The Wine Industry of Australia 1788 1979

By Gerald Walsh in Wine Talk A.N.U. Canberra,1979

It is only in the last decade or so that Australians have begun to appreciate wine, yet viticulture and wine-making are as old as white settlement on this continent. As in the case of our chief primary industries its history is a record of the vision, determination and fortitude of many pioneers who laboured under immense difficulties to give us one of the great fruits of the earth and who are long gathered unto her again.

The origins of the wine industry in Australia must be seen against the general background of Australia's early history. In 1788 a thousand people established a penal settlement at Port Jackson and the great problem that faced the largely unskilled and unwilling workforce set in strange and hostile surroundings was that of survival. Isolated from Europe and the main sea-lanes it was imperative that the colony become self-sufficient as soon as possible and the major grain crops, vegetables and fruit trees were quickly planted. Crops of a more specialised kind such as flax, hemp, hops, tobacco, sugar-cane and indigo were also experimented with varying degrees of success, so it is not surprising that some settlers, taking note of the warmer and more temperate climate than the one they had left, saw the possibilities for viticulture. But there is also another aspect arising from the colony's early circumstances. If isolation and the drive for self-sufficiency hastened widespread experimentation with all kinds of crops, it also meant social and cultural deprivation, loneliness and often despair and so it was equally little wonder that hard drinking became the diversion and compensation of most of the inhabitants in the early years. Large quantities of spirits, wine and beer were imported annually, taverns and sly grog shops abounded, small breweries were set up, illicit distillation flourished despite severe penalties and a powerful peach cider was concocted and widely drunk. The cultivation of the vine was part of the general bid for agricultural self-sufficiency but some settlers naturally turned their attention to the vine for no other reason than to provide yet another kind of solatium. Indeed, the government actively encouraged brewing and wine-making in the foundation years in order to stimulate agriculture and reduce the consumption of 'the ardent spirits' which was having a deleterious effect on the workforce.

The first vines in Australia were brought by Governor Phillip from Rio de Janeiro and the Cape of Good Hope and were planted at Farm Cove in 1788. In 1791 there were three acres of vines in the Governor's garden at Parramatta and about 800 cuttings reported to be doing well at Norfolk Island where the somewhat optimistic commandant opined that wine would soon be exported.

By 1792 Philip Schaeffer, a native of Hesse and one of the farmer-superintendents of convicts, had a one-acre vineyard on his farm at Rydalmere which he called The Vineyard. Schaeffer was the first private vinegrower in Australia and in 1797 there were 8.5 acres of vines owned by private growers. Phillip's vines did well for the first few years, providing excellent table grapes, but disease and the lack of proper management rendered the first attempts to cultivate the vine unsuccessful.

In 1800 the two French prisoners of war, Antoine Landrien and Francois de Riveau, both of Nantes, were sent to Australia to promote viticulture along with instructions to Governor King on how to plant a vineyard and make wine. (The instructions, a translation of a French article, were reprinted in 1803 as the first feature article in Australia's first newspaper.) The Frenchman who claimed to have been 'brought up to the business from .... infancy' planted 12,000 vines at Parramatta but by 1804 had produced only about 40 gallons of wine 'of a very indifferent quality' and the vines were overtaken by 'blight'. Other settlers and officials made similar attempts.

In 1801 George Suttor (1774-1859), many years later to become a successful vigneron, planted vines at Parramatta and Nicholas Devine, another superintendent of convicts, had a three-acre vineyard at Newtown, but like Schaeffer and the Frenchmen they found conditions unsuited to the vine types introduced and their experiments were abandoned.

After the early failures the progress of viticulture is very much a catalogue of the more determined efforts of certain enterprising pioneers and their families. It is difficult to single out one person as the pioneer of the wine industry in Australia, but if one has to make a choice the honour must go to Gregory Blaxland (1778-1853), native of Kent and free settler, more usually remembered in our history as joint conqueror of the Blue Mountains along with William Lawson and W. C. Wentworth. Blaxland arrived in Sydney in 1806 via Madeira and the Cape of Good Hope and bought 450 acres at Brush Farm (Eastwood) where over the next twenty-five years he conducted many experiments with crops, grasses and viticulture.

