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Your 2022 Guide to the Pipers River and Tamar Valley Wine Regions TAS

Posted by David Laity on
Your 2022 Guide to the Pipers River and Tamar Valley Wine Regions TAS

A Snapshot of the Pipers River and Tamar Valley Wine Regions

There are seven wine regions in Tasmania, but we're going to focus on just two of them? Why's that you ask? Well firstly, between Pipers River and the Tamar Valley you've accounted for just under 50% of Tasmania's wine output.

Secondly, the area is close to Launceston and easy to get to and thirdly it gives us something to look forward when we get around to writing about the Huon Valley, the Derwent River (and the Derwent Valley) vineyards, the very interesting wine region of the north west, and all the excellent wines to be found in many a Hobart winery.

photo by trabantos- licenced under shutterstock

The township of Pipers River only had a population of 426 in 2016. If you were to look it up on Wikipedia (I went to the trouble for you), you might be astonished to discover that not only does the river run from south to north, but so does the main road. That's about all there is to discover, other than the fact the place was named after Ensign Piper.

However, the region punches well above its weight when it comes to having some of the best Tasmanian wineries. As to the scenery... Rolling hills, breath-taking views, abundant wildlife and, of course, the beautiful namesake river itself - it flows 60km from a manmade lagoon on the side of Mount Arthur all the way down to the sea at Weymouth and Bellingham on either side of the river.

The Tamar Valley, on the other hand, is Tasmania's oldest wine region and is all about rolling hills, cool climate wine grapes, 32 vineyards and a nude beach! If you're looking to find a cellar door (or even a few cellar doors for that matter) - this area is your best bet around northern Tasmania. Sounds more enticing than the Wikipedia listing which doesn't say much more than it's a Graben - a depressed block of the crust bordered by parallel faults. What a description!

The climate here is maritime, which means that it's temperate and mild all year round. The average temperature in summer is around 17-18 degrees Celsius, and in winter it's around 10-12 degrees.

That said, the best time to visit the Pipers River wine region is in spring (September to November) or autumn (March to May). The weather is mild and the days are longer, which means that you can enjoy all that this beautiful region has

Take Me There!

How to get to the Pipers River and Tamar Valley Wineries

Are you looking for the best Tasmanian wines? The Tamar Valley is located in the extreme north of Tasmania and is ideally suited to produce high-quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.

Frequently, wines from Piper River are grouped together with those from Tamar Valley, but it's one of Australia's wine regions with its very own distinct personality. It's one of the warmer, wetter sub-regions of Tasmania and grows grapes with ripe, fruit-forward flavours and moderate intensity. It's a very reliable area for production of high-quality wine.

The wines of this region, but it does apply to Tasmanian wine in general, are generally medium-full bodied with stylish fruit flavours, moderate acidity and supple tannins. They have the ability to show an attractive balance of fruit, oak and fine French tradition.

Terroir - Soil and Climate

How do the soil and climate affect wine flavour in Pipers River and Tamar Valley?

Some grapes are grown on the alluvial Tamar Valley soils, which are made up of gravels, sands and loams. This type of soil is optimal for growing Pinot Noir because it encourages slow ripening.

In turn, this enables the fruit to develop great colour, flavour and aromas with appealing intensity - just what you want in a good Pinot. Others, more typically those of the that lovers of cool climate wine will seek out , are grown on the dolerite-based soils which give the wines more structure, weight and power.

Grape picking in Pipers River can be up to two weeks later for sparkling base wines, and four weeks later for table wines, than the Tamar Valley. The soils around Tamar tend towards sandy, whereas those near Pipers are high in iron and have plenty of clay - thus giving the vineyards better water retention.

Pipers River region is a great place to find some of Tasmania's best Chardonnay. The climate here is slightly warmer than in most other Tasmanian wine regions, so the grapes have the chance to ripen fully and develop lovely, rich flavours while still retaining good acidity. As a result, the wines have beautiful balance and can age gracefully for many years.

If you're looking for an alternative to Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, the Riesling from this region is definitely worth seeking out. The climate here is perfect for this variety.

Something out of the box?

Unusual wine varieties in Pipers River and Tamar Valley

Gewürztraminer

How about a German wine with an intense aroma of lychee, Turkish delight, roses, or nougat, but balanced on the palate with a refreshing hint of acidity. Not the best known of Tasmanian wines, Gewürztraminer is one of the best cool climate wines to pair with some spicy stir-fried noodles or perhaps a good stinky cheese.

The Gewürz in the name comes from the German for spiced and unlike its relative Riesling, this grape has a pink skin and makes a wine that ranges in hue from pale yellow to amber to gold. It's also more viscous (a thicker mouthfeel) than Riesling and tends to be made in a sweeter style. This can very much depend on the time that the grape is picked and the winemaker though.

