A foodie's guide to the Tamar Valley wine route

The Tamar Valley of northern Tasmania has plenty to satisfy lovers of food and wine – all within easy reach of Launceston.

Tasmania's Josef Chromy vineyard
  • Jo McKay
  • February 2019
Brought to you by Launceston Airport

It’s a crisp Saturday morning in Tassie. While it’s around the time I’m usually ordering my second flat white, someone is refilling my wine glass instead. Between you and me, it’s already been re-filled four times. This is less shocking than it seems: I’m at the beginning of a wine-tasting weekend in the Tamar Valley and, trust me, the refilling has been in respectably small measures.

This pocket of northern Tasmania is home to some of Australia’s best wine. The cool climate delivers modern chardonnay, elegant pinot gris, snappy riesling, arguably Australia’s best sparkling, and for red-lovers, earthy pinot noir. But for me, what makes this 50-kilometre route such a sensational proposition is its proximity to Launceston. Less than half an hour ago, I was in the heart of town, finishing a tasty bacon butty (complete with HP sauce and Havarti cheese) from Bryher Cafe opens in new window. It took less than 15 minutes to get to the Josef Chromy opens in new window cellar door, where I’m now propping up the tasting bench, sipping chardonnay. Even the furthest away Tamar vineyards are no more than 50 or so kilometres from Launceston’s CBD. This makes it easy to tour the region in just a couple of days, which is exactly what I’m planning to do.

Beautiful gardens compliment great wine at Josef Chromy.
Beautiful gardens complement great wine at Josef Chromy.

At Josef Chromy, there’s a huge line-up on offer. “When it comes to what you can buy and taste, we’ve got a cast of thousands,” jokes David Milne, the brand’s sales and marketing manager. There are three labels to try: Pepik, which David describes as “the Monday to Friday” label, Zdar, the high-end range, and Josef Chromy, “the more complex, dinner-party wines”. It was the 2011 vintage chardonnay from this eponymous range that won the Regional Chardonnay Trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards and the Tasmanian Chardonnay Trophy at the 2013 International Wine Challenge – wins that put both Josef Chromy and the Tamar Valley on the map.

Today, the region boasts over 30 wineries, spread along 170 kilometres of road. It’s aligned somewhat like an upside-down triangle, with Relbia (where Josef Chromy is located) at the base point and two separate arms reaching northwards up the western and eastern sides. I’ve decided to tackle the north-west strip today, stopping at sleek Tamar Ridge opens in new window, Stoney Rise opens in new window with its awesome pinot noirs, and Wines for Joanie opens in new window where tastings are conducted in a rustic-chic barn.

The Wines for Joanie tasting room is housed in a homely barn.
The Wines for Joanie tasting room is housed in a homely barn.

I pause a little longer at Goaty Hill opens in new window because the generous tasting platters are too good to pass up for lunch. Then I hit Holm Oak opens in new window, a light-filled cellar door with stunning views and an adorable resident pig appropriately named Pinot. My final stop is at Grey Sands opens in new window, a little off the beaten track. It’s open once a month for tastings or by appointment, which I highly recommend. Sampling the tight range of five wines while sitting in the verdant garden is an unexpected highlight of the wine trail.

It’s said that the Tamar’s sparkling wines are second only to those of Champagne itself – so on Sunday, it seems sensible to head to Australia’s foremost sparkling-only cellar door. Jansz opens in new window is on the eastern side of the Tamar, about 45 minutes from Launceston. At the rammed-earth cellar door, there are five bubblies for tasting – all exceptional. Nearby, I also check out Sinapius opens in new window, set on a hilltop with lovely views (plus another smashing chardonnay), and Delamere Vineyards’ opens in new window selection of estate-grown fizz.

All too soon, the end of the weekend is here and even though there’s more to see, it’s time to head back to the city. I tally up my cellar door score: 10 wineries in two days – a solid strike rate. And in a region where touring is such a breeze, I’ve no doubt I’ll be back for another round very soon.