 He selected wine varieties from old gardens and vineyards which had been planted by both seed and cutting, and initiating the Madeira practice of training the young vines and the Cape practice of trenching the ground to keep the roots moist in summer succeeded in developing a species of resistant to 'blight', Anthracnose or black spot. By 1816 he had made a wine which Governor Macquarie is said to have liked and in that year announced his intention of putting all his capital into viticulture provided his brandy was exempted from the normal duty levied on liquor and he was given convict labourers maintained at government expense. These requests were refused but Blaxland pressed on with his experiments. In November 1819 he prepared one of the seminal documents in the 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, called by him 'disease or blight' and summarised his experiments to date.

Blaxland was the first to export wine from Australia and win an overseas award for wine. In 1822 he sent to London a quarter of a pipe (about 26 gallons) of red wine to which had been added 10 percent of French brandy to enable it to endure the voyage. When bottled it was judged a light sound wine with a nose and flavour resembling claret and was awarded the large silver medal of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce, later the Royal Society of Arts. In 1828 he received the gold Ceres Medal from the same society for a tawny red wine said to be 'wholly free of the earthy quality which unhappily characterises most of the Cape wines'.

On the whole, Gregory Blaxland's experiments were moderately successful. Hailed in the contemporary press as Australia's 'great vine cultivator and wine maker' he had demonstrated that wine of a palatable quality could be made and his efforts were imitated by others whom he provided with large quantities of cuttings. nevertheless, his operations were small scale. There are no figures for his vintages but in 1826, a bad year, he produced only six and a half pipes. After 1831 Blaxland, a man of mercurial and moody temperament, disappeared from public activity, and when he died by his own hand twenty years later the passing of Australia's pioneer viticulturist was scarcely noticed in the press.

There were other initiatives in the 1820s besides Blaxland's. In 1824 Dr William Redfern (1774-1833) brought vine dressers and cuttings from Madeira for his Campbell Fields estate and the following year the Australian Agricultural Company imported vines from the Horticultural Society's Gardens at Chiswick, England, including the Verdelho. But the outstanding initiative came from the Macarthur family. John Macarthur (1767-1834), the great pioneer and publicist of the wool industry, with his sons James (1798-1867) and William (1800-1882) had toured France, Switzerland and northern Italy in 1815-16 with the express purpose of studying viticulture and collecting vine types. They returned to Australia in 1817 ahead of their collection and in the 1820s established vineyards at Camden Park and near Penrith. Early plantings were unsuccessful and the Macarthur brothers nearly gave up, but when it became evident that much of their imported collection was spurious and that grape varieties and not soil types were the cause of failure they began to make progress. By the late 1820s from Verdelho and two varieties of Muscat they began to make a small quantity of good wine.

After thirty years of settlement Governor Darling had to report to London in 1828 that: 'The production of wine within the Colony has not been attended with the success at first anticipated'. There were several reasons why progress was slow. First, and foremost, was the lack of suitable vine types. The French Revolutionary Wars hindered communication with Europe until 1815 with the result that many inferior or spurious importations of vine cuttings were made. Many vine types produced a great deal of wood but little fruit, while others carried the spores of anthracnose which flourished in the hot and humid Sydney climate. Second, there was a lack of skilled vine dressers and knowledge of the industry, especially knowledge of local climatic and edaphic factors. Third, viticulture is labour intensive and until after 1815 when the bulk of the convicts arrived labour was scarce and expensive with the result that production costs were high in contrast to the industry at the Cape of Good Hope. Throughout this period Cape wines, notwithstanding their reputation, were freely and cheaply imported. Perhaps also the poor quality of Cape wines even discouraged wide-scale planting of the vine. Nevertheless, despite the disappointments Darling added to his report, 'it is scarcely to be doubted that, with the varieties of Soil and Climate which this Country presents, the Making of Wine will ultimately form a Branch of Colonial Industry.'

If Blaxland can be called the pioneer experimentalist and James and William Macarthur his worthy successors, James Busby (1801-71) can justly be called the great publicist and prophet of Australian viticulture. Busby, who had studied viticulture in France, arrived in New South Wales in 1824 with a collection of cuttings and obtained a land grant of 2000 acres in the Hunter Valley and a short-lived job teaching viticulture to hoys at the Male Orphan School at Cabramatta near Sydney. Busby considered the vine specially suited to the colony and wine a possible staple and to promote the industry published in 1825 A Treatise on the Culture of the Vine and the Art of Making Wine, which was a translation of extracts from standard French texts on the subject. The book was, of course, largely scientific and impractical and had little or no impact, so in order to encourage small settlers to plant vineyards he wrote A Manual of Plain Directions for Planting and Cultivating Vineyard and for Making Wine in New South Wales (Sydney 1830) which sold for 3s 6d. He also distributed over 20,000 cuttings to interested persons. Busby's other activities left him little time for practical work in viticulture but the vineyard he planted at the Orphan School later, under the management of Richard Sadlier, produced a wine which in London was well thought of and judged to resemble Burgundy. In 1831 Busby went on a tour of vineyards in Spain and France and collected a large number of different varieties of vines including 437 from the Botanic gardens at Montepellier and 133 from the Royal Nursery at Luxembourg. In England he obtained 44 varieties from Sion House, near Kew Gardens. Busby donated this large collection to the government and it was shipped to Australia, planted in the Botanic Gardens at Sydney and made freely available to prospective viticulturists.