Gamay

A thin-skinned, highly productive, low tannin grape mostly known for it's starring role in the French wine Beaujolais, the Gamay grape is closely related to pinot noir, but is a bit less tricky to grow and ripens earlier. Some Tasmanian wineries have taken advantage of these qualities to begin making wines of distinction using gamay grapes.

There are now examples of gamay being planted wherever cool climate wines tend to flourish in Australia. Adelaide Hills, Mornington Peninsula, the Yarra Valley and, of course, the east coast and north coast of Tasmania.

The best examples that Tasmanian wineries are releasing tend to have notes of cherry, violet, and sometimes peppermint or sour cherry. It's often drunk quite young, but can be aged well.

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The stars of the show

The top varietals of the Pipers River and Tamar Valley wine region

As far as grapes go - pinot noir and chardonnay and Meunier dominate the plantings here. Basalt soils and ocean breezes provide the free-draining medium and minimal frost conditions that enable these varieties to flourish. These cool climate grapes enjoy a happy marriage in sparkling wine. While the phrase commonly refers to champagne, European Union countries legally reserve that term for products exclusively produced in the Champagne region of France.

Drier styles are typical of this sub-region, with Pinot Noir showing more of its true varietal character, but some producers are experimenting with global influence on their wines. As for the Chardonnay grapes, they are typically fresh and fruit-forward with stone fruits dominating the flavour profile. Some of the most famous wines of Pipers River include the Jansz Premium and Rosé, the Bay of Fires White and the Kreglinger Estates Pinot Noir.

Sparkling

Sparkling wine is a great choice for celebrations and special occasions, but more and more often it's being drunk at home with some fine locally produced produce for dinner, or even with some takeout and a good show on the telly. It's made from the same grapes as the regular Chardonnay Pinot Noir sparkling combo, but with a little more sugar for a sweeter taste. The wine is fermented in bottle, and then left to age on the lees (dead yeast cells) for a minimum of 18 months. This gives the wine its characteristic creamy mouthfeel and fine mousse.

Pinot Grigio

Pinot grigio from the east coast of Tasmania is a delicious, light-bodied wine with delicate floral aromas and flavours of fresh pears and apples. It's the perfect summer wine, especially when served well-chilled. The climate here is also well suited to growing Pinot Gris, which produces wines with a lovely pink hue, delicate floral aromas and flavours of ripe pears and apples.

Riesling

Riesling is a great grape for Tasmania's climate, and the results from these wine regions is no exception. The cooler climate here produces elegant, dry Rieslings with lively acidity and flavours of citrus fruits, green apples and mineral notes.

Sauvignon Blanc

Tasmanian Sauvignon Blanc is usually more restrained than its New Zealand counterpart, and the local examples are no exception. They typically have herbal aromas and flavours of gooseberry, passionfruit and grapefruit.

