Tasmanian wine industry, initiating and building some of Tasmania’s most significant vineyards and wineries including Pipers Brook Vineyard and Ninth Island, which he co-founded with his brother David in 1974.
Dr Pirie launched Tasmania onto the world wine scene with a bang when his inaugural 1994 Ninth Island Chardonnay took out the white wine trophy at the International Wine Challenge in London. His name still appears on the label dubbed ‘the greatest sparkling wine made outside of Champagne’ – Vintage Pirie 1996.
Beyond state boundaries, Dr Pirie has made significant contributions in the Australian wine industry. He is one of the country’s most respected winemakers, and its first PhD in Viticulture. In 2001 he was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to the Tasmanian wine and tourism industries.
Dr Pirie continues to be involved in the Tasmanian wine industry, consulting on industry development and conducting climate research, and writing about wine terroir.
He produces single vineyard wines from Apogee, his vineyard in the Pipers River region, a grand cru sparkling site, and is Patron of the Tamar Valley Wine Route.
Dr Bertel and Anne Sundstrup, Jill Mitchell
Dr Bertel and Anne Sundstrup established Dalrymple Vineyards in the mid-1980s along with Anne’s sister Jill Mitchell. Described as visionaries, the Sundstrups travelled to France for inspiration and guidance.
Returning to Tasmania, they established Dalrymple in the heart of the highly acclaimed Pipers River region, in what was to become the ‘sparkling corner’ of the north easters Tamar region. The grapes from their vineyard continue to be made into some of Australia’s most distinctive, award-winning wines.
Bert and Anne were medical practitioners as well as vineyard owners, Anne a registered nurse, and Bertel a doctor, and head of the radiotherapy oncology unit at Launceston General Hospital for almost three decades. He is remembers by colleagues as a ‘wonderfully entertaining, witty and generous man’. Together the couple had three children.
Jill Mitchell worked at cellar doors in the north-eastern Tamar and was renowned for the warmth of her welcome, once described by Australian Traveller as able to bring a smile to even the grumpiest of traveller’s faces.
Graham Wiltshire OAM
A pioneering wine producer, Graham Wiltshire established the Heemskerk pilot vineyard at Legana in 1966, with a first commercial release of Heemskerk Cabernet Sauvignon in 1976. In the eighties his winemaking moved to Heemskerk at Pipers Brook, where he developed Jansz, Tasmania’s first sparkling wine. His joint venture with French champagne house, Louis Roederer in 1985 was the foundation of the State’s modern sparkling wine tradition, and he championed pinot noir and sparkling wine production in Tasmania. His vines at Legana are still under production under the ownership of Velo Vineyards.
Graham was instrumental in forming the Pinot Noir Tasmania Forum in the late 1990s, was a Life Member of the Australian Wine Industry, was awarded an OAM and won the Royal Agricultural Society’s Tasmanian Award. He was described by friend and colleague Robert Heazelwood of Brand Tasmania as ‘a Francophile wine lover with a liking for berets and a wit as dry as a good sauvignon blanc’. Graham died in 2014 at 82 years of age.
Best known to Launceston residents as the owner of the city’s best-known food businesses, Chung Gon Green Grocers, Irving Fong’s story is a long and industrious one. Born in China, he arrived in Tasmania and found work at a market garden at Relbia. Later, he and wife Jennifer purchased the business and operated it successfully for many decades until 1990.
In the mid-1990s, recently widowed, Irving decided that retirement was not for him, and planted 4,000 vines at the Relbia market garden site, at what is now Jinglers Creek Vineyard. These he tended with his second wife Kim, whom he met while studying Viticulture. The vineyard produced its first vintage in 2000, the wines made by industry pioneer Graham Wiltshire, a friend of Irving Fong since 1955. Irving died in 2015 at the age of 83 years.
Joe’s is one of the most incredible stories of the wine route. Fleeing his native Czechoslovakia after eleven years of Soviet and Nazi occupation, Josef Chromy arrived in Australia as a penniless immigrant in the 1950s. Using his skills as a Master Butcher and knowledge of European charcuterie, he spent the next forty years building a business, Blue Ribbon Meat Products, into one of Tasmania’s leading brands.
After the company was floated on the Australian Stock Exchange in 1993, Josef invested in Tasmania’s fledgling wine industry. He has owned and developed some of Tasmania’s leading wineries including Rochecombe (now Bay of Fires), Jansz, Heemskerk and Tamar Ridge. In 2007, Joe launched Josef Chromy Wines, building and developing the vineyard at Relbia and establishing his own name brand as a standout winemaking identity in the Tasmanian and Australian wine industry, winner of multiple trophies and medals, including the remarkable World’s Best Chardonnay . The many accolades Josef personally has won include National Export Hero Award of 2009 and the Tasmanian Award for outstanding services to the Tasmanian wine industry in 2011.
