How Tasmania's wine market might match NZ
In an article earlier this year in the Wine & Viticulture Journal, Richard Smart argued that Tasmania should be a leading player in the counter-attack against the market dominance of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in Australia. Even though Australia is not the only market experiencing a wave of NZ Sauvignon Blanc hysteria, why should we be falling behind, when we produce an exceptionally large amount of quality wine? The answer must be that NZ Sauvignon Blanc producers are doing something Australians aren’t.
Tasmania produces around 0.6% of Australia’s wine, from 0.9% of the total area, according to Smart. Geographic size limits Tasmanian production, but so does the relatively new revival of grape growing and winemaking, as well as the amount of area under vine. Climate is the one area where Tasmania is becoming a real standout. The widely reported investments of Brown Brothers, Yalumba and Penfolds shows the potential viticulture environment, but also the potential safehaven that the Tasmanian climate will provide in the future.
The big argument for Tasmania taking the fight to NZ is the very similar ‘homoclimes’, or identical climate environments. Bicheno is a direct match for Marlborough, and the inland Midlands of Tasmania almost point for point matched with Central Otago. Is it any wonder Tasmanian Pinot is being talked about in the same breath as that of Central Otago? Most of mainland Australia’s grape production occurs in hot areas, which allows prolific growth of grapes, but also grapes of very different character and taste. Superimposing a map of Australia on Europe would show the huge variety of geographic areas making wine in Australia. But Tasmania has an opportunity to utilise its many sub-regions to great effect.
Getting a grasp of temperatures – feeling the heat?
Richard Smart also made a table of the mean January temperatures in some of Australia’s growing regions. For the lower Hunter (Cessnock), the temperature was 22.7 degrees Celsius. For Barossa, 21.4 degrees Celsius. Melton Mowbray in the Tasmanan Midlands came in at 17.2 degrees, .1 of a degree more than Alexandra in Central Otago. The Lower Tamar Valley in Tasmania registered 18.2 degrees Celsius. So we get the gist of this – Tasmania has the ideal temperatures to rival some of New Zealand’s premium Sauvignon Blanc climates. How do we do it?
As we know, prices for Tasmanian wines in shops are generally quite high. This is because of the extra labour intensity of growing grapes in a colder region. Some of Tasmania’s larger growers, as the report says, are aiming at a golden $20 Pinot. This would offer significant competition to NZ Pinots.
The other aim is to remain a small, unique producer, while producing enough wine to meet increasing demands. It is a fine balance between mass market and more unique production, and there is a big gulf even between Marlborough and Margaret River, let alone Tasmania.
Because Tasmania’s wine growth rates, as Smart’s report suggests, are not growing particularly vast, the availability of potential vineyard sites for good prices (not yet that of NZ’s) should attract investors – but they must, and should act carefully to respect the growing reputation of the state.
Richard Smart’s report ‘Tasmanian Wine is ripe for investment’ is available in the Wine & Viticulture Journal of March/April 2014.
Good drinking to you!
Central Otago : http://www.casadelvino.co.nz/images/central_otago_wine_01.jpg