On his return from London in 1832 he planted 365 different varieties, duplicates from his great vine importation, on his property 'Kirkton' in the Hunter Valley and published Journal of a Tour Through Some of the Vineyards of Spain and France (Sydney 1833) and Report on the Vines Introduced into the Colony of New South Wales in the Year 1832 (Sydney 1834). The first did much to stimulate interest in viticulture and was reprinted twice under different titles in the 1830s while the latter is the basis of the encepagement or vine population of Australia and so a classic work in Australian ampelography. Though Busby's personal involvement in viticulture ended in 1833 when he became British Resident in New Zealand, his various books and great vine collection continued to influence the industry long after his departure.

There was a noticeable quickening of viticultural activity in the 1830s.

 In the Hunter Valley William Kelman, Busby's brother-in-law, took over and extended 'Kirkton' to 10 acres, and in 1836 George Wyndham (1801-70) made his first successful vintage of 1650 gallons of 'Dalwood' near Branxton. James King (1800-57) planted 'Irrawang' on the Williams River near Raymond Terrace in 1832; four years later he made his first wine and began to extend his vineyard. Sir John Jamison (1776-1844), 'the hospitable Knight of Regentville', made between 1400 and 1800 gallons of wine in 1834 which was stored in well-built underground cellars; his vineyard near Penrith, according to one authority, was the largest in the colony and 'readily realised above 30 pounds a pipe' for its produce.

In 1837 the Macarthurs obtained permission to settle six families of German vine dressers at Camden Park where they had a twenty-acre vineyard and in 1839 successfully petitioned the Legislative Council for permission to distil brandy in order to offset financial losses in years of poor grape yields. In the same year George Suttor who had planted 2500 vines near Parramatta made his first successful vintage and about 1838 Dr Henry Carmichael established his 'Porphyry' vineyard on the Williams River. Busby's cuttings were widely dispersed and throughout the decade numerous varieties were continuously imported; for example, in 1837 D.N.Joubert brought out a collection of the best sorts cultivated in the Medoc region of France and the following year the Macarthurs introduced the Riesling white grape.

The 1830s also saw new settlements around the Australian coast and it was not too long before the vine was planted in Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia. Not long after the first settlement in the West in 1829 a syndicate comprising Richmond Houghton, Ninian Lowis and Thomas Yule planted the vine in the Swan River Valley. Edward Henty planted vines from New South Wales at Portland in Victoria in 1834 and in 1838 William Ryrie overlanding sheep and cattle from the Monaro to his new property, Yering Station near Lilydale, took with him vine cuttings from Camden Park and established the first commercial vineyard in Victoria. In 1837-9 J.B. Hack (1805-84), Richard Hamilton, George Stevenson (1799-1856), A.H. Davis and others planted the first vines around Adelaide and Glenelg. Davis had obtained his cuttings from the Busby collection.

The quickening of immigration to Australia in the 1840s led to a rapid expansion of the industry and several of today's famous vineyards and wineries in New South Wales and South Australia had their origins in this decade.

 Dr Henry John Lindemann (1811-81), ex-naval surgeon and native of Surrey, who had visited the wine regions of France and Germany, settled at Gresford on the Paterson River where he planted 'Cawarra' in 1843. The same year, in order to further encourage the industry and wean the drinker away from the 'ardent spirits' the New South Wales government legislated to enable vignerons to sell wine in smaller quantities than before and waived the requirement for the necessity of taking out a publican's licence. As a result the number of acres doubled to over 1000 between 1843 and 1850 when the production of wine exceeded 100,000 gallons for the first time.

