The demand for Tasmanian winemaking facilities is rising strongly as new plantings increase and more grapes are grown each year.
- A couple of years after being placed into liquidation, a winemaking centre in Tasmania is back on track
- Two new wineries are under construction in the Coal River Valley as the industry expands
- Winemaking at one of the new wineries means grapes won’t have to be transported to the mainland
It was only a couple of years ago when the biggest commercial winemaking facility in the state, at Cambridge, was placed into liquidation after losing millions of dollars.
Now with new owners and a change in operation, Tas Vintners is ready to lift production of grapes from 1,200 tonnes to more than 4,000 tonnes in the next three harvests.
Chief winemaker and manager of the Cambridge plant Liam McIllhenny said that would mean hiring up to 10 more staff to add to the 20 or so full-time equivalents already on board.
“It’s been a brilliant harvest for us and our clients, and funnily enough we are now under pressure to get some of the wine bottled,” Mr McIllhenny said.
“We make wine for 15 vineyards around the state and we are about to embark on a recruitment drive to fill some gaps as we are at full steam at the moment.
A mere 300 metres down the road from the Cambridge site a new winery is taking shape, ready to take on more Tasmanian grape growers.
Two well-known Tasmanian winemakers, Peter Dredge and James Broinowski, have joined forces with an unnamed backer to make their own wines and contract for vineyards across the state.
It was not an easy process for the pair to get help from the normal financial institutions for the project, costing more than $2 million to set up.
“When you say ‘agriculture’ the banks want to help you plant a vineyard, which is great, but there are so many vineyards across the state and not enough factories to process the grapes,” Mr Dredge said.
Winemaking infrastructure plays catch-up
The site of the new winery was just a dirt paddock in December, and their backer built the huge structure to specifically hold large tanks and a bottling line imported from Germany, as well as cold rooms and plenty of storage space.
The expansion of wineries in the Coal River Valley does not end there, as another state-of-the-art winery is almost complete at the Jansz Parish Vineyard, just outside Richmond.
The Hill-Smith family-owned label is one of Tasmania’s largest sparkling wine producers, and normally the grapes picked in Tasmania at Piper’s River near Launceston and the Coal River Valley in the south would be shipped to Angaston in South Australia for processing and bottling.
From next year’s harvest, all the grapes from the three vineyards owned by the company will be handled at the new winery which will also have a cave underneath as a homage to sparkling wine.
Jen Doyle is in charge of the winemaking, while James Aubrey manages the vineyard.
He said the new winery will mean winters on the site will never be the same, but there are plenty of upsides.
“We have a new grape harvester on-site and the winery means we can pick the grapes at optimum times and have them in the crusher without any travelling or delays,” Mr Aubrey said.