The Sharmans Vineyard was established by Mike and Philippa Sharman in the 1980s and quickly built a strong reputation. Mike Sharman was a pioneer of the Relbia area, seeing potential for premium wine production.
Mike and Phillipa bought the Sharmans property in 1985 and experimental plantings were undertaken in 1987. The first vintage Pinot Noir in 1991 won a gold medal and the trophy at the Tasmnaian Wine Show, bearing out Mike’s belief in the area, which has since gone on to produce award winning wines for both Sharmans and other major wineries.
After a long career as a Senior Veterinarian with the Department of Agriculture, Mike completed a degree in Appled Science at Charles Sturt University. He was a great supporter of the Wine Industry Training Program in Tasmania and made wine from the TAFE vineyard at Allenvale for several years.
Mike used to say that going to work in the vines each day felt like going on holiday.
Rod and Karen Thorpe
The vineyard at Moore’s Hill as planted in 1997 by Rod and Karen Thorpe on farmland which they had purchased twenty years earlier. After pulling out an old vineyard, they planted and established new vines, and ran the new vineyard until 2008. Road had become interested in viticulture when working at another wine route vineyard, Waterton Hall.
The site was seen by many as a perfect vineyard site, on a northern slope with Bass Strait breezes and a micro-climate making it a prime spot for Riesling. Karen described it as ‘a lovely slope, no problem with vigour.’ They won a gold medal in 2,000 for Riesling.
Rod worked with the new owners in the vineyard for the first years of their ownership, assisting with picking, pruning and operations, and was said to be as effective as not one man but three. Together, he and Karen are credited for building Moore’s Hill to be an estate producing vines of consistently high quality – and prize winning wines.
During the Thorpe’s time at Moore’s Hill many functions were held there for the wine route as well as the vineyard business. Rod’s passion for viticulture persist, as he is currently working at another Tamar Valley wine route vineyard, helping new owners extend their vines.
Rod Cuthbert and Mary Dufour
Iron Pot Bay Vineyard was established by Roderick Cuthbert and Kyra Hinman in 1988. A great innovator, Rod used his engineering background to solve problems in the vineyard for himself and the industry, winning awards for his innovation. The huge industrial fans he imported from Melbourne to tackle frosts, which were set up below neighbouring vineyard Holm Oak, created a stream of warm air which made the entire Rowella area almost frost-free.
While Rod was in charge of machinery and innovation, Kyra was in charge of vineyard operations. Without her inspiration and drive, the vineyard and in its wines would not have established their early reputation, becoming especially well known as a pioneer of unwooded Chardonnay in the state. Kyra died in 1995.
Rod Cuthbert was a passionate supporter of the wine route, a vocal presence at meetings, and an advocate for strength in numbers. He was even known to go out onto the roads and clean wine route signs. Mary Dufour joined Rod in the management of the vineyard and wine business in 1998 until its sale in 2014. Her upbringing on a farm, a background in teaching, IT and tourism, including time as the Tourism Officer for the West Tamar Council, made her a valuable contributor to the wine route, and Iron Pot Bay. She and Rod established a cellar door at Deviot, a website for the vineyard, and a regular online newsletter.
Rod and Mary retired from viticultural life on the sale of Iron Pot Bay and enjoy retirement in the Tamar area. Stories of their legendary Christmas drinks parties still circulate amongst wine route members.
Although vineyards were established in Northern Tasmania in the early 1800’s none survived past 1880 and there were no commercial grapes produced in the North for the next 75 years. In 1956 , a French immigrant, Jean Miguet, planted a small vineyard at Lalla, near Launceston and became Tasmania’s first vigneron of the modern era. A number of small vineyards were planted during the 1960’s with larger scale development following in the 1970’s.
Many of those industry pioneers are still with us but there is generational change, memories are fading and records have already been lost.
The Tamar Valley Wine Route has established a digital archive as a record of the hard work and innovation of our industry members covering the early beginnings until the present day. The collection is a community resource of knowledge, ideas, stories and memories to enrich our understanding of the history of the Northern Wine Region of Tasmania.
We acknowledge the support of Arts Tasmania for the assistance of a roving curator and the Tasmanian Community Fund for equipment.
View selected images in our online gallery which will be regularly added to and updated (go to categories and click on ‘latest images’ for recent additions).
Please enjoy our collection and be sure to return!