North east Tasmania, with the Tamar Valley as its main artery, is a region of exceptional vitality, that produces fabulous food, first class wines and great hospitality.

There’s no mistaking the impact the Roaring Forties have on Launceston and Tasmania’s north-east. The trade winds that powered ships from the UK and Europe to the East Indies and Australasia during the age of sail and exploration give the region some of the world’s cleanest air and a unique, cool climate. Not to mention breezes that are said to “blow dogs off their chains”.

They also help create great produce, including exceptional-quality wines. There are 32 wineries within a day-tripping distance on either side of the Tamar Valley, from Pipers River in the north to Relbia in the south. Varieties of note include Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The region has become famous as the state’s “sparkling corner” and has even given birth to a registered trademark in the methode Tasmanoise® that is proudly affixed to the labels of Jansz sparkling wines.

Celebrated northern Tasmanian produce also includes seafood, truffles, farmhouse cheeses and the beef Neil Perry prefers to serve at his steakhouses from Cape Grim, as well as Robbins Island wagyu, smoked trout and eel products and slow-ripened berries of an unparalleled intensity of flavour.

Start your tasting tour with a visit to one of Launceston’s justly famed restaurants, then visit the producers themselves at the wineries and farmgates dotted across the region. Allow time to soak up some of the Tamar’s historic properties, wonderful wildlife experiences and simply spectacular river and coastal scenery. Just don’t forget to pack a wind jacket.

While the history of wine-making on the island state dates back almost to the time of first European settlement, it wasn’t until post WWII migrants started arriving in Australia that Tassie’s wine industry began in earnest. In 1974, Graham Wiltshire planted the first vines in the state’s north under his Heemskirk label, named for the ship of Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer who mapped the island’s coastline in 1642. In the 1980s, Wiltshire and his partner, Bill Fesq, joined forces with the French Champagne house, Louis Roederer, and released the first sparkling wine from the Tamar Valley under the label Jansz, for the Dutch explorer who made the first undisputed sighting of Australia in 1606. In 1998, the Hill Smith family took over the winery and since 2001 winemaker Natalie Fryar has continued the tradition of fine sparkling wine made from the traditional grapes of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.

This story was originally published in Australian Country issue 15.1. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.

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Words Kirsty McKenzie
Photography Ken Brass & Tourism Tasmania