Tasmania is Australia's island state, lying some 150 miles south of Victoria in the middle of the Great Southern Ocean. It shares more in common with New Zealand than Australia in terms of climate and geography. Smack in the middle of the "roaring forties" of latitude, Tasmania is wet, cool, and mountainous with its high point reaching an elevation of 5,300 feet.

This is a thinly populated island of only 500,000 people and commercial wine production in Tasmania is still fairly small, but interest has been growing rapidly. Most vineyards are tucked into valleys on the east and northeast coasts where the mountains of the interior shield them from the winds and rains of the prevailing westerlies.

This cosseted position allows vineyards to take advantage of the cool, coastal influences and this is what the big players in the Australian wine industry are interested in; a reliable source for cool climate whites, Pinot Noir, and sparkling wines. This has led to a tripling of Tasmanian production over the last decade and the rate of development is accelerating, if anything. With the potential muscle of Australia's giant wine concerns, the next 20 years may indeed see Tasmania rapidly carve out a distinctive niche on the world scene, not unlike what New Zealand has done. (Wine/Appellations)