1830 Hunter Valley vines planted

George Wyndham, founder of Dalwood. Image: Ancestry.com - Kemsley Family Tree

George Wyndham was one of the pioneers of viticulture in the Hunter Valley, planting vines at his property Dalwood. His first successful vintage was in 1836. The Dalwood vineyard is claimed to be the oldest continuously producing commercial vineyard in Australia.

We don’t know who planted the first vines in the Hunter Valley. The area was first settled around 1813 and by the 1820s the area had 21 farms. Some of the settlers may have planted vines, but it seems the first serious attempts to develop commercial vineyards occurred in the early 1830s.

George Wyndham emigrated from England in 1827 and settled near Branxton in the Hunter.  He grew various crops including grains, tobacco, mustard and castor oil. He also planted a vineyard, first obtaining vine cuttings from James Busby in 1830. Although the first plantings were not successful, Wyndham obtained new vines from various sources and planted more over the next four years. His first vintage was in 1835 and the following year he produced 1,650 gallons of wine.

By 1832 there were ten settlers in the Hunter Valley growing vines. The earliest official records of acreage under vine and wine production date to 1843. At this time there were around 262 acres of vineyards, producing 16,472 gallons of wine and 140 gallons of brandy.

At Dalwood, Wyndham cultivated red and white varieties of grape. Some of his Shiraz vines were still producing in 1966 which would have made them the oldest wine-producing vines in the world at that time. Dalwood became the second largest vineyard in New South Wales and their wines won a number of prizes and trophies, including bronze and silver medals in the Paris International Exhibition of 1867.

George Wyndham went on to own farming properties in other parts of New South Wales, raising cattle and establishing a racing stud. He died in 1870 and Dalwood passed out of family hands. It was sold to Penfolds in 1904. Penfolds sold the vineyards and winery (but not the name) in 1967 and it was redeveloped and marketed as Wyndham Estate.

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