1823 Tasmania’s first commercial vineyard

Photo by David Köhler on Unsplash

Around 1823, ex-convict Bartholomew Broughton planted vines and fruit trees at