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A history of the Tasmanian wine industry


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Walker, AC 2012 , 'A history of the Tasmanian wine industry', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Viticulture and winemaking have become important industries in Tasmania, with a rich narrative dating back to the 1820s, but little work had been done on researching and recording this history. This thesis sets out to fill that gap, dividing the history into three distinct phases.
The first, from settlement to 1870 was unsuccessful and it was generally accepted by the end of that phase that Tasmania was “not a wine growing country”. The second brief phase, in the 1880s and 1890s, covers Diego Bernacchi’s attempts to establish a commercial vineyard on Maria Island, with his lack of success confirming the conventional wisdom. By the turn of the century, Tasmania was the only state without a commercial wine industry. The third phase began in the 1950s and has seen the establishment of a vibrant and viable industry, rapidly acquiring an international reputation for premium cool climate wine.
This thesis attempts to explain the apparent contradiction of the failure of the early attempts and the success of the current phase. The central argument is that the difference lies largely in luck and circumstance, rather than any variation in will or effort. I argue that precisely the same factors which mitigated against the success of earlier attempts- climate, technology and public taste- now promote its success. Earlier impediments have become competitive advantages.
I have also examined the social and cultural background of the different eras, and attempted to track the evolving motivations for aspiring vignerons, using McIntyre’s theory of a “civilized industry producing a civilizing drink” in the earlier eras and the concepts of vineyards as “vanity projects” in the current context.
The thesis also attempts to explain why, in comparison with similar regions nationally and internationally, and despite widespread success and praise for its wines, the Tasmanian industry has grown so slowly. I argue that the Australian wine industry has been slow to adapt to changing circumstances, continuing to develop areas which were initially chosen for fortified wine production, rather than make cool climate investments, despite the evidence of climate change, and evolving public taste.
52 oral history recordings were made in the research for the current era, using a high quality digital recorder, and these will go into a permanent industry archive. The narrative itself has value in providing a permanent record of the beginnings of an important industry, and acknowledging the contributions of its many pioneers.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Walker, AC
Keywords: wine, vineyards, viticulture, grapes, Tasmania, cool climate
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Copyright 2012 the author

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