By Gerald Walsh in Wine Talk A.N.U. Canberra,1979
It is only in the last decade or so that Australianshave begun to appreciate wine, yet viticulture andwine-making are as old as white settlement on thiscontinent. As in the case of our chief primary industriesits history is a record of the vision, determination andfortitude of many pioneers who laboured under immensedifficulties to give us one of the great fruits of the earthand who are long gathered unto her again.
The origins of the wine industry in Australia must beseen against the general background of Australia's earlyhistory. In 1788 a thousand people established a penalsettlement at Port Jackson and the great problem that facedthe largely unskilled and unwilling workforce set in strangeand hostile surroundings was that of survival. Isolatedfrom Europe and the main sea-lanes it was imperative thatthe colony become self-sufficient as soon as possible andthe major grain crops, vegetables and fruit trees werequickly planted. Crops of a more specialised kind such asflax, hemp, hops, tobacco, sugar-cane and indigo were alsoexperimented with varying degrees of success, so it is notsurprising that some settlers, taking note of the warmer andmore temperate climate than the one they had left, saw thepossibilities for viticulture. But there is also anotheraspect arising from the colony's early circumstances. Ifisolation and the drive for self-sufficiency hastenedwidespread experimentation with all kinds of crops, it alsomeant social and cultural deprivation, loneliness and oftendespair and so it was equally little wonder that harddrinking became the diversion and compensation of most ofthe inhabitants in the early years. Large quantities ofspirits, wine and beer were imported annually, taverns andsly grog shops abounded, small breweries were set up,illicit distillation flourished despite severe penalties anda powerful peach cider was concocted and widely drunk. Thecultivation of the vine was part of the general bid foragricultural self-sufficiency but some settlers naturallyturned their attention to the vine for no other reason thanto provide yet another kind of solatium. Indeed, thegovernment actively encouraged brewing and wine-making inthe foundation years in order to stimulate agriculture andreduce the consumption of 'the ardent spirits' which washaving a deleterious effect on the workforce.
The first vines in Australia were brought by GovernorPhillip from Rio de Janeiro and the Cape of Good Hope andwere planted at Farm Cove in 1788. In 1791 there were threeacres of vines in the Governor's garden at Parramatta andabout 800 cuttings reported to be doing well at NorfolkIsland where the somewhat optimistic commandant opined thatwine would soon be exported. By 1792 Philip Schaeffer, anative of Hesse and one of the farmer-superintendents ofconvicts, had a one-acre vineyard on his farm at Rydalmerewhich he called The Vineyard. Schaeffer was the firstprivate vinegrower in Australia and in 1797 there were 8.5acres of vines owned by private growers. Phillip's vinesdid well for the first few years, providing excellent tablegrapes, but disease and the lack of proper managementrendered the first attempts to cultivate the vineunsuccessful.
In 1800 the two French prisoners of war, AntoineLandrien and Francois de Riveau, both of Nantes, were sentto Australia to promote viticulture along with instructionsto Governor King on how to plant a vineyard and make wine.(The instructions, a translation of a French article, werereprinted in 1803 as the first feature article inAustralia's first newspaper.) The Frenchman who claimed tohave been 'brought up to the business from .... infancy'planted 12,000 vines at Parramatta but by 1804 had producedonly about 40 gallons of wine 'of a very indifferentquality' and the vines were overtaken by 'blight'. Othersettlers and officials made similar attempts. In 1801George Suttor (1774-1859), many years later to become asuccessful vigneron, planted vines at Parramatta andNicholas Devine, another superintendent of convicts, had athree-acre vineyard at Newtown, but like Schaeffer and theFrenchmen they found conditions unsuited to the vine typesintroduced and their experiments were abandoned.
After the early failures the progress of viticulture isvery much a catalogue of the more determined efforts ofcertain enterprising pioneers and their families. It isdifficult to single out one person as the pioneer of thewine industry in Australia, but if one has to make a choicethe honour must go to Gregory Blaxland (1778-1853), nativeof Kent and free settler, more usually remembered in ourhistory as joint conqueror of the Blue Mountains along withWilliam Lawson and W. C. Wentworth. Blaxland arrived inSydney in 1806 via Madeira and the Cape of Good Hope andbought 450 acres at Brush Farm (Eastwood) where over thenext twenty-five years he conducted many experiments withcrops, grasses and viticulture. He selected wine varietiesfrom old gardens and vineyards which had been planted byboth seed and cutting, and initiating the Madeira practiceof training the young vines and the Cape practice oftrenching the ground to keep the roots moist in summersucceeded in developing a species of resistant to 'blight',Anthracnose or black spot. By 1816 he had made a wine whichGovernor Macquarie is said to have liked and in that yearannounced his intention of putting all his capital intoviticulture provided his brandy was exempted from the normalduty levied on liquor and he was given convict labourersmaintained at government expense. These requests wererefused but Blaxland pressed on with his experiments. InNovember 1819 he prepared one of the seminal documents inthe early history of the Australian wine industry entitled'A Statement on the Progress of the Culture of the Vine'which accurately described the disease Anthracnose, calledby him 'disease or blight' and summarised his experiments todate.
