East Coast Wine Region

Grape vines were first planted on Tasmania’s East Coast more than 180 years ago.
In 1833 an early Falmouth settler, William ‘Dollar’ Steel established a small vineyard at his farm. Unfortunately he drowned soon after but his son tended the vineyard which was flourishing nearly twenty years later. Around 1880 Swansea farmers were reportedly making wine and selling it in Hobart.

Half a century later, a chance visit to the old convict settlement of Darlington on Maria Island, convinced flamboyant silk merchant Angelo Bernacchi of its suitability to plant vineyards there. A most ambitious experiment in Tasmanian viticulture history! By 1886 he claimed to have 40 acres under vines in two vineyards, with more than 50,000 vines either planted out or in his nursery. Poor site selection and low yields frustrated his best efforts so a year later he was back in England.

A gambler by nature, many contemporaries saw him as a charlatan, exploiting a gullible government with promises of economic investment and growth that he could not keep, but more recently the historian, Tony Walker, has challenged that verdict, instead claiming Bernacchi as a man ahead of his time, as an enthusiastic promoter of East Coast wine who, with better luck and planning, could have reshaped the Tasmanian wine industry.

The origins of the modern industry date from the plantings at Bream Creek by Bob Menary, with support from Claudio Alcorso (Moorilla /now MONA) in 1972, followed in 1979 by John Austwick’s Craigie Knowe vineyard near Cranbrook and Geoff and Susan Bull at Freycinet Vineyard the same year.

East Coast vineyards featured at The Farm Shed

East Coast Wine Region Map