Stellar Cellars

Some of the best wineries in the Pipers River and Tamar Valley wine region

  • Pipers Brook - Pipers Brook has a storied history. It's owned by Kreglinger Estate - a Belgian company which first came to Australia in 1893, and bought Pipers Brook in 2000. Their Launceston based Pipers Brook vineyard has more than sixty clones of pinot noir from around the world, and they make a range of premium Tasmanian wines under four different labels. Each range includes sparkling wines. Their 2018 Pipers Brook Estate label 2017 Pinot Noir won gold at the Sydney Wine Show. They don't have a cellar door, but offer a self guided tasting at Nadine's Cafe.
  • Apogee Tasmania - a truckload of awards (three 95+ wines already for 2022), outstanding sparkling wines, a famous winemaker, a beautiful cellar door - this place is a mecca for wine lovers.
  • Delamare Vineyards - a low-yield, family owned vineyard planted exclusively with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It's close planted on a steep hill and this, in turn, necessitates managing everything by hand. Delamere make sparkling wines using 100% estate grown fruit using the Traditional Method of fermentation.
  • Sinapius Vineyard - a star of the Pipers River Region, Sinapius (pronounced Sin - aye - pee - us)is actually named after the family. It has Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Take your pick of wine styles! Sinapius also focus on minimal intervention, use natural ferments, don't fine or filter the wine (so it's going to be vegan for sure) and the whole vineyard is planted for a high density, low yield result.
  • Jansz - Jansz is highly regarded for its premium traditional style Méthode Champenoise. One of the best wineries to visit for an often booked out cellar door experience. This cellar door overlooks a lake and while it is expensive, you're also drinking some of the best Tasmanian wine in a very picturesque setting.
  • Goaty Hill Wines - Goaty Hill Wines have a focus on organic vineyard management and the cellar door is open Thu-Mon from 11am - 5pm and costs $10pp (redeemable with a purchase). Grab a plate of locally sourced produce, a cheese platter or bread and dips.
  • Bay of Fires - If you're a fan of Tasmanian sparkling, Bay of Fires probably needs no introduction. It's Australia's most awarded sparkling wine label. Bay of Fires is also known as one of the best Tasmanian wineries full stop, with a spectacular cellar door and a range of masterclasses. Bay of Fires don't just make local wines though, there are vineyards in the Huon Valley, by the Derwent River estuary, in the Coal River Valley and on the east coast. Chardonnay and pinot noir are, unsurprisingly, the main varietal grown for the House of Arras sparkling label - E.J. Carr Late Disgorged 2004 has been awarded Top Sparkling Wine in Decanter‘s Wine of the Year 2020 Tasting. It's chardonnay and pinot noir blend is 69 and 31% respectively,
  • Holm Oak Vineyard - Holm Oak Vineyard is a five star rated vineyard and is run by a husband and wife team. They've owned the winery since 2006 and they have quite a range of Tasmanian wine on offer. They also produce cabernet sauvignon and they have a strategy for extracting the flavour from a slow growing season and the small grapes that can detract from cool climate cabernet sauvignon.
  • Josef Chromy Wines - Josef Chromy Wines has weddings, corporate events, a wine club, a cellar door and a chef's hat restaurant. The whole shebang. They claim to be Tasmania's mot advanced winery and they have the largest private installation of solar panels in the state. They make cool climate wines under three different labels - Zdar, Josef Chromy and Pepik.
  • Tamar Ridge - Tamar Ridge have a particular passion for pinot noir, but they don't neglect the white wines of this wine region. Sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and rieslling - each varietal is a fine example of Tasmanian wine, but their chardonnay pinot noir sparkling also has the honour of being Australia’s most awarded non-vintage sparkling wine. It's also one of the cellar doors offering live music,
  • Iron Pot Bay - Iron Pot Bay vineyard has a 100 year old renovated cottage as the cellar door and restaurant. There's a range of varietals and sitting under the magnificent old Holm Oak and enjoying a glass of sauvignon blanc sounds perfecto.

Need a nap after all the fun?

Best accomodation options

If you're staying in Launceston, try the Dragonfly Inn. It's right by Cataract Gorge and the CBD and it's advertised as 'Heritage with an edge' - sitting somewhere between a B&B and a hotel.

Bordering Narawntrapu National Park is the  BIG4 Kelso Sands Holiday and Native Wildlife Park. It has beachfront access and heaps of activities.

The Tamar River Retreat has two cottages and is located right on the Tamar Valley Wine Route, so you won't have far to go after a couple of cheeky wines.

Lilydale Falls campground is close to Launceston and the eponymous waterfalls and you can stay for free for two nights, Suitable for campervans, caravans and motorhomes as well as tent sites.

The Florance is a 120 year old hotel in the middle of Launceston. It features a room design with a minimalist botanical theme and it's really a beautiful buidling.

Something unique?

A really one of a kind place in all of the east coast region is Domescapes. You'll have your own private geodesic dome to stay in, a cellar door to partake from and you'll be sleeping among the vines.

Why visit the Pipers River and Tamar Valley in 2022?

The lowdown

Jansz have stated that - "The quality of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is exceptional from the 2021 vintage in Tasmania, and it will be a vintage to keep an eye out for in the coming years" Like much Australian wine, premium Tasmanian wine also enjoyed a bumper year in 2021. Cool climate grape varieties performed exceptionally well with reliable rainfall and relatively balmy nights. That makes 2022 perfect for wine tours and Tourism Tasmania should be happy.

The 2022 harvest season is looking positive for the Tasmanian wine industry. Chardonnay has performed beautifully - even with the pressures of a humid summer and a very wet October 2021, but the pinot noir situation has been described as somewhat hen and chicken - grapes varying from plump and juicy hens to the shrivelled little buggers known as chickens.

Economically, the wine industry and the cellar doors of Tasmania continue to perform well. Wine Tasmania reports that grapes from Tassie were pulling in $3,146 per tonne, much more than the national average of $701 per tonne.

If you've got a hankering to visit some Tasmanian vineyards in 2022 and drink some of the best Tasmanian wines, then a visit to these wine regions is a must. If you have some time up your sleeve, take the Tamar Valley Day Drive and see the coast, a berry farm and a lovely winery or two along the way.

Fancy a bevy while visiting?