Blaxland was the first to export wine from Australiaand win an overseas award for wine. In 1822 he sent toLondon a quarter of a pipe (about 26 gallons) of red wine towhich had been added 10 percent of French brandy to enableit to endure the voyage. When bottled it was judged a lightsound wine with a nose and flavour resembling claret and wasawarded the large silver medal of the Society for theEncouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce, later theRoyal Society of Arts. In 1828 he received the gold CeresMedal from the same society for a tawny red wine said to be'wholly free of the earthy quality which unhappilycharacterises most of the Cape wines'.
On the whole, Gregory Blaxland's experiments weremoderately successful. Hailed in the contemporary press asAustralia's 'great vine cultivator and wine maker' he haddemonstrated that wine of a palatable quality could be madeand his efforts were imitated by others whom he providedwith large quantities of cuttings. nevertheless, hisoperations were small scale. There are no figures for hisvintages but in 1826, a bad year, he produced only six and ahalf pipes. After 1831 Blaxland, a man of mercurial andmoody temperament, disappeared from public activity, andwhen he died by his own hand twenty years later the passingof Australia's pioneer viticulturist was scarcely noticed inthe press.
There were other initiatives in the 1820s besidesBlaxland's. In 1824 Dr William Redfern (1774-1833) broughtvine dressers and cuttings from Madeira for his CampbellFields estate and the following year the AustralianAgricultural Company imported vines from the HorticulturalSociety's Gardens at Chiswick, England, including theVerdelho. But the outstanding initiative came from the Macarthur family. John Macarthur (1767-1834), the great pioneer and publicist of the wool industry, with his sonsJames (1798-1867) and William (1800-1882) had toured France,Switzerland and northern Italy in 1815-16 with the expresspurpose of studying viticulture and collecting vine types.They returned to Australia in 1817 ahead of their collectionand in the 1820s established vineyards at Camden Park andnear Penrith. Early plantings were unsuccessful and theMacarthur brothers nearly gave up, but when it becameevident that much of their imported collection was spuriousand that grape varieties and not soil types were the causeof failure they began to make progress. By the late 1820sfrom Verdelho and two varieties of Muscat they began to makea small quantity of good wine.
After thirty years of settlement Governor Darling hadto report to London in 1828 that: 'The production of winewithin the Colony has not been attended with the success atfirst anticipated'. There were several reasons why progresswas slow. First, and foremost, was the lack of suitablevine types. The French Revolutionary Wars hinderedcommunication with Europe until 1815 with the result thatmany inferior or spurious importations of vine cuttings weremade. Many vine types produced a great deal of wood butlittle fruit, while others carried the spores of anthracnosewhich flourished in the hot and humid Sydney climate.Second, there was a lack of skilled vine dressers andknowledge of the industry, especially knowledge of localclimatic and edaphic factors. Third, viticulture is labourintensive and until after 1815 when the bulk of the convictsarrived labour was scarce and expensive with the result thatproduction costs were high in contrast to the industry atthe Cape of Good Hope. Throughout this period Cape wines,notwithstanding their reputation, were freely and cheaplyimported. Perhaps also the poor quality of Cape wines evendiscouraged wide-scale planting of the vine. Nevertheless,despite the disappointments Darling added to his report, 'itis scarcely to be doubted that, with the varieties of Soiland Climate which this Country presents, the Making of Winewill ultimately form a Branch of Colonial Industry.'
If Blaxland can be called the pioneer experimentalistand James and William Macarthur his worthy successors, JamesBusby (1801-71) can justly be called the great publicist andprophet of Australian viticulture. Busby, who had studiedviticulture in France, arrived in New South Wales in 1824with a collection of cuttings and obtained a land grant of2000 acres in the Hunter Valley and a short-lived jobteaching viticulture to hoys at the Male Orphan School atCabramatta near Sydney. Busby considered the vine speciallysuited to the colony and wine a possible staple and topromote the industry published in 1825 A Treatise on theCulture of the Vine and the Art of Making Wine, which was atranslation of extracts from standard French texts on the subject. The book was, of course, largely scientific andimpractical and had little or no impact, so in order toencourage small settlers to plant vineyards he wrote AManual of Plain Directions for Planting and CultivatingVineyard and for Making Wine in New South Wales (Sydney1830) which sold for 3s 6d. He also distributed over 20,000cuttings to interested persons. Busby's other activitiesleft him little time for practical work in viticulture butthe vineyard he planted at the Orphan School later, underthe management of Richard Sadlier, produced a wine which inLondon was well thought of and judged to resemble Burgundy.In 1831 Busby went on a tour of vineyards in Spain andFrance and collected a large number of different varietiesof vines including 437 from the Botanic gardens atMontepellier and 133 from the Royal Nursery at Luxembourg.In England he obtained 44 varieties from Sion House, nearKew Gardens. Busby donated this large collection to thegovernment and it was shipped to Australia, planted in theBotanic Gardens at Sydney and made freely available toprospective viticulturists.