In South Australia the first vineyards were naturally in what are now Adelaide's inner suburbs but it was not long before they spread to other parts of the colony. John Reynell (1809-73) planted 500 cuttings from Tasmania near the present township of Reynella in 1841, George Anstey planted 2000 cuttings from Camden Park at Highercombe in 1843, Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold (1811-70), believing that wine was a useful medicament, planted his first vineyard at Magill at the foot of the Mount Lofty Ranges in 1844 and other Plantings were made by Dr A.C. Kelly near Morphett Vale, J.E. Peak at Clarendon and by the Jesuit Fathers at Sevenhill College near Clare. German settlers pioneered the Barossa Valley where Johann Gramp (1819-1903) planted the first vines at Jacob's Creek in 1847, Samuel Hoffman settled at Tanunda in 1848, and Samuel Smith (1812-89) planted 'Yalumba' in 1849. By the late 1840s South Australian wines were making their appearance at dinners given in London by promoters and friends of the new colony. Government regulations, however, were strict especially on distillers and this checked expansion of the industry a little. When one vigneron sent a case of wine to Queen Victoria and got a medal from Prince Albert in 1846, Mount Barker magistrates fined him 10 pounds for making wines without a licence!

Swiss and later German settlers contributed much to the establishment of viticulture in Victoria. Charles Joseph La Trobe, superintendent of the Port Phillip District, had spent several years in Neuchatel Canton in Switzerland and this connection led to the emigration of Swiss families who planted vineyards at Geelong and Lilydale. The first vines around Geelong were planted at Pollock's Ford by David Louis Pettavel and F. Brequet and by John Belperroud in the Barrabool Hills in 1842; they were soon followed by eleven settlers from Neuchatel who planted the vine around their homes in the Barrabool Hills and in the late 1840s by German immigrants who settled at Germantown (Grovedale). By 1850 there were over 160 acres of vineyards in Victoria.

The expansion of the industry in the 1840s is reflected in and in no small part a result of the publication of local manuals and guides to viticulture. George McEwin, gardener to the vigneron George Stevenson, published The South Australian Vigneron and Gardeners' Manual (Adelaide 1843), George Suttor, The Culture of the Grape-vine and the Orange in 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 the Cultivation of the Vine and Olive in Western Australia (Perth 1845).

Perhaps the most influential work in this regard was that of William Macarthur the leading Australian viticulturist who had won overseas awards for his table wines and brandies. By 1849 he had explored the Calcutta export market and his 25-acre vineyard had 28,000 gallons in cellarage and was producing up to 15,000 gallons of wine and brandy a year. Generous with advice and cuttings to vignerons all over Australia and believing that knowledge of local conditions was of prime importance he published his findings 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 published in London Some Account of the Vineyards at Camden which epitomised thirty years of experimentation in viticulture and helped publicise Australia's wines and potential as a vine-growing country.

The discovery of gold in Eastern Australia in 1852 meant that primary industries suffered a temporary loss of labour and viticulture in New South Wales and Victoria was no exception. The acreage in Victoria had only increased from about 160 in 1850 to 207 in 1856 while in the mother colony it was not until 1858 that the acreage under the vines was back to the pre-1851 figure. South Australia with no gold discoveries on the other hand fared much better than the older colony in particular; not because of climatic and edaphic factors but because the colony was settled by small farmers who depended on their vines, partly or wholly, for their subsistence and could not afford to let them go out for want of care and extra labour. In New South Wales, however, vineyards were more usually part of a large pastoral property rather than an integral part of an agricultural system; being more of a hobby, in time of labour shortages they were often seen to be expendable ventures.

The gold discoveries, however, with the consequent increase in Australia's population had beneficial long-term effects on every branch of human activity.


 Few gold diggers made fortunes but at least two vignerons, H.J. Lindemann and Samuel Smith, found enough gold to finance expansion of their wineries and some who found it more profitable to victual the diggers than to dig for gold invested their capital in the industry. Thomas Hardy (1830-1912) from money made supplying meat to the Victorian goldfields established a vineyard on the Torrens near Adelaide and produced his first vintage in 1857; by 1865 he was producing 14,000 gallons annually and a decade later 53,000 gallons from his own vines and about forty smaller growers. At Great Western two ex-gold diggers Joseph (1830-87) and Henry Best (1832-1913), who had made a tidy sum victualling the swollen populations at goldfields near Ararat and Stawell, established successful vineyards and wineries. And there were others, too, who after making money in the transport of building industries turned their attention to the vine.

