Flavours from the far south – Bruny Island Premium Wines
Carved from bush and pastureland on the outskirts of the sleepy little island settlement of Lunawanna on Bruny Island is Australia’s southernmost vineyard.
Richard and Bernice Woolley bought the Wayaree Estate property in 1997. With the help of Bernice’s father John Dillon, they established their vineyard the following year, planting 2500 Pinot Noir and 1500 Chardonnay vines.
The vineyard is set on a gently-sloping site with a sunny north-westerly aspect. In an ideal season, Tasmania’s calm, clear autumn days are perfect for the slow fruit-ripening conditions needed to create premium cool-climate wines.
There’s a long tradition of fruit-growing in the Dillon family. Up to the 1950s, Bernice’s father and grandfather had apple and pear orchards at Alonnah, one of the sparsely-populated island’s few settlements. But the story goes back even further – Bernice is a direct descendant of one of Bruny’s first settlers, who arrived at Coal Point in Adventure Bay in 1878.
And the history of horticulture on Bruny reaches a further 100 years into the past, because it was on this scenic island off Tasmania’s south-east coast that Australia’s first apple trees and grape vines were planted in 1778 by Captain William Bligh. He was one of the many European navigators who sheltered in Adventure Bay on their great voyages of discovery from the mid-1600s to the early 1800s. (The bay is named for the ship Adventure, commanded by Tobias Furneaux, second-in-command of James Cook’s 1772 expedition).
Richard and Bernice have recently extended the Bruny Island Premium Wines vineyard, which now has 6000 vines. The two-hectare block is well-protected by an encircling electric fence – the wallabies and possums around Lunawanna love the Woolleys’ grapes almost as much as the growing numbers of people who have discovered the wonderful cool-climate wines that are grown, made and bottled by hand on the estate.
Bruny Island Premium Wines is a genuine family affair. Apart from Bernice and Richard’s hands-on approach – they’re involved in everything from pruning to labelling – other family members are also involved. The beautiful and unique labels of their wines are taken from original oil paintings of Bruny scenes by Bernice’s mother Ruth Dillon (the Unwooded Chardonnay label shows Coal Point); while the graphic design is the work of Bernice’s cousin Kylie Stokely.
The Woolleys opened their cellar door in 2007. It features timber from the original vineyard site, and offers tastings and sales. The cellar door is open most days from 11am to 5pm. Richard and Bernice welcome appointments and group bookings.
If there’s no-one behind the counter when you call, just press the bell, because they won’t be far away – in a family-run vineyard, there’s always something to do!
- 2006 Pinot Noir Reserve won Bronze at the Hobart International Wine Show 2007
- 2009 Chardonnay won Silver at the Hobart International Wine Show 2009
- 2009 Chardonnay won Bronze at the Tasmanian Wine Show 2010