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Just out of Launceston in northern Tasmania, radiant blue water makes way for the gently sloping banks of the Tamar Valley, home to some of Australia’s most picturesque vineyards. Alongside nearby Pipers Brook in the north east, more than fifty wine estates flank the slopes of idyllic rivers and brooks. Here, the people of the vines battle the land, elements, economy and even each other to define the cutting edge of Australian winemaking. This is Australia’s epicentre of sparkling wine production and home to refreshing whites and elegant reds.
Tasmania is setting a pace of progress like no other wine region in Australia. As global warming takes hold, its cool climate and unspoilt landscape beckon big names from the mainland to buy estates and vineyards. Meanwhile, small players are taking full control of the production of their own wines and an ever finer and more diverse range of sparkling, still and sweet wines is emerging to wow the world. No surprise that Tasmania’s wine production has increased 100 fold in the past 30 years and almost doubled in the past decade.
Yet this is no wine paradise. Making wine on an island has challenges of its own, and cool climate viticulture rides a knife-edge of feasibility. Tasmania’s north is even cooler than its south, and much wetter, furnishing conditions for an ideal harvest one year and a washout the next. After close to a decade of droughts, bushfires and floods, combined with a global financial crisis, high Australian dollar and the collapse of the American market, how can they survive?
Every vintage in this temperamental place brings a build-up of excitement, nerves and anticipation. At the mercy of an increasingly temperamental Mother Nature and harsh economic realities, a new generation of winemaker has joined the fight to get the next vintage to market. Young upstarts, experienced stalwarts, competitive blokes and talented girls carve their stories into the flavour of each vintage.
A regular visitor to the region is multi-award winning wine writer and presenter Tyson Stelzer. With a keen eye for a story, he introduces the larger than life characters of the Tamar Valley winemaking community. Owning and operating a vineyard requires incredible resilience, determination and patience, it is one of the most stressful things you can do. The Vineyards are the material backdrop to the narrative of lives that own and operate them. "The winemakers in People of the Vines are on an incredible journey," Stelzer says. "It is as if they have been captured by some cult to produce the nectar of the gods” Tyson’s inquisition will lift the wraps on the art of winemaking giving an insight into the wines we enjoy and the characters behind them.
An escalating narrative emerges through an engaging six episode observational television documentary series and extended multi-platform environment. From the first sparkling wine grapes of early March to the flavoursome reds of late April, this is make-or-break for the year’s income, a high stakes, multimillion dollar industry in the hands of Mother Nature and the skill of the winemaker. Who will earn top scores, gold medals and top dollar for their wines this year? This is the back story behind the bottle – these are the people of the vines.