‘Dig gentleman dig, but no deeper than six inches, for there is more gold to be won from the top six inches than from all of the depths below’
Lindsay Brown has been credited with that quote that has endured through the years!
The history of the Rutherglen Wine region traces back to the 1850’s. Whilst the exact year of commencement is unknown it is thought to be in the mid to latter part of the decade. Lindsay Brown had selected his ‘Gooramadda Run’ in the late 1840’s and is credited with being the father of the local wine industry when he planted his four acre vineyard to the west of Rutherglen some ten years later.
More plantings soon followed and the wines of the north-east soon found strong favour throughout the colony. It is incredible to think given limitations of the time that just thirty years later Rutherglen would be considered a wine power, with some of the largest estates in the world within it boundaries.
Many wineries established at this time are still flourishing today. This includes –
- Gehrigs – 1859
- Chambers Rosewood – 1859
- Morris- 1859
- Mount Prior – 1860
- St Leonards – 1860
- All Saints Estate – 1864
- Campbells – 1870
- Stanton & Killeen – 1875
- Jones Winery & Vineyard – 1860
The vineyards of the region expanded mightily into the 1880’s. With more than 3000 acres of vines spread across 50 recognised vineyards (and considerably more smaller farm orchards), Rutherglen was producing approximately a third of all wine in Australia. Show success soon followed with Rutherglen wines winning prizes internationally in the London, Paris and Bordeaux exhibitions, and exports back to the ‘Mother Country’ flowed.
Over the history of wine production in the Rutherglen region, the winemakers have co-operated on different levels. In recent times, this co-operation has evolved into the Winemakers of Rutherglen forming into a membership based incorporated association in 1992.
Many of these great winemaking houses which sprang up in the gold rush days of the mid nineteenth century are still owned and managed by fourth, fifth and sixth generations descendants. The legacy of winemaking skills and ancient stocks is carefully passed on to a younger generation to carve out their own niche – looking to the future while respecting the past.
Timeline of our wine region
- Pre 1830’s– Kwat Kwat, a branch of the Bangerang people occupy the land around Rutherglen.
- 1839– Foord and Crisp take up the Wahgunyah run of 35,000 acres.
- 1847– Lindsay Brown selects Gooramadda run. ‘There is more gold to be won from the top six inches of soil than from the depths below it.’
- 1851– First vines in region were planted by Edwin Sanger at Corowa and John Lindsay Brown at Browns Plains.
- 1858-1870– Chambers, St Leonards, Gehrig’s, Campbell’s, All Saints, Jones and Morris establish first plantings.
- 1860– Wahgunyah rush follows discovery of gold on 9th September near Rutherglen to grow to a population of 11,000.
- 1878– All Saints Estate wins Australia’s first international gold medal at the Paris Exhibition. Wine production exceeds demand but high duties on interstate and foreign wines stimulate the Victorian wine industry.
- 1875-1896– Stanton & Killeen vineyards are established, Mount Prior cellars are built.
- 1884– Rutherglen Statistics: 50 vineyards, about 3,000 acres and 1,870 people employed in the local wine industry.
- 1899– Phylloxera hits Rutherglen in the Rhue vineyard (now Jones). Replanting on American root stock commences. This occurred when Rutherglen was producing one quarter of Australia’s wine production.
- 1906– An estimated 6,960 acres of vines are planted in the Rutherglen district.
- 1908– Durif was bought to Rutherglen by Francois de Castella.
- 1920-1930– Bullers was established and Les Jones Snr buys the Rhue vineyard and winery.
- 1925– An estimated 7,000 acres of vines are planted in the Rutherglen district. Production
of sweet fortified wines is at a high to supply the Australian market.
- 1925– Rutherglen production once again reaches pre-phylloxera levels. Australia is exporting 750,000 gallons of wine a year to England, most of this from Rutherglen.
- 1930– Rutherglen begins trading fortified wine in bulk and booms for two decades.
- 1960’s– Rutherglen vignerons begin widespread table wine planting, as influences from other wine regions impact on the Australian consumer’s interest in wine varieties.
- 1967– Rutherglen Wine Festival, an Australian first is held and begins the revival of Rutherglen and winery tourism.
- 1974– First Rutherglen Winery Walkabout attracts 10,000 people to the various wine related activities over the festival weekend.
- 1984– Seppelts sell their holdings and Pfeiffer’s buy their old distillery site.
- 1990‘s- to today. Vineyards expand again, with new wineries established in the region. Lake Moodemere, Cofield, Anderson, Rutherglen Estates, Warrabilla, Valhalla and Scion – new generations of winemakers work with a great collection of diverse varieties. Using tried and true traditional methods as well as the latest technology, the Winemakers of Rutherglen ensure fine wine production continues for future generations.