Tony Walker spent two years researching the history of Tasmanian wine from 1823 through to the present day for his Masters Degree from the University of Tasmania. The 280-page, full colour book, Vintage Tasmania: The complete book of Tasmanian wine, is the outcome of his painstaking and original research. I was asked to write an introduction to the book, and, having read it from cover to cover, was delighted to do so. Rather than paraphrase that introduction, it follows verbatim:
This marvelous book is the culmination of a massive amount of original research on the 19th and second half of the 20th centuries, and extensive interviews with the key players in the Tasmanian wine industry of today. It shuts the door on any further book for several decades to come simply because there is nothing more to say.
It’s rare to talk of a non-fiction work as a page-turner, but this is one such. For not only is Tony Walker a researcher, and commentator, he is a skilled writer. If anyone doubts that, simply read Chapter 4: The Bernacchi Experiment. It adds a further dimension to the book – Walker’s wry sense of humour.
The genesis of the book was a thesis exploring the reasons why wine growing and making failed until the vinous torch was lit of Jean and Cecile Miguet in 1956, 130 years after Bartholomew Broughton made the first wine for sale in 1826. Put another way, the Tasmanian wine industry of today is the most vibrant in Australia, pulsating with success, and with virtually unlimited potential. What has changed so dramatically in such a short period of time?
Walker lays this all out in totally convincing fashion, aided by his understanding of wine in general. I have been a frequent visitor to Tasmania as a flyfisherman since Lake Pedder was filled, and as a wine show judge since 1991, co-chairing the Tasmanian Wines Show since that year, when 45 wines were entered, compared to 449 in 2014. I have hung up my judge’s wig, but the prospect of fishing is still attractive.
I also fulfilled a longheld ambition to be involved in making a Tasmanian Pinot Noir under the Coldstream Hills banner, and would love to make more. The problem is that Tasmania is the only region in Australia with a structural deficit of grapes, as a Federal politician or economist might describe it.
Brown Brothers’ acquisition of Tamar Ridge for a reported $30 million; the purchase of the White Hills Vineyard from Brown Brothers by Treasury Wine Estates; the House of Arras/Bay of Fires ownership by Accolade; and the purchase of the Parish Vineyard by the Hill-Smith Family Vineyards/Yalumba demonstrate the arrival of the Big End of Town in the Tasmanian industry. And this is only the beginning of what will be a golden period for and of Tasmania.
And so back to this book. Its design, printing and illustrations are impeccable. Its inclusion of the Regional Wine Routes is another important part of Tasmania today and tomorrow. Which leads me to Horace Greeley who famously wrote of America 150 years ago ‘Go west, young man, go west’. For Australia, it is a case of ‘Go south, young man, go south’.
The book will become available from the end of November, with reasonably wide distribution in Tasmania, but restricted access on the mainland. Thus, Tony’s website – www.providoretasmania.com.au – will be the most effective way of purchasing it, at an rrp of $49.95 freight free. Orders can be placed from November 15 onwards, and it goes without saying, I encourage everyone with an interest in wine – and, in particular, its history – to buy the book. You will not be disappointed, nor will anyone who may receive it as a Christmas present.