Hansard of the Legislative Council
Thursday 27 August 2009
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - I must acknowledge Julian Alcorso, who was our guest at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association dinner last night.  He presented his extensive knowledge to us about the wine industry in Tasmania.  He highlighted that I was going to make a speech today about the wine industry and the Tamar Valley wine route in particular -

Mr Harriss - And your extensive tastings.

Mr FINCH - My constituents and I are fortunate in having a big part of the Tasmanian wine industry in the Tamar Valley.  Much of it is in Rosevears.  However, the member for Windermere can also boast some very good producers especially in the Hillwood area, and we will not forget the famous pioneering vineyards in the Division of Apsley, particularly Pipers Brook and Heemskirk.  Together, the vineyards of the Tamar Valley produce 68 per cent of Tasmania's wines.  I want to talk today about the wine route, which also takes in the Pipers Brook area and the rapidly growing vineyards at Relbia.  It winds through 190 kilometres and it links more than 20 cellar doors; that is a lot of glasses of wine.  The Tamar Valley wine route is becoming an increasingly important part of the tourism industry in northern Tasmania.  It offers luxury accommodation, cafes, restaurants, reception centres, art galleries, BBQs and picnic facilities, children's playgrounds, cooking classes, cheese tastings, winery tours, concerts, special events, and sales of other Tasmanian produce; so there is a lot community spirit generated through the Tamar Valley Wine Route and also the cellar doors offer tastings and sales. 

The Tamar Valley Wine Route Committee members went to Canada to obtain that distinctive road sign with the blue grapes on the yellow background, now displayed on all Tasmanian wine routes.  The committee established the wine route in the Tamar Valley in 1994.  At that time the Tasmanian wine industry was well established but nowhere near what it is today.  A big factor in Tasmania's favour, which was unforeseen then, is its cool climate vineyards in the era of climate change that we have now.  With climate change they are maybe becoming warmer, but certainly not to the same extent as some mainland areas.  Another factor is water; we heard about how important water is from Julian last night, and how many mainland wine-growing areas are becoming water-stressed. 

Mr Dean - Not at the present time I would have thought.

Mr FINCH - No, that is right.  In some irrigation areas where growers cannot afford water, vineyards are undergoing the shut-down process called 'mothballing', that is where producers stop irrigating until water supplies, hopefully, improve and vineyards can then be resurrected.  Wine producers in Tasmania's north, as the member for Windermere suggests, will certainly not be worrying about mothballing this spring.  Again, Tasmania has an advantage. 

The Tamar Valley Wine Route Committee now has a sophisticated management structure, 32 members with a chair, two vice-chairs and an executive officer, Corey Baker, who is an East Tamar producer.  It acts as one of the five wine zone marketing groups around Tasmania, and it recently honoured one of the pioneers of wine production in Tasmania, Graham Wiltshire, when it presented its annual awards last month.  Graham started his commercial wine venture in the Tamar Valley many years ago.  A second award went to the Launceston City Council, which has provided great service to the wine industry; they have been very helpful.  A third award went to Corey Baker, the Chief Executive, for service to the wine industry and the 'Hands of the Year' award went to an Iron Pot Bay vineyard couple, Errol and Cecilia Wilcox, who have worked for 19 years at the Iron Pot Bay vineyard, and Mary Dufour said that the awards are a way for the industry to salute and celebrate 15 years of those achievements.

There are not many people who have given more to the Tasmanian wine industry than the winner of that first award, Graham Wiltshire.  He is a true pioneer of Tasmanian viticulture and fine-wine production.  His 40-year-plus involvement with the industry has been characterised by an uncompromising commitment to quality, his willingness to experiment and innovate and - appropriate to the wine industry - insatiable thirst for knowledge.  Graham spent the best part of his adult life in pursuit of this big vision as producer, an industry stalwart and in later years with his chairmanship of the Tasmanian pinot noir group.  This group of producers seeks to develop Tasmanian pinots to their world-class potential and Graham, as their leader, has been uncompromising in terms of quality and the ultimate goal. 

Julian Alcorso mentioned last night that he will be developing a Gewurztraminer wine in the near future with Andrew Pirie.  Andrew Pirie, Claudio Alscorso - Julian's father - and Graham established the Vineyards Association of Tasmania in 1974; which has now become Wine Industry Tasmania.  Graham is now close to 78, his champagne years have gone - we now call it 'sparkling wine'.  Graham Wiltshire played a vital role in developing sparkling wine production in Tasmania and in particular the Jansz label.  Jansz Tasmania is now owned by Robert Hill Smith & Family and is internationally recognised for its quality and value for money. 

That was just a brief summary of Graham Wiltshire and his career.  Pioneers like him, who rejected the nay-sayers in the early days, were few and far-between.  That is no longer the case of, course, with a well-established wine industry with advantages over much of the rest of Australia.  His work continues with the Tamar Valley Wine Route Committee and producers in northern Tasmania.

They were all told in the early days that Tasmania was too cool for a consistent and viable wine industry, but they did not listen.  Now we have climate change and mainland drought and the Tasmanian wine industry can only benefit, Madam President, especially in the Tamar Valley.