On his return from London in 1832 he planted 365different varieties, duplicates from his great vineimportation, on his property 'Kirkton' in the Hunter Valleyand published Journal of a Tour Through Some of theVineyards of Spain and France (Sydney 1833) and Report onthe Vines Introduced into the Colony of New South Wales inthe Year 1832 (Sydney 1834). The first did much tostimulate interest in viticulture and was reprinted twiceunder different titles in the 1830s while the latter is thebasis of the encepagement or vine population of Australiaand so a classic work in Australian ampelography. ThoughBusby's personal involvement in viticulture ended in 1833when he became British Resident in New Zealand, his variousbooks and great vine collection continued to influence theindustry long after his departure.
There was a noticeable quickening of viticulturalactivity in the 1830s. In the Hunter Valley William Kelman,Busby's brother-in-law, took over and extended 'Kirkton' to10 acres, and in 1836 George Wyndham (1801-70) made hisfirst successful vintage of 1650 gallons of 'Dalwood' nearBranxton. James King (1800-57) planted 'Irrawang' on theWilliams River near Raymond Terrace in 1832; four yearslater he made his first wine and began to extend hisvineyard. Sir John Jamison (1776-1844), 'the hospitableKnight of Regentville', made between 1400 and 1800 gallonsof wine in 1834 which was stored in well-built undergroundcellars; his vineyard near Penrith, according to oneauthority, was the largest in the colony and 'readilyrealised above 30 pounds a pipe' for its produce. In 1837the Macarthurs obtained permission to settle six families ofGerman vine dressers at Camden Park where they had atwenty-acre vineyard and in 1839 successfully petitioned theLegislative Council for permission to distil brandy in orderto offset financial losses in years of poor grape yields.In the same year George Suttor who had planted 2500 vinesnear Parramatta made his first successful vintage and about1838 Dr Henry Carmichael established his 'Porphyry' vineyardon the Williams River. Busby's cuttings were widelydispersed and throughout the decade numerous varieties werecontinuously imported; for example, in 1837 D.N.Joubertbrought out a collection of the best sorts cultivated in theMedoc region of France and the following year the Macarthursintroduced the Riesling white grape.
The 1830s also saw new settlements around theAustralian coast and it was not too long before the vine wasplanted in Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia.Not long after the first settlement in the West in 1829 asyndicate comprising Richmond Houghton, Ninian Lowis andThomas Yule planted the vine in the Swan River Valley.Edward Henty planted vines from New South Wales at Portlandin Victoria in 1834 and in 1838 William Ryrie overlandingsheep and cattle from the Monaro to his new property, YeringStation near Lilydale, took with him vine cuttings fromCamden Park and established the first commercial vineyard inVictoria. In 1837-9 J.B. Hack (1805-84), Richard Hamilton,George Stevenson (1799-1856), A.H. Davis and others plantedthe first vines around Adelaide and Glenelg. Davis hadobtained his cuttings from the Busby collection.
The quickening of immigration to Australia in the 1840sled to a rapid expansion of the industry and several oftoday's famous vineyards and wineries in New South Wales andSouth Australia had their origins in this decade. Dr HenryJohn Lindemann (1811-81), ex-naval surgeon and native ofSurrey, who had visited the wine regions of France andGermany, settled at Gresford on the Paterson River where heplanted 'Cawarra' in 1843. The same year, in order tofurther encourage the industry and wean the drinker awayfrom the 'ardent spirits' the New South Wales governmentlegislated to enable vignerons to sell wine in smallerquantities than before and waived the requirement for thenecessity of taking out a publican's licence. As a resultthe number of acres doubled to over 1000 between 1843 and1850 when the production of wine exceeded 100,000 gallonsfor the first time.