Australia's population doubled to over a million in the decade 1851-61 and as the easily won gold gave out disappointed diggers turned their attention to other means of livelihood. In the mid-1850s, for example, the Bendigo vignoble was planted by unsuccessful French and German diggers. Agitation to unlock the land and promote closer settlement led to Land Selection Acts being passed in all mainland colonies in the period 1860-72 and this led to rapid expansion of viticulture; between 1851 and 1871 the area under vines increased from 6200 acres to 17,000 acres. For example, in Victoria after the Duffy Land Act of 1862 over 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 famous vineyards planted in the Golden Age and its aftermath. Three large vineyards emerged in the Yarra Valley with the aid of Swiss immigrants; in the 1850s Paul de Castella planted 'Yering' which soon developed a reputation for good reds and in the 1860s Hubert de Castella and Baron de Pury planted the famous 'St Hubert's' and 'Yeringberg' respectively. New areas were also opened up in Victoria. Lindsey Brown planted the first vines in the Rutherglen district at Gooramadda in the early 1850s and George Morris planted 'Fairfield' near Chiltern in 1859; in the 1860s G.S. Smith established 'All Saints' at Wahgunyah, a syndicate planted 'Chateau Tahbilk' at Nagambie in the Goulburn Valley and Jean Trouette and Emile Blampied pioneered the Great Western District with 'St Peters' which by 1867 had 50,000 vines. In South Australia 'Auldana' owned by Patrick Auld (1811-86) was one of the colony's largest vineyards in the 1860s; the same decade William Slater (1804-71), Joseph Seppelt (1813-68) and Paul Henschke produced their first vintages. New South Wales had lost its position as the leading wine producing colony by 1860, but J.T. Fallon (l823-86) had begun the celebrated Murray Valley Vineyard at Albury with 150 acres under vines in 1858; the same year Adam Roth planted 'Craigmoor' at Mudgee while in the Pokolbin district the Tyrrell family and F.A. Wilkinson ('Oakdale') established successful vineyards. In Queensland Samuel Bassett pioneered the industry at Roma along the banks of the Bungil Creek in 1863, while in the West, Houghton's vineyard in the Middle Swan Valley was acquired in 1859 by Dr John Ferguson who put it on a commercial basis.

In the second half of the nineteenth century the expansion of the wine industry was hindered by a number of factors, some of which were to carry over well into this century. The most limiting factor was the absence of a sizeable domestic market. Australia's population had not reached four million by 1900 and it was divided between six colonies which protected themselves with high customs duties. Hubert de Castella in John Bull's Vineyard (Melbourne 1886) pointed out that wine worth five shillings per gallon in Victoria had to pay five shillings duty to enter New South Wales and wine of the same value coming south of the Murray faced an impost of six shillings a gallon; this situation, according to Castella, was the greatest obstacle to the industry. But there were other factors. Australians were simply not wine drinkers and the few that were preferred the imported product. Wine snobbery was very evident as early as the 1860s, though it might be noted that prejudice towards the colonial products was not confined to wine alone. This prejudice extended into the retail trade and some vignerons complained of the monopoly held by publicans who refused to sell colonial wine. In 1860 Dr A.C. Kelly said that 'popular prejudice' generally opposed its consumption in Adelaide and that while colonial wine was consumed in clubs and at private dinner parties it could not be bought in any of the 420 public houses in Sydney. This situation was little different forty years later. Lacking a ready retail outlet, vignerons were thus put to the extra expense of opening up their own retail points in the towns and cities.

Another factor worth mentioning concerning the local market is the effect of the various total abstinence and temperance movements which were in their heyday in the 1880s and 1890s. Though there were many staunch propagandists for wine as a beverage, like the Reverend John Ignatius Bleasedale (1822-84) who wanted Victorians to be 'a healthy, sober, jolly, wine-drinking population', the anti-drink forces were very much to the fore. Among most vociferous would-be social reformers drink was the cause of all evil; the Dean of Melbourne in 1875 even went so far as to say that the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden must have been the grape! In 1878 the South Australian Band of Hope and the Total Abstinence League offered a 100 pounds prize for the best essay proving the worthlessness of wine as a beverage. It was won by a clergyman. But while the reformers failed by example, frightening propaganda and pressure on MPs to abolish the demon drink and the drink bill rose, governments could not afford to ignore this powerful pressure group which ironically, if anything, had the effect of assisting the industry. Every liquor inquiry in every colony heard alarming evidence on the evils of strong drink and in 1882 the New South Wales government made yet another attempt to wean the people away from spirits towards wine as the lesser evil. The Liquor Licensing Act of 1882 enabled a person to take out a 'Colonial Wine Shop' licence for 3 pounds and sell colonial wines by the glass or in quantities up to two gallons. By 1887 there were over 400 'Colonial Wine Shops' in the colony mainly near the main wine producing areas, including 126 in the Sydney metropolitan area. However, as in South Australia which had similar shops earlier many wine shops added coarse spirits to the often very immature wine to give it more kick. The outlets in many cases thus became a cover for sly-grog selling and did little or nothing to enhance the reputation of colonial wine or to change the drinking habits of the working classes. For what the figures are worth, considering the amount of adulteration and illicit grog selling, the following table shows the consumption of wine to be small compared with beer; in only two colonies, Victoria and South Australia, did the consumption of wine outstrip spirits.

