Brown Brothers trace their origins back to 1885 when John Francis Brown planted 10 acres (4 hectares) of mostly Riesling, Muscat and Shiraz grapes on his property at Milawa, Victoria. They were among the first plantings in the King Valley. From the late 1970s, as the tobacco industry was phased out, more winemakers established themselves in the Valley.
The King Valley in north-east Victoria runs north from the Alpine region to the Murray River, with altitudes varying from 800m in the south to 155m at the northern end. The region promotes itself as Australia’s home of Italian wine style, with the best-known varieties being Prosecco and Sangiovese. In the 1940s and ’50s many Italian families moved to the area to grow tobacco, but with the decline of the tobacco industry many began planting vines.
However, the history of wine in the valley began much earlier. Brown Brothers’ first vineyard was established towards the northern part of the King Valley in 1885. While not the first to plant vines in the King Valley, John Brown was among the earliest to do so. Soon after the vineyard was established, the vines were destroyed by phylloxera, but within four years Brown had replanted with vines grafted on phylloxera-resistant root stock. The first wine was made in 1889.
John Francis Brown evidently selected the name Brown Brothers in the hope that his brothers would join him in the venture. They didn’t, but the name remained and has been carried on by successive generations of the family. Brown Brothers have since acquired vineyards in other areas. allowing them to make a wide variety of wines. They claim to have produced Australia’s first noble rot sticky and Australia’s first Moscato. Their premium range is named Patricia, after the mother of the current generation of brothers.
The region as a whole retains an Italian influence. Among the impressive number of grape varieties grown there are many with Italian origins, including Prosecco and Sangiovese but also Nebbiolo, Fiano, Vermentino and even the rare Sagrantino.