In South Australia the first vineyards were naturallyin what are now Adelaide's inner suburbs but it was not longbefore they spread to other parts of the colony. JohnReynell (1809-73) planted 500 cuttings from Tasmania nearthe present township of Reynella in 1841, George Ansteyplanted 2000 cuttings from Camden Park at Highercombe in1843, Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold (1811-70), believingthat wine was a useful medicament, planted his firstvineyard at Magill at the foot of the Mount Lofty Ranges in1844 and other Plantings were made by Dr A.C. Kelly nearMorphett Vale, J.E. Peak at Clarendon and by the JesuitFathers at Sevenhill College near Clare. German settlerspioneered the Barossa Valley where Johann Gramp (1819-1903)planted the first vines at Jacob's Creek in 1847, SamuelHoffman settled at Tanunda in 1848, and Samuel Smith(1812-89) planted 'Yalumba' in 1849. By the late 1840sSouth Australian wines were making their appearance atdinners given in London by promoters and friends of the newcolony. Government regulations, however, were strictespecially on distillers and this checked expansion of theindustry a little. When one vigneron sent a case of wine toQueen Victoria and got a medal from Prince Albert in 1846,Mount Barker magistrates fined him 10 pounds for makingwines without a licence!
Swiss and later German settlers contributed much to theestablishment of viticulture in Victoria. Charles Joseph LaTrobe, superintendent of the Port Phillip District, hadspent several years in Neuchatel Canton in Switzerland andthis connection led to the emigration of Swiss families whoplanted vineyards at Geelong and Lilydale. The first vinesaround Geelong were planted at Pollock's Ford by David LouisPettavel and F. Brequet and by John Belperroud in theBarrabool Hills in 1842; they were soon followed by elevensettlers from Neuchatel who planted the vine around theirhomes in the Barrabool Hills and in the late 1840s by Germanimmigrants who settled at Germantown (Grovedale). By 1850there were over 160 acres of vineyards in Victoria.
The expansion of the industry in the 1840s is reflectedin and in no small part a result of the publication of localmanuals and guides to viticulture. George McEwin, gardenerto the vigneron George Stevenson, published The SouthAustralian Vigneron and Gardeners' Manual (Adelaide 1843),George Suttor, The Culture of the Grape-vine and the Orangein Australia and New Zealand (London 1843), A. Henderson,An Essay on the Making of Wine (Sydney 1844), and R.W.Nash, secretary of the Vineyard Society, A Manual for theCultivation of the Vine and Olive in Western Australia(Perth 1845). Perhaps the most influential work in thisregard was that of William Macarthur the leading Australianviticulturist who had won overseas awards for his tablewines and brandies. By 1849 he had explored the Calcuttaexport market and his 25-acre vineyard had 28,000 gallons incellarage and was producing up to 15,000 gallons of wine andbrandy a year. Generous with advice and cuttings tovignerons all over Australia and believing that knowledge oflocal conditions was of prime importance he published hisfindings and hints in Letters on the Culture of the Vine,Fermentation. and the Management of Wine in the Cellar(Sydney 1844) which was widely read. In 1849 he publishedin London Some Account of the Vineyards at Camden whichepitomised thirty years of experimentation in viticultureand helped publicise Australia's wines and potential as avine-growing country.
The discovery of gold in Eastern Australia in 1852meant that primary industries suffered a temporary loss oflabour and viticulture in New South Wales and Victoria wasno exception. The acreage in Victoria had only increasedfrom about 160 in 1850 to 207 in 1856 while in the mothercolony it was not until 1858 that the acreage under thevines was back to the pre-1851 figure. South Australia withno gold discoveries on the other hand fared much better thanthe older colony in particular; not because of climatic andedaphic factors but because the colony was settled by smallfarmers who depended on their vines, partly or wholly, fortheir subsistence and could not afford to let them go outfor want of care and extra labour. In New South Wales,however, vineyards were more usually part of a largepastoral property rather than an integral part of anagricultural system; being more of a hobby, in time oflabour shortages they were often seen to be expendableventures.
The gold discoveries, however, with the consequentincrease in Australia's population had beneficial long-termeffects on every branch of human activity. Few gold diggersmade fortunes but at least two vignerons, H.J. Lindemannand Samuel Smith, found enough gold to finance expansion oftheir wineries and some who found it more profitable tovictual the diggers than to dig for gold invested theircapital in the industry. Thomas Hardy (1830-1912) frommoney made supplying meat to the Victorian goldfieldsestablished a vineyard on the Torrens near Adelaide andproduced his first vintage in 1857; by 1865 he wasproducing 14,000 gallons annually and a decade later 53,000gallons from his own vines and about forty smaller growers.At Great Western two ex-gold diggers Joseph (1830-87) andHenry Best (1832-1913), who had made a tidy sum victuallingthe swollen populations at goldfields near Ararat andStawell, established successful vineyards and wineries. Andthere were others, too, who after making money in thetransport of building industries turned their attention tothe vine.
