The state of Queensland has appointed a minister for wines - the first time an Australian state has created such a post.

Margaret Keech has been named as the Minister for Tourism, Fair Trading and Wine Industry Development in the new state cabinet announced by premier Peter Beattie last week.

The ‘Sunshine State’ is one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations, with wine tourism one of its fastest growing tourist sectors.

Since the inception of the state government‘s Queensland Wine Project in 1997 more than AUS$75m (€46.5m) has been invested in the industry.

David Russell, chairman of Queensland Wine Industry Association said, ‘The state’s wine industry is developing rapidly, and the government’s recognition of the industry, with a dedicated portfolio, is endorsement of its confidence in that potential.’

Although Queensland’s wine production is tiny compared with its neighbouring states New South Wales and South Australia, grapes have been grown there since the 1820s. Today the region, which encompasses well known viticultural areas as Granite Belt and South Burnett, has 130 wineries and 1380ha under vine.

Terry Morris of Sirromet Wines said, ‘it’s only fitting that the leading tourism state should also have a wine industry that will showcase the superb wines that can be made from grapes grown here.’

Written by Tracey Barker