                  IN 1885
                    G A L L O N 5
               BEER      SPIRITS    WINES
N.S.W.         13.19       1.30      0.64
VIC.           15.80       1.05      1.15
QLD.           10.93       1.91      0.64
S.A.           14.08       0.78      1.56
U.K.           26.85       0.97      0.38
N.Z.           8.63        0.87      0.26
Source: Votes and Proceedings, Legislative
        Assembly of N.S.W., 1887-8, 7, p. 27
        of Rep 

As the centenary of white settlement approached little seemed to have changed in drinking habits at least in the mother city of Australia. In September 1887 the Intoxicating Drink Commission reported that: 'Sydney is unquestionably more statistically "drunken" than most cities in the United Kingdom, but not quite so drunken as Liverpool, and not nearly so drunken as Limerick'! The way Sydneysiders rendered themselves insensible, however, was of little comfort to the vigneron.

If the domestic market presented difficulties so also did access to an export market and overseas recognition of Australian wine. Until the 1850s Australian wine was effectively shut out from the British market, but when the British government abolished the preferential duty on Cape wines in 1860 Australian wines got their chance. Between 1854 and 1853 Australia exported an average of only 7000 gallons of wine to England a year; in the period 1863-85 the annual figure averaged about 32,000 gallons and in the period 1885-1900 rose to almost a half a million gallons annually. In this last period the figure represented 3.5 percent of England's total wine imports. All the wine exported was of the dry or beverage type, mainly full-bodied Burgundy types.

Two factors contributed much to the successful entry of Australian wine into the British market. The first was the setting up of firms in London to market them; Patrick Auld of '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 publicise Australia's product was the various large-scale international exhibitions held throughout the second half of the nineteenth century with the object of stimulating trade. Australian wines were exhibited at most of the international exhibitions after 1851, including Paris in 1855, London 1862, Vienna 1873, Philadelphia 1875 and Bordeaux in 1882; in addition local international exhibitions and numerous intercolonial exhibitions, usually preludes to overseas exhibitions, were held. Australia's first international exhibition was held in Sydney between September 1879 and April 1880. Melbourne, however was not to be outdone and its international exhibition of 1880-1 where de Castella's wines won the Emperor of Germany's prize valued at 800 pounds for 'the exhibit of the greatest merit' was another great advertisement for the industry. In 1889 'St Hubert's' wine won one of the fourteen Grand prix awards for overseas wine at the Paris Exposition.

The incursion of Australian wine into the Old World was not 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 special section; there were also objections about the strength of some Australian wines. The fermentation of musts was incompletely understood a hundred years ago and the fact that some Australian wines were naturally over 26 percent proof spirit led to allegations that they had been fortified. Controversy raged but as in the case of a disputed dry red Hermitage from Bendigo alleged by the judges at Vienna in 1873 to have come from the Middle Rhone, the colonials won. Overall, Australian wines fared indifferently at these exhibitions but at least such showings brought attention to the product from the antipodes, which was the result of much dedicated effort.

Another problem of the industry was vine disease. The vigneron's 'Black Death' phylloxera vasatrix made its first appearance at Fyansford near Geelong in 1877 and began its march northwards through the eastern half of Victoria to the Murray which it reached by the end of the century. The phylloxera insect of 'vine louse' attacked the root stocks killing the vine and the only solution was to uproot stricken vineyards and completely replant them with North American phylloxera-resistant stocks. Thousands of acres were affected and the destruction of the industry around Geelong and Bendigo was complete. The Yarra Valley, Western Victoria and South Australia, however, remained unaffected.

