Editor’s note: This article first appeared as the introduction to a series of articles in May 2005 HAFS Journal Volume 8 No. 1. It is followed by articles Kelman and the Care of the Vine, Dr Lindeman and others.
The first vines arrived in Australia with the First Fleet in 17 88. Initially wines were produced in the rich coastal region around the fledgling city of Sydney. John Macarthur established the earliest commercial vineyard.
To some extent the settlers in the Hunter region profited by the relatively late development of settlement in the district. By 1832 it was already apparent that the vine could thrive. Elsewhere in the colony several men, the most important of whom were Gregory Blaxland, William Macarthur, James Macarthur and James Busby, had made important contributions to the subsequent growth of a colonial wine industry. On their efforts, whether practical experience or printed dissemination of knowledge, later growers could build.
Gregory Blaxland (1778-1853)
The pioneer of Australian viticulture was undoubtedly Gregory Blaxland, great- great- great grandfather of John B S Hungerford (E.1.1a.7b.1c.2d), the first settler to make a significant contribution to the growth of the vine. After his arrival in the colony (1806) he purchased (1807) from D’Arcy Wentworth the 450 acre Brush Farm, near the present Eastwood, NSW and had planted there some vines which he brought from the Cape of Good Hope on his voyage to Australia.
Blaxland experienced considerable trouble with vine disease, especially from a blight which destroyed the leaves and young shoots. Accordingly he experimented with as many varieties of vine as possible to find which ones would be most resistant to this blight, which was probably the disease ‘black spot’ or ‘anthracnose’. He achieved some success with what he called the Claret grape and his vineyard laid out between 1816 and 1818, was based largely on this grape.
In response to the offer of a medal by the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce for marketable wine made in NSW in quantities of not less than 20 gallons, Blaxland shipped to London in 1822 a quarter pipe of red wine, fortified with brandy to help it travel satisfactorily. The Society awarded him its Silver Medal in 1823. In 1828 he was given the Society’s Gold Medal for further two samples.
James Busby (1801-1871)
James Busby, generally regarded as the founding father of the wine industry in NSW, was born in Scotland and came to NSW with his family in 1824 on the Triton. Prior to that he had studied viticulture and wine making in France.
In 1825 he published A Treatise on the Culture of the Vine and the Art of Making Wine. In 1830 he published A Manual of Plain Directions for Planting and Cultivating Vineyards and for Making Wine in NSW. He was given a grant of land in the Hunter which he named Kirkton.
In 1831-2 Busby visited the vineyards in France and Spain, examining their influence of climate, soil and viticulture practices on the wine of each area. He collected 678 different varieties of which some were planted in the Botanical Gardens and at his Kirkton estate.
James Busby’s sister Catherine married William Dalrymple Kelman who looked after the successful propagation of the vines at Kirkton. Some of the vines were also planted on Ashmans vineyard worked by Avery and Dan Tyrrell.