The 1983 vintage was difficult. The persistent dry weather of the summer caused significant stress on young vines and the rain that came down around harvest time caused a widespread botrytis infection. Despite this, the fruit quality was superb, and there are reasons to be positive about the wines’ future[1].

In the same year, the Australian dollar was allowed to float on the currency markets and random breath testing with a 0.05 limit was implemented in New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. These rules were expected to have lasting effects on the Australian wine industry. In response to the insatiable demand for table wine among Australian consumers, several significant Tasmanian vineyards were also established.

Squadron Leader Stuart Bryce, who acquired La Provence Vineyard in 1984, was one of the most influential newcomers to the Tasmanian wine sector in the 1980s[2]. After purchasing the vineyard from Max Reynolds in 1980, Bryce assumed responsibility for its management in 1984 and has been its owner ever since.

After twenty years of service in the Air Force, Bryce was seeking a radical lifestyle transformation and so he went to Tasmania to enter a new profession in the production of wine grapes. When he registered as an external student at Riverina CAE, which would subsequently become Charles Sturt University, a degree in Wine Science was suddenly within grasp.

In the same year, another significant new vineyard opened in the Huon Valley: Eric and Jette Phillips’ Elsewhere Vineyard in Glaziers Bay. In 1976, the Phillips family acquired land to establish a commercial flower garden. Eric Phillips was employed by Max Reynolds at Chateau Lorraine at this time.

In 1977, he planted 100 pinot noir rootlings, donated by the Chateau, from La Provence in a trial patch in their backyard. In 1983, they submitted a bottle of their pinot noir into the first-ever VAT wine competition in Launceston. After having initially only produced a tiny amount of wine, they soon initiated an 11-hectare planting program including pinot noir, riesling, and chardonnay. Due to the acknowledgment received for their wine’s Tasmanian accreditation, they were able to acquire funds for the project.

A Swiss vigneron of the eighth generation, Bernard Rochaix, was intrigued by the concept, despite his frustration with his country’s viticulture regulations. In 1984, him and his spouse bought Brigitte and Idle Wilde near Pipers River. An extraordinary viticulturist from Western Australia’s Swan Valley, Alf Edgecombe, was one of the founding members of Rochecombe Vineyard.

The site they favored was Les Perrieres, Switzerland, for the second half of the year. Pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, riesling, and Chenin blanc were among the six grape types grown in the 1985 vineyard. The vineyard was expanded to 25 hectares in the following seven years. Rochaix imported Swiss and French clones and cultivars. In 1991, Kingston Quarantine Station delivered the first grapes to Rochecombe[3].

Besides the two newcomers from Europe, Tasmania soon became of interest to a third party. Managing director and winemaker Dominique Portet announced in May 1985 that his company, Taltarni, would build a vineyard and winery in northern Tasmania in order to exclusively grow chardonnay and pinot noir grapes to manufacture sparkling wine[4].

Read: Australian Wines: An Industry against the Odds

Portet was born and schooled in France, making him a French winemaker. Working in his family’s vineyards, he was tasked with making a French-style sparkling wine that would serve as Australia’s national libation.

VAT carried knowledge from the mainland to teach new producers in Tasmania. Among the experts who came in 1987 were scientists from the Australian Wine Research Institute Bryce Rankine and Peter Dry, as well as Garry Baldwin and Terry Lee.

At the Association’s general meeting on December 2nd, the third draft of the proposed appellation legislation was presented to the attorneys in attendance. When it was finished, the Minister of Licensing was expected to present it before Cabinet. According to this interpretation, the Association used Max Reynolds to pressure the government to take action against “spurious wines” from Tasmania.

To the Licensing Commission, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, and the Tasmanian Development Authority, the Association’s attorneys were to produce paperwork. The Chairman of the Licensing Board promised to take action “over the next couple months” after hearing about the issue in March 1985[5].

Winemakers in Mudgee, New South Wales, established their appellation system in 1978[6]. The state government and the Victorian Wine Industry Association collaborated on the Victorian Wine Authentication Scheme. A similar procedure was introduced in Victoria.

In contrast, the Tasmanian proposal was the first to be incorporated into state law. “Vineyards of Tasmania”, a movie that looks back on the commercial practices of the day, was commissioned by the Tasmanian Department of Agriculture to promote the state’s viticulture industry.

Full-time viticultural officer Fred Peacock was engaged to oversee the Tasmanian Appellation Scheme and the sector. This appointment demonstrated the Department’s proactiveness. When it came to introducing new vines, 1985 was an excellent year[7]. The state’s southwest became the new home of four new vineyards. There were at least 30 more varietals examined in addition to pinot noir and cabernet. Fruit ports and liqueurs were also sold via a basement door by the Gilhams.

ON THIS DAY

December 10th, 1985[8] – The scheme was inaugurated at Aberfeldy Cellars by Minister of Licensing Geoff Davis. Claudio Alcorso, the Vineyards Association of Tasmania president, had worked tirelessly to gain appellation for the last five years. The Minister praised their efforts. Alcorso saw it as a personal duty and the most significant opportunity for his business.

 

References

  1. Richard Richardson, Oral History Recording No. 37 (Launceston: 2010).”
  2.  Eric Phillips, Oral History Recording No. 32 (Hobart: 2010).”
  3. “Minutes of the Meetings of the Vineyards Association of Tasmania. 28 August, 1983 p. 6”
  4. “Eric Phillips, Oral History Recording No. 32 (Hobart: 2010).”
  5. “Minutes of the Meetings of the Vineyards Association of Tasmania. 28 August, 1983 p. 6”
  6. “Halliday, James, The Weekend Australian, (Sydney). 4-5 August, 1984 p.18”
  7. “Eric Phillips, Oral History Recording No. 32 (Hobart: 2010).”

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