Beer, wine and cider in the Pipers River and Tamar Valley Region

The Effervescence Tasmania Sparkling Wine Festival runs from 11-13 November and many of the best Tasmanian wineries exhibit here.

The Tamar Valley Wine Route (also called the Tamar Valley Wine Trail) has been voted one of the top ten wine routes in the world (from Essential Travel Magazine in the UK) and is high on my list of things to do when I'm next in Tassie. Along with the Southern Wine Route - which takes in the Derwent Valley and the area around Hobart in southern Tasmania- these trails offer a great way to enjoy either a DIY wine tour of some of the best cool climate wines you can find in Tasmania along with the opportunity for making wine, admiring vineyards, getting in some exercise and noodling your way through the odd quirky gift shop, Italian food destination, top quality coffee shops and sampling artisanal food producers' wares.

Tamar Valley Wine Tours

Tamar Valley Food and Wine Boutique Tours. Book here

Launceston's Tamar Valley Wine Tours & Day Tours. Book here

Josef Chromy Wines Winery Tour. Book here

How about some good tunes and good times?

Live Music and Festivals in the Pipers Tamar Region

The Australian Musical Theatre Festival is an unparalleled opportunity for musical theatre lovers, makers and industry professionals to get together, share and celebrate this wonderful genre.

The Royal Czech Ballet will be performing Swan Lake in Launceston come September.

Festival of Voices sounds like a delightful thing to do mid-winter in Tasmania. As described on their webpage - The first Tasmanian winter festival to introduce bonfires as a central theme, the iconic image of thousands singing around the fire in Salamanca Place is legendary. While the venue has changed the event is still a highlight and reflects the core aim of the festival – to bring people together, not just as observers but as participants as well.

Bringing Granny and the kids?

Family Friendly things to do in the Pipers River and Tamar Valley Region

Animals! Lots of lovely animals...

The Tamar Valley is home to a number of wonderful animals and birds, ranging from platypus and echidna along the riverbanks and in nearby waterways, to wallabies and kangaroos that can be seen on many properties throughout the valley. However, if you'd like to be certain of seeing at least one animal, check out Tasmania Zoo, Seahorse World or  Platypus House.

Hollybank Wilderness Adventures features ziplines, tree ropes, Segway tours and mountain biking.

Have yourself a berry picking adventure at Hillwood Berry Farm. Hillwood has strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries both grown outside and in tunnels extending the season. There's also an on-site café.

Geeking Out?

Quirky and clever things to do in the Pipers River and Tamar Valley wine region

The "Sewing Room" Exhibition is a rather unusual event - held at the Deloraine Fol Museum it features a range of historical sewing machines.

The Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre has exhibitions and interactive displays all housed in historically significant buildings.

Feeling Artistic?

Arts, Culture and Entertainment in the Pipers River and Tamar Valley Region

If it's your first time down to the apple isle, you'd be crazy to miss MONA - the Museum of Old and New Art. The building is quite incredible and I personally thought the collection was truly outstanding.

Closer to Pipers River Tas though - try Mona Foma in Launceston. Midnight Oil will play, there'll be a giant block of ice suspended in the gorge. I'd love to see it.

The Junction Arts Festival features extraordinary arts experiences in unusual spaces throughout Launceston, held in the first week of September.

Looking for Something Sporty?

Active events and outdoor sports in the Pipers River and Tamar Valley Region

The Pipers River Board Walk meanders past some massive old eucalyptus and it's sometimes possible to catch a glimpse of a platypus or a trout.

Great for an upper body workout while gazing at the picturesque foothills of Launceston, Kayak Tours are fun and inexpensive.

The Wrap

We've hope you've enjoyed this run down of the Piper River and Tamar Valley wine regions and some of the incredible wineries and activities they have on offer. We will be regularly updating this page and greatly welcome any input you can offer. And if you go ahead and visit Margaret River, we hope you love it as much as we do.

Cheers

The team at Goodwill Wine

Who is Goodwill Wine?

Goodwill Wine is Australia's only certified social enterprise wine company.

What's that you ask?

We are a wine company with soul. While other wine companies are focussed on maximising their profit, we are focused on maximising our impact. We do this by donating half our profits to Australian charity. Better still, when you buy, you get to tell us where the money goes.

Our wines are every bit as good as our competitions - in fact hundreds of five star reviews would indicate better (see below) and thanks to Australian's choosing to buy their wine ethically, we have been able to donate almost half a million dollars to date.

So why would we do this?

Our founder, David Laity lost most of what he owned in the Black Saturday bushfires. Thanks to the generosity of fellow Australians, he was given the chance to start again and so he made it his mission to pay forward the help he received.

You can read his story here

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