Australia's population doubled to over a million in thedecade 1851-61 and as the easily won gold gave outdisappointed diggers turned their attention to other meansof livelihood. In the mid-1850s, for example, the Bendigovignoble was planted by unsuccessful French and Germandiggers. Agitation to unlock the land and promote closersettlement led to Land Selection Acts being passed in allmainland colonies in the period 1860-72 and this led torapid expansion of viticulture; between 1851 and 1871 thearea under vines increased from 6200 acres to 17,000 acres.For example, in Victoria after the Duffy Land Act of 1862over 2000 acres were planted in four years as lawyers,doctors. men of means and syndicates took advantage of the new provisions and planted vineyards by proxies.
Space permits mention of only a few more of the famousvineyards planted in the Golden Age and its aftermath.Three large vineyards emerged in the Yarra Valley with theaid of Swiss immigrants; in the 1850s Paul de Castellaplanted 'Yering' which soon developed a reputation for goodreds and in the 1860s Hubert de Castella and Baron de Puryplanted the famous 'St Hubert's' and 'Yeringberg'respectively. New areas were also opened up in Victoria.Lindsey Brown planted the first vines in the Rutherglendistrict at Gooramadda in the early 1850s and George Morrisplanted 'Fairfield' near Chiltern in 1859; in the 1860sG.S. Smith established 'All Saints' at Wahgunyah, asyndicate planted 'Chateau Tahbilk' at Nagambie in theGoulburn Valley and Jean Trouette and Emile Blampiedpioneered the Great Western District with 'St Peters' whichby 1867 had 50,000 vines. In South Australia 'Auldana'owned by Patrick Auld (1811-86) was one of the colony'slargest vineyards in the 1860s; the same decade WilliamSlater (1804-71), Joseph Seppelt (1813-68) and Paul Henschkeproduced their first vintages. New South Wales had lost itsposition as the leading wine producing colony by 1860, butJ.T. Fallon (l823-86) had begun the celebrated MurrayValley Vineyard at Albury with 150 acres under vines in1858; the same year Adam Roth planted 'Craigmoor' at Mudgeewhile in the Pokolbin district the Tyrrell family and F.A.Wilkinson ('Oakdale') established successful vineyards. InQueensland Samuel Bassett pioneered the industry at Romaalong the banks of the Bungil Creek in 1863, while in theWest, Houghton's vineyard in the Middle Swan Valley wasacquired in 1859 by Dr John Ferguson who put it on acommercial basis.
In the second half of the nineteenth century theexpansion of the wine industry was hindered by a number offactors, some of which were to carry over well into thiscentury. The most limiting factor was the absence of asizeable domestic market. Australia's population had notreached four million by 1900 and it was divided between sixcolonies which protected themselves with high customsduties. Hubert de Castella in John Bull's Vineyard(Melbourne 1886) pointed out that wine worth five shillingsper gallon in Victoria had to pay five shillings duty toenter New South Wales and wine of the same value comingsouth of the Murray faced an impost of six shillings agallon; this situation, according to Castella, was thegreatest obstacle to the industry. But there were otherfactors. Australians were simply not wine drinkers and thefew that were preferred the imported product. Wine snobberywas very evident as early as the 1860s, though it might benoted that prejudice towards the colonial products was notconfined to wine alone. This prejudice extended into theretail trade and some vignerons complained of the monopolyheld by publicans who refused to sell colonial wine. In1860 Dr A.C. Kelly said that 'popular prejudice' generallyopposed its consumption in Adelaide and that while colonialwine was consumed in clubs and at private dinner parties itcould not be bought in any of the 420 public houses inSydney. This situation was little different forty yearslater. Lacking a ready retail outlet, vignerons were thusput to the extra expense of opening up their own retailpoints in the towns and cities.
Another factor worth mentioning concerning the localmarket is the effect of the various total abstinence andtemperance movements which were in their heyday in the 1880sand 1890s. Though there were many staunch propagandists forwine as a beverage, like the Reverend John IgnatiusBleasedale (1822-84) who wanted Victorians to be 'a healthy,sober, jolly, wine-drinking population', the anti-drinkforces were very much to the fore. Among most vociferouswould-be social reformers drink was the cause of all evil;the Dean of Melbourne in 1875 even went so far as to saythat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden must have beenthe grape! In 1878 the South Australian Band of Hope andthe Total Abstinence League offered a 100 pounds prize forthe best essay proving the worthlessness of wine as abeverage. It was won by a clergyman. But while thereformers failed by example, frightening propaganda andpressure on MPs to abolish the demon drink and the drinkbill rose, governments could not afford to ignore thispowerful pressure group which ironically, if anything, hadthe effect of assisting the industry. Every liquor inquiryin every colony heard alarming evidence on the evils ofstrong drink and in 1882 the New South Wales government madeyet another attempt to wean the people away from spiritstowards wine as the lesser evil. The Liquor Licensing Actof 1882 enabled a person to take out a 'Colonial Wine Shop'licence for 3 pounds and sell colonial wines by the glass orin quantities up to two gallons. By 1887 there were over400 'Colonial Wine Shops' in the colony mainly near the mainwine producing areas, including 126 in the Sydneymetropolitan area. However, as in South Australia which hadsimilar shops earlier many wine shops added coarse spiritsto the often very immature wine to give it more kick. Theoutlets in many cases thus became a cover for sly-grogselling and did little or nothing to enhance the reputationof colonial wine or to change the drinking habits of theworking classes. For what the figures are worth, consideringthe amount of adulteration and illicit grog selling, thefollowing table shows the consumption of wine to be smallcompared with beer; in only two colonies, Victoria andSouth Australia, did the consumption of wine outstripspirits.