Despite the appearance of phylloxera the area under the vine in Australia rose from 22,000 acres in 1885 to 65,000 acres in 1900, Victoria accounting for about half the acreage by 1900. The dried fruit industry in the new irrigation areas around Mildura and Renmark account for some of this increase but a notable expansion took place in Victoria's north-east around Rutherglen. Apart from the overseas developments mentioned above, higher tariffs on imported wine, the completion of the Rutherglen railway and a government bonus of 2 pounds per acre for every acre planted soon doubled the acreage in County Bogong between 1885 and 1890 to 10,600 acres which represented over a quarter of the Australian total. By 1900 there were over 450 growers in the area. But there was trouble ahead.


The coming of federation in 1901 had two immediate effects on the wine industry. First, the removal of the trade barriers between states benefited South Australian producers who, as a result of a state government subsidy, were able to produce wine more cheaply than winemakers for example in the Hunter Valley. The larger firms such as Penfolds, Seppelts and Hardys took full advantage of the expanded market and in 1913-14 South Australia, long the premier producing area, was producing 2.7 m gallons (12 m litres) or about 60 percent of Australia's total output. Second, the Commonwealth government legislated in 1901 to permit only grape spirit to be used for fortifying wine and prohibited the making of brandy from anything other than grape wine. This had the general effect of better utilisation of the grape crop and of improving the quality of commercial wines. But there were limitations on development stemming from the nature of the industry and natural factors. The industry was atomistic, fragmented and lacked any sort of overall control; moreover the time lag in wine production behind planting had naturally led to overplanting in some areas, especially in Victoria. Australian wine production in 1900-1 was over five million gallons (22.5 m litres) and to 1904 there was a surplus causing a fall in the price of grapes: this led to the uprooting of some unprofitable vineyards. Droughts in some areas and the ravages of phylloxera around Sydney, Corowa, Albury and especially Rutherglen were a severe check until 1910-11. However, as David Pope points out in the Australian Economic History Review (1971), the effect of phylloxera in Victoria's north-east was in reality a substitute for what the market dictated. In 1909 Francois de Castella, the Victorian government viticulturist, neatly put phylloxera into its economic context in that state: 'the outbreak of Phylloxera has been a severe blow but in some respects it will prove a blessing in disguise as it will mean the elimination of those vineyards which should never have been planted'.

A feature of the industry in the twentieth century was the emergence of larger, often old-established, firms who carried on operations in a number of localities and often interstate. For example, in 1912 McWilliams, founded at Corowa by Samuel McWilliams in 1877, was the first to move to the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area followed soon after by the old South Australian firms, Penfolds and Seppelts. McWilliams established themselves in the Hunter Valley in the 1930s and at Robinvale, Victoria in 1961. Penfolds moved into the Hunter Valley first at 'Dalwood' and then around Muswellbrook; about 19l3 the firm took over 'Minchinbury' near Sydney noted from the 1890s for Leo Buring's Champagne. Seppelts took over Irvine's (formerly Best's) Great Western vineyard in 1918 and Lindeman's established vineyards and wineries at Corowa and later Coonawarra and Karadoc in South Australia.

After the first world war a sharp increase in production took place owing to the planting of vines in soldier settlements in the irrigated area along the Murray, in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and the Hunter Valley. Yields were high in the irrigated areas, overproduction again resulted and by 1924 the price of some grape varieties fell below three pounds per ton. Many viticulturists could not compete and the 1920s saw the decline for economic reasons of many of Victoria's famous vineyards. Around Great Western many were allowed to go out to pasturage and in the Yarra Valley around Lilydale they were replaced by dairy farms to supply Melbourne's growing population. Clearly action was needed on a national scale if the industry was to develop and prosper and the Australian government began to pay subsidies and look for an expanded market.

Up to 1925 nearly all the wine exported to Britain was of the dry or table type as shipping costs did not permit the heavier wines with their higher duties to compete against the Spanish and Portuguese product. In 1925, however, the British government introduced the principle of preferential duty for Empire wines and the Wine Export Bounty Act of 1924 and other bounty acts passed in the 1930s by the Australian government helped the export of fortified wine of specified strength and greatly stimulated the industry. Furthermore, at the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa in 1932 the British government granted a margin of preference of 2s per gallon on Australian wines not exceeding 27 degrees of proof spirit.

