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14 May 2009

Tasmanian Wine

Dr Andrew Pirie: If you've become interested in wine, you then I think strive to understand the best and how to make the best. I think it's probably natural in every profession that you're somewhat aspirational. Wine is no different.

We're sitting in the Tamar Valley, which is one of Australia's longest and largest river valleys. It is an estuary, so we have a tidal river behind us. It's situated at 41 degrees south, which is the same latitude as important wine-growing areas in New Zealand. We have 750 millimetres of rain. We have average temperature of the warmest month here is about 24 degrees. Mean average temperature is just right for the grapes that we grow, which is the pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris. These grapes enjoy this sort of climate. It's what we call a cool climate by world standards, but a good cool climate.

My vision was always fine wines of cool climate that happen to suit our food. When I came here with my brother, we planted the first major vineyard in Tasmania in 1974. To do world-best, best-practice fine-wine production, it's quite a little bit like making a movie. You know, you need all the components in a movie - you need the story, the cameraman, the producer, the director and so on. Winemaking's quite similar to that. We need to know what our objectives are, we need to choose the right grapes, put them into the right environment, even the right side of the hill, in a certain location, make them in the right way and then sell them in the right way to be successful.

At the beginning of the season, we have an objective of which wine we want to make, and then which parts of the land, the vineyards, are going to make the fruit that will suit that. And then we look after the vineyards to make sure that we can make the style of wine. We call this the block-to-label approach.

We need very smart viticulturalists. We need vineyard managers who understand this block-to-label approach. We need a winemaker that understands this process. And then we need our sales and marketing people, who help the consumers understand what we're doing.

We're exporting around 50% of our production now, so it's a significant part of our sales. We're acknowledging that the world is receiving new world wines warmly, but then we promote ourselves as a new and exciting cool-climate region from Australia, and producing some high-value wines, some interesting wines, particularly pinot noir, which is famous in France for making burgundy.

People find Tasmania interesting, and I think wine is partly a journey into the landscape of the vineyards. And people quite like to drink a wine from somewhere that's a bit exotic.