Welcome to the Tasmanian Wine Region series, where every week we feature select wine regions from the stretch of Tasmania's tranquil countrysides and coastal communities. Subscribe to our newsletter today or view other articles in this series to learn more about the wines of the region.
As the name suggests, the East Coast region runs along the east coast of Tasmania, from St Helens in the north, down to Port Arthur in the south, and to the east of Sorell. While it is a sizeable region extending over 200 kms north to south, it is very narrow, hugging the coastline closely and only reaching inland a few kilometres.
Like much of Tasmania, the east coast boasts some of the most beautiful natural scenery in Australia. Pristine white sands, turquoise water and dense native bushland give way to manicured vineyards just in from the coast. Though vines have been planted in this area since the mid 19th century, it rose to prominence in the 1970s and 80s, when a handful of pioneering vignerons began producing exceptional cool-climate wines.
The East Coast region is relatively warm and one of the driest regions in Tasmania. The naturally warm climate is tempered by a strong maritime influence, with cooling breezes that come in from the Tasman Sea. These sea breezes are vital for lowering the ambient temperatures and cooling the vines overnight, helping to retain the natural acidity of the fruit. Warm days and cool nights are ideal for slow ripening and excellent flavour development, whilst retaining the all-important natural acidity in the fruit.
Being a coastal region, there is very little altitude along the East Coast. Site selection is key, with the best vineyards being planted on gently sloping, north east facing plots. Though altitude is generally low, undulations in the topography create a range of microclimates that offer diversity for growers and producers.
The soils of the East Coast are mostly clay-based loams over clay subsoils interspersed with volcanic doleritic rocks. They are friable, well-draining and reasonably fertile, which means growers need to manage vine vigour through manual methods.
Pinot Noir is the standout variety along the East Coast. The long, slow growing season allows the perfect level of physiological ripeness, while still retaining freshness and vibrancy. The Pinots produced here tend to be complex and layered, with concentrated dark fruits, spice and a distinct savoury umami character.
Along with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay is also grown and produced along the East Coast to great success. While often vinified as a single variety showcasing the cool-climate style, it is also blended with Pinot to produce exceptional sparkling wines, using the traditional Champagne methods.
Along with Pinot and Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are grown up and down the East Coast, with the temperate climate producing some standout wines. Rieslings from here tend to be fermented dry, showing zesty citrus notes, and crisp, mineral acidity. East Coast Sauvignon Blanc is typically aromatic with stonefruit, light tropical notes, and fresh, vibrant acidity. They tend not to show quite so many grassy / herbal characters as their Marlborough counterparts.
Outside of these varieties, there are very few plantings. But it's the East Coast's ability to produce these standard varieties to a very high level that makes it an exciting region to watch.