Tasmanian wine industry’s sparkling future: 18m bottles by 2020

Wine
CHEERS: Dave Milne is ready to celebrate his success with a glass of bubbles. Picture: Paul Scambler

Tasmanian sparkling wine festival Effervescence has closed for its fifth year.

Twenty-four events around the state over the course of a week is no slim offering for a boutique festival, and food and wine aficionados have gratefully responded.

With more than 1500 tickets sold to its myriad of almost entirely sold-out events, and many of those tickets purchased by consumers outside of Tasmania, sparkling wine has been cemented as a significant high-quality product coming out of this little island.

“We’ll find out all the final figures in a couple of weeks, but the amount of people travelling from interstate has blown us away,” said Dave Milne, sales and marketing manager for Josef Chromy, the vineyard behind Effervescence.

“About 70 per cent of the tickets sold in the first two weeks came from interstate.

“Brand Tasmania has a lot of cachet, and I think people are aware that Tasmania produces quality not quantity. But still, when people come to the event, any expectations that they had are excelled.

“We’re combining some of the best sparkling wines in the world with the some of the best produce in the world, and it’s a great recipe for success.”

Critic Tyson Stelzer, who has been awarded International Wine Communicator of the Year and has been been involved in each of Effervescence’s five years, believes two factors account for the industry’s success.

“Tasmania is blessed on a number of levels, and first and foremost by a cool climate that is perfectly adapted to sparkling production,” he said.

“Tasmania achieves cool by latitude and not by altitude, which puts it ahead of anywhere in mainland Australia – Champagne [region, in France], likewise, achieves cool by latitude and not by altitude, and so there’s an elegant refinement to the wines of Tasmania, as there is to Champagne.

“The other point of significance is the people and the culture, in that Tasmania, and particularly Northern Tasmania, has such a strong tradition of sparkling winemaking.

“There is an acceleration in the depth of knowledge and advancements in the techniques, because everybody’s working so hard together to refine this very difficult-to-make wine style.”

Tasmanian wine grapes are worth almost five times the price of mainland Australia, and more than double the price of regions-of-renown Adelaide Hills and Margaret River.

When those grapes are processed and bottled, they sell at close to three times higher than the Australian average.

There’s also no signs of a slowdown.

In fact, the opposite is true.

Vineyard area has grown by more than 25 per cent over the past five years, and industry projections estimate that by 2020, Tasmania could be producing 18 million bottles of wine.

Business – and quality – is booming, and the world at large is taking notice.

House of Arras winemaker Ed Carr was recognised with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships this year – the only winemaker from outside of Champagne to be bestowed with the honour in 2018, and the only Australian to ever receive the award.

A pioneer of Tasmanian sparkling, Mr Carr was one of the visionaries who saw the potential of a developing a cold climate wine region decades before the industry became what it is today.

“Getting up on stage to accept this particular award is extremely special to me,” he said.

“It represents the pinnacle of recognition for our wine quality that we could scarcely envisage back in 1995.

“Hence why this is so immensely gratifying and exciting.”

He’s no stranger to success.

Piper’s River vineyard House of Arras has won 86 trophies and 225 gold medals on the wine show circuit.

Mr Carr has also been crowned Winemaker of the Year twice nationally; once by Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine and once by the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology.

“Things like that, to me, are very much demonstrating the fact that Tasmanian sparkling is receiving, nationally and internationally, accolades that are commensurate with its great quality,” Tyson Stelzer said. “And it’s ever-rising.

“No region anywhere on the planet outside of Champagne itself makes sparkling as exceptionally as Tasmania. And I am more convinced of this now than ever before.”

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