CONSUMPTION OF LIQUOR PER HEAD OF POPULATION IN 1885 G A L L O N 5 BEER SPIRITS WINESN.S.W. 13.19 1.30 0.64VIC. 15.80 1.05 1.15QLD. 10.93 1.91 0.64S.A. 14.08 0.78 1.56U.K. 26.85 0.97 0.38N.Z. 8.63 0.87 0.26Source: Votes and Proceedings, Legislative Assembly of N.S.W., 1887-8, 7, p. 27 of Rep
As the centenary of white settlement approached littleseemed to have changed in drinking habits at least in themother city of Australia. In September 1887 theIntoxicating Drink Commission reported that: 'Sydney isunquestionably more statistically "drunken" than most citiesin the United Kingdom, but not quite so drunken asLiverpool, and not nearly so drunken as Limerick'! The waySydneysiders rendered themselves insensible, however, was oflittle comfort to the vigneron.
If the domestic market presented difficulties so alsodid access to an export market and overseas recognition ofAustralian wine. Until the 1850s Australian wine waseffectively shut out from the British market, but when theBritish government abolished the preferential duty on Capewines in 1860 Australian wines got their chance. Between1854 and 1853 Australia exported an average of only 7000gallons of wine to England a year; in the period 1863-85the annual figure averaged about 32,000 gallons and in theperiod 1885-1900 rose to almost a half a million gallonsannually. In this last period the figure represented 3.5percent of England's total wine imports. All the wineexported was of the dry or beverage type, mainly full-bodiedBurgundy types.
Two factors contributed much to the successful entry ofAustralian wine into the British market. The first was thesetting up of firms in London to market them; Patrick Auldof 'Auldana' vineyard set up the Australian Wine Company(later the Emu Wine Co. Ltd) in 1862 and P.B. Burgoyne Co.in 1872. The second factor which did much to publiciseAustralia's product was the various large-scaleinternational exhibitions held throughout the second half ofthe nineteenth century with the object of stimulating trade.Australian wines were exhibited at most of the internationalexhibitions after 1851, including Paris in 1855, London1862, Vienna 1873, Philadelphia 1875 and Bordeaux in 1882;in addition local international exhibitions and numerousintercolonial exhibitions, usually preludes to overseasexhibitions, were held. Australia's first internationalexhibition was held in Sydney between September 1879 andApril 1880. Melbourne, however was not to be outdone andits international exhibition of 1880-1 where de Castella'swines won the Emperor of Germany's prize valued at 800pounds for 'the exhibit of the greatest merit' was anothergreat advertisement for the industry. In 1889 'St Hubert's'wine won one of the fourteen Grand prix awards for overseaswine at the Paris Exposition.
The incursion of Australian wine into the Old World wasnot without its difficulties. There was much prejudice,indeed suspicion sometimes of the origin of the 'colonial'product which was usually forced to compete in a specialsection; there were also objections about the strength ofsome Australian wines. The fermentation of musts wasincompletely understood a hundred years ago and the factthat some Australian wines were naturally over 26 percentproof spirit led to allegations that they had beenfortified. Controversy raged but as in the case of adisputed dry red Hermitage from Bendigo alleged by thejudges at Vienna in 1873 to have come from the Middle Rhone,the colonials won. Overall, Australian wines faredindifferently at these exhibitions but at least suchshowings brought attention to the product from theantipodes, which was the result of much dedicated effort.
Another problem of the industry was vine disease. Thevigneron's 'Black Death' phylloxera vasatrix made its firstappearance at Fyansford near Geelong in 1877 and began itsmarch northwards through the eastern half of Victoria to theMurray which it reached by the end of the century. Thephylloxera insect of 'vine louse' attacked the root stockskilling the vine and the only solution was to uprootstricken vineyards and completely replant them with NorthAmerican phylloxera-resistant stocks. Thousands of acreswere affected and the destruction of the industry aroundGeelong and Bendigo was complete. The Yarra Valley, WesternVictoria and South Australia, however, remained unaffected.
Despite the appearance of phylloxera the area under thevine in Australia rose from 22,000 acres in 1885 to 65,000acres in 1900, Victoria accounting for about half theacreage by 1900. The dried fruit industry in the newirrigation areas around Mildura and Renmark account for someof this increase but a notable expansion took place inVictoria's north-east around Rutherglen. Apart from theoverseas developments mentioned above, higher tariffs onimported wine, the completion of the Rutherglen railway anda government bonus of 2 pounds per acre for every acreplanted soon doubled the acreage in County Bogong between1885 and 1890 to 10,600 acres which represented over aquarter of the Australian total. By 1900 there were over450 growers in the area. But there was trouble ahead.
The coming of federation in 1901 had two immediateeffects on the wine industry. First, the removal of thetrade barriers between states benefited South Australianproducers who, as a result of a state government subsidy,were able to produce wine more cheaply than winemakers forexample in the Hunter Valley. The larger firms such asPenfolds, Seppelts and Hardys took full advantage of theexpanded market and in 1913-14 South Australia, long thepremier producing area, was producing 2.7 m gallons (12 mlitres) or about 60 percent of Australia's total output.Second, the Commonwealth government legislated in 1901 topermit only grape spirit to be used for fortifying wine andprohibited the making of brandy from anything other thangrape wine. This had the general effect of betterutilisation of the grape crop and of improving the qualityof commercial wines. But there were limitations ondevelopment stemming from the nature of the industry andnatural factors. The industry was atomistic, fragmented andlacked any sort of overall control; moreover the time lagin wine production behind planting had naturally led tooverplanting in some areas, especially in Victoria.Australian wine production in 1900-1 was over five milliongallons (22.5 m litres) and to 1904 there was a surpluscausing a fall in the price of grapes: this led to theuprooting of some unprofitable vineyards. Droughts in someareas and the ravages of phylloxera around Sydney, Corowa,Albury and especially Rutherglen were a severe check until1910-11. However, as David Pope points out in theAustralian Economic History Review (1971), the effect ofphylloxera in Victoria's north-east was in reality asubstitute for what the market dictated. In 1909 Francoisde Castella, the Victorian government viticulturist, neatlyput phylloxera into its economic context in that state:'the outbreak of Phylloxera has been a severe blow but insome respects it will prove a blessing in disguise as itwill mean the elimination of those vineyards which shouldnever have been planted'.
A feature of the industry in the twentieth century wasthe emergence of larger, often old-established, firms whocarried on operations in a number of localities and ofteninterstate. For example, in 1912 McWilliams, founded atCorowa by Samuel McWilliams in 1877, was the first to moveto the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area followed soon after bythe old South Australian firms, Penfolds and Seppelts.McWilliams established themselves in the Hunter Valley inthe 1930s and at Robinvale, Victoria in 1961. Penfoldsmoved into the Hunter Valley first at 'Dalwood' and thenaround Muswellbrook; about 19l3 the firm took over'Minchinbury' near Sydney noted from the 1890s for LeoBuring's Champagne. Seppelts took over Irvine's (formerlyBest's) Great Western vineyard in 1918 and Lindeman'sestablished vineyards and wineries at Corowa and laterCoonawarra and Karadoc in South Australia.
After the first world war a sharp increase in productiontook place owing to the planting of vines in soldiersettlements in the irrigated area along the Murray, in theMurrumbidgee Irrigation Area and the Hunter Valley. Yieldswere high in the irrigated areas, overproduction againresulted and by 1924 the price of some grape varieties fellbelow three pounds per ton. Many viticulturists could notcompete and the 1920s saw the decline for economic reasons ofmany of Victoria's famous vineyards. Around Great Westernmany were allowed to go out to pasturage and in the YarraValley around Lilydale they were replaced by dairy farms tosupply Melbourne's growing population. Clearly action wasneeded on a national scale if the industry was to developand prosper and the Australian government began to paysubsidies and look for an expanded market.
Up to 1925 nearly all the wine exported to Britain wasof the dry or table type as shipping costs did not permitthe heavier wines with their higher duties to competeagainst the Spanish and Portuguese product. In 1925,however, the British government introduced the principle ofpreferential duty for Empire wines and the Wine ExportBounty Act of 1924 and other bounty acts passed in the 1930sby the Australian government helped the export of fortifiedwine of specified strength and greatly stimulated theindustry. Furthermore, at the Imperial Economic Conferenceat Ottawa in 1932 the British government granted a margin ofpreference of 2s per gallon on Australian wines notexceeding 27 degrees of proof spirit.
In 1929 the government acted to place the overseasmarketing of Australian wine on an orderly basis by settingup the Wine Overseas Marketing Board (from 1936 theAustralian Wine Board) financed by a levy on all grapes usedfor the manufacture of wine, brandy and spirit used forfortifying wine. In the period 1925-39 Australia exported anaverage of 2.8 million gallons (12.6 m litres) of wine toBritain annually representing about 20 percent of Britain'stotal wine imports for that period. Nearly all wineexported went to Britain; only very small quantities weresent to New Zealand, New Caledonia and Canada.
During the second world war domestic consumption ofmainly fortified wines increased because of a beer shortageand because wine was sold on a quota system. The war,however, greatly affected the export market; after 1941 inthe face of a British embargo and lack of shipping spaceexports of wine to Britain virtually ceased. After the warexports were resumed on a smaller scale and there was afalling off in exports of still wines over 27 percent proofwhich had made up the bulk of Australia's pre-war exports. In order to capture more of the British market the Wine Board opened the Australian Wine Centre in Soho, London, in1960. Wine, however, is still not one of Australia's majorexports; in 1974-5 when production reached over 36O millionlitres only 6.5 million litres were exported valued at $5.3million. Britain, however, remains the main market followedby Canada, New Zealand and certain Asian countries.
The end of the war also saw changes in the marketing ofwine in Australia. Instead of being mainly sold in bulk towholesale and retail outlets the big wine firms began tosell more in bottles under their own labels. This led tomore competition with the result that vignerons' namesbecame better known and quality improved. The return ofprosperity in the 1950s, increasing affluence and thegradual change in Australian eating patterns brought aboutlargely by the great number of European migrants led toincreased wine consumption. The great revolution, thediscovery of Australian table wines by Australians, datesfrom the 1960s. Skilled promotion by the Australian WineBureau and increased advertising by wine companies did muchto change Australian tastes and the spate of books,articles, wine columns and wine and food societies were botha cause and effect of the boom. Until 1957-8 the productionof unfortified or table wines (including claret, burgundy,riesling, sauterne and sparkling wines) was less than halfthat of the fortified varieties (sherries, ports etc.), butby 1968-9 the production of table wines exceeded the volumeof the fortified varieties. Annual consumption increasedfrom five litres a head in the early 1960s to nine litres bythe early 1970s, to 13.7 litres per head in 1976-7.
The spearhead of Australia's wine revolution wasundoubtedly the successful production and marketing of pearl(perle) wines. In 1953 the old-established firm of Grampand Sons of 'Orlando' began-the cold and pressure-controlledfermentation of wine which had already proved successful inAustria and West Germany. In November 1956 Grampsintroduced 'Barossa Pearl', a naturally sweet sparkling wine(reminiscent of champagne) which appealed particularly towomen and had a vast impact on the Australian market.Though expensive capital equipment, such as large pressuretanks, was necessary to produce pearl wines they, unlikechampagne, could be produced quickly and cheaply and Gramp'striumph was soon duplicated by almost every other large firmresulting in a wide range of white and rose styles. Manywine snobs who should have known better regarded pearl winesas simply poor man's champagne; nevertheless 'BarossaPearl' appealed to the palate of many Australian winedrinkers and allured them to brighter worlds.
The 1960s and 1970s have seen a proliferation of newvineyards and wineries too numerous to mention by name inall states including Tasmania, together with a revival inviticulture around Geelong and in the Yarra Valley. From1971-2 the bearing area of grapevines rose in five years byover 10 percent mainly due to new plantings of specialisedwinegrapes; production of winegrapes increased 20 percentin the same period. But, as in the past, the wine industryis not without its economic problems. The industry hasalways been characterised by alternating periods of activityand depression and by February 1978 the AustralianGrapegrower and Winemaker was predicting a bleak future forthe industry which had been hard hit by changes in thetaxation and excise mechanisms. In September 1978 PeterShergold in the Australian Quarterly succinctly summed upthe present state of the industry: 'Within the presentrecessionary climate there exists an unfortunate conjunctionof economic forces - increased supply costs, demandfluctuations, surplus production, price-discounting - which,together with alterations to the tax structure, have left thewine industry floundering in a sea of ifs and buts.'Especially vulnerable according to Shergold were the smallgrowers and winemakers who sold to the larger wineries whichare somewhat protected from temporary liquidity problemshaving been taken over by well-known multi-nationals andlocal corporate giants.
In all its l90-year history the Australian wineindustry faced numerous problems and crises which wereovercome by vision, perseverance and hard work of manypioneers together with some government assistance. Therecord of achievement is a proud one. Today, though theindustry faces a variety of problems which perhaps onlysympathetic and enlightened government can solve, thedescendants of those sturdy pioneers and the new men canderive satisfaction at least from the fact that theAustralian palate has changed and that they can look forwardto increased domestic consumption. Blaxland, Macarthur andBusby, too, would be well pleased!
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