In 1929 the government acted to place the overseas marketing of Australian wine on an orderly basis by setting up the Wine Overseas Marketing Board (from 1936 the Australian Wine Board) financed by a levy on all grapes used for the manufacture of wine, brandy and spirit used for fortifying wine. In the period 1925-39 Australia exported an average of 2.8 million gallons (12.6 m litres) of wine to Britain annually representing about 20 percent of Britain's total wine imports for that period. Nearly all wine exported went to Britain; only very small quantities were sent to New Zealand, New Caledonia and Canada.

During the second world war domestic consumption of mainly fortified wines increased because of a beer shortage and because wine was sold on a quota system. The war, however, greatly affected the export market; after 1941 in the face of a British embargo and lack of shipping space exports of wine to Britain virtually ceased. After the war exports were resumed on a smaller scale and there was a falling off in exports of still wines over 27 percent proof which 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, in 1960. Wine, however, is still not one of Australia's major exports; in 1974-5 when production reached over 36O million litres only 6.5 million litres were exported valued at $5.3 million. Britain, however, remains the main market followed by Canada, New Zealand and certain Asian countries.

The end of the war also saw changes in the marketing of wine in Australia. Instead of being mainly sold in bulk to wholesale and retail outlets the big wine firms began to sell more in bottles under their own labels. This led to more competition with the result that vignerons' names became better known and quality improved. The return of prosperity in the 1950s, increasing affluence and the gradual change in Australian eating patterns brought about largely by the great number of European migrants led to increased wine consumption. The great revolution, the discovery of Australian table wines by Australians, dates from the 1960s. Skilled promotion by the Australian Wine Bureau and increased advertising by wine companies did much to change Australian tastes and the spate of books, articles, wine columns and wine and food societies were both a cause and effect of the boom. Until 1957-8 the production of unfortified or table wines (including claret, burgundy, riesling, sauterne and sparkling wines) was less than half that of the fortified varieties (sherries, ports etc.), but by 1968-9 the production of table wines exceeded the volume of the fortified varieties. Annual consumption increased from five litres a head in the early 1960s to nine litres by the early 1970s, to 13.7 litres per head in 1976-7.

The spearhead of Australia's wine revolution was undoubtedly the successful production and marketing of pearl (perle) wines. In 1953 the old-established firm of Gramp and Sons of 'Orlando' began-the cold and pressure-controlled fermentation of wine which had already proved successful in Austria and West Germany. In November 1956 Gramps introduced 'Barossa Pearl', a naturally sweet sparkling wine (reminiscent of champagne) which appealed particularly to women and had a vast impact on the Australian market. Though expensive capital equipment, such as large pressure tanks, was necessary to produce pearl wines they, unlike champagne, could be produced quickly and cheaply and Gramp's triumph was soon duplicated by almost every other large firm resulting in a wide range of white and rose styles. Many wine snobs who should have known better regarded pearl wines as simply poor man's champagne; nevertheless 'Barossa Pearl' appealed to the palate of many Australian wine drinkers and allured them to brighter worlds.

The 1960s and 1970s have seen a proliferation of new vineyards and wineries too numerous to mention by name in all states including Tasmania, together with a revival in viticulture around Geelong and in the Yarra Valley. From 1971-2 the bearing area of grapevines rose in five years by over 10 percent mainly due to new plantings of specialised winegrapes; production of winegrapes increased 20 percent in the same period. But, as in the past, the wine industry is not without its economic problems. The industry has always been characterised by alternating periods of activity and depression and by February 1978 the Australian Grapegrower and Winemaker was predicting a bleak future for the industry which had been hard hit by changes in the taxation and excise mechanisms. In September 1978 Peter Shergold in the Australian Quarterly succinctly summed up the present state of the industry: 'Within the present recessionary climate there exists an unfortunate conjunction of economic forces - increased supply costs, demand fluctuations, surplus production, price-discounting - which, together with alterations to the tax structure, have left the wine industry floundering in a sea of ifs and buts.' Especially vulnerable according to Shergold were the small growers and winemakers who sold to the larger wineries which are somewhat protected from temporary liquidity problems having been taken over by well-known multi-nationals and local corporate giants.

In all its l90-year history the Australian wine industry faced numerous problems and crises which were overcome by vision, perseverance and hard work of many pioneers together with some government assistance. The record of achievement is a proud one. Today, though the industry faces a variety of problems which perhaps only sympathetic and enlightened government can solve, the descendants of those sturdy pioneers and the new men can derive satisfaction at least from the fact that the Australian palate has changed and that they can look forward to increased domestic consumption. Blaxland, Macarthur and Busby, too, would be well pleased!

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