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A History of Wines in the Hawkesbury


The following article formed the basis of a recent talk to North Richmond Rotary and may appeal to a wider audience as the local statistics have hitherto not been reported:

When asked to speak to you tonight, the subject which came to mind which is most familiar to myself and of interest to almost all of us that enjoy drinking and eating is the subject of wine.

History of Wine in the Hawkesbury

 Unlike some other areas of Australia, we do not have a written history of wine in our Local Government Region , and for the very early history we have to rely on some incomplete records and reading between the lines of our local history books to discover that history.
 We do know that grape vine cuttings were brought to the settlement at Sydney Cove by the first fleet. The last port of call for the fleet before heading for New South Wales was in the Dutch settlement of Cooktown on the Cape of Good Hope. Many vines of various types were put on board and these vines were planted out in the Governor's garden and various entries on the plantings :
 "The orange trees flourish, and the fig trees and vines are improving still more rapidly. In a climate so favourable, the cultivation of the vine may doubtless be carried to any degree of perfection; and should no other articles of commerce divert the attention of the settlers from this part, the wines of New South Wales may perhaps, here after be sought with civility and become an indispensable part of the luxury of European tables."
 As the colony grew, so did the grape vine spread, and cuttings were taken to Norfolk Island (1790), and by February 1791 it was reported that "the grape vines which came from Sydney last August were immediately planted..............amount now to between 700 and 800 vines, which are all in high perfection, and two or three of the oldest are now bearing."
 Later other vines were imported and we have various records of their spread, vis :
 In May, 1803, Governor King reported that a few gallons of wine had been made from those in the Governor's garden and talk of a very large vineyard being planted at Castle Hill.
 In 1816, Mrs Macarthur reported grapes in her garden at Parramatta and a little later, on Captain Macarthur's return from overseas, he brought with him fresh stocks of vines which he later planted in his property (at Camden).
 Gregory Blaxland, at his vineyard at Parramatta won prizes in London (Silver medal 1823, Gold Medal in 1828) for wines from his vineyards.
 It is most unlikely if the vine did not follow the early colonists into the Hawkesbury region. Doug Bowd in his book "Macquarie Country" indicates that the name of Vineyard was given to that area just up the Windsor Road because it had many vineyards growing there between 1860 and 1890.
 An extremely old vine is still growing beside the Ebenezer Church, and it is quite likely it has it's roots going back to those early settlers of the region.
 Still more anecdotal evidence exists with several Hawkesbury families being involved in the early wine business. William Cox was made a Magistrate by Governor Macquarie and engaged him to build gaols, schools and other public buildings in Windsor, as well as building ten miles of road over the Blue Mountains. William lived at Clarendon and three of his sons lived on properties fronting the Nepean River at Mulgoa. Each of these properties had vineyards, and it is likely that William also had vines growing at Windsor ("Fairfield" and "Clarendon").
 The Anschau family for years ran a tannery near South Creek. They also had a vineyard near Luddenham in the mid 1850's. The Anschau were German vineyard workers who were originally brought to Australia as vine dressers for the Macarthur and Cox families.

Early Wine Statistics

 By 1843, the Colonial Secretary department showed that 28.2 acres of grapes producing 104 gallons of wine were grown in the police district of Windsor. This compares to some 183 acres and 12,315 gallons of wine recorded in the Sydney region. It is difficult to track the growth through the years as they are compiled by various authorities using Police districts, then old settled Counties and Pastoral districts. However the production remained small in relative terms, increasing to 35 acres in 1876, and 114 acres in 1886 (1430 gallons of wine being reported in that year).
 In 1893, the Department of Agriculture recorded that in the Hawkesbury, there were 100 registered growers producing 17,520 gallons of wine from 69 acres of grapes, and an additional 220 acres of grapes producing 164 tons of fresh fruit.
This compares with 157 growers in the Hunter area and 108 at Patrick Plains (now known as Singleton), and 2134 growers across the State of New South Wales. In terms of wine produced, the Hunter and Patrick Plains produced a combined 365,930 gallons of wine from 1187 acres, and an additional 391 tons of fresh fruit.
 It is without doubt, that the Hawkesbury's contribution to the wine industry came with the planting of Dr Thomas Fiaschi's vineyard "Tizzana" at Sackville Reach. Impressed with the geography and soil of the area, which he likened to his native Tuscany (Fiaschi was born in the village of Tizzana on the outskirts of Florence) Fiaschi purchased 250 acres of land and proceeded to plant 5 acres under vines in 1885. He later planted 55 acres and built an imposing two storied sandstone building "Tizzana" with residence above and cellars below, in which to cellar his crop. By 1889 "Tizzana" was producing 9,600 gallons of wine, and employing up to 100 people at it's peak production. The vineyards flourished and quickly gained a reputation for producing very fine, award winning wines.
 The full story of Fiaschi's contribution to viticulture in Australia remains untold at this stage, but his contribution to the wine industry was immense, with pioneering work in all aspects of viticulture including trellis management, experimentation with new varieties imported from overseas, including the introduction of Charddonay grapes for the production of Champagne wines at Tizzana well ahead of Mr Angus at Rooty Hill (the famous Minchinbury Estate). Fiaschi also was instrumental in the use of aseptic conditions in the winemaking process following his successful pioneering use of the technique in his surgery work at the Hawkesbury District Hospital. Fiaschi was elected by his peers in the industry as the President of the NSW Winegrowers Association for some 26 years.
 Fiaschi's red wines were exhibited in the Centennial International Exhibition held in Melbourne in 1888, and these wines were advertised at that time as selling for twenty five shillings per dozen. The 1891 vintage red (made from Verdot variety grapes) was exported to England and described by critics as : "clean, sound wine of a light Burgundy character........ the Hawkesbury wine compares favourably with French wines of a similar character."
 Some years later, the Richmond and Windsor Gazette of March 25, 1921 noted that the wine exhibits at the Royal Show had just been judged : " The Hawkesbury Valley, though only represented by one exhibitor, was well to the fore. Dr Thomas Fiaschi of Tizzana Vineyards taking several prizes and winning the Champion Prize for Claret type."
Another successful winery was begun in the early 1970's by a Dr Barry Bracken in the hilly area of Kurmond. Both the Richmond Estate winery and Tizzana Winery are still operating.
 Tizzana Winery is still producing small quantities of its own wines, several of which several new styles have just been released.

Reproduced courtesy of Hawkesbury Times. Original story appeared in the Hawkesbury Times - Volume 2, Number 2 June/July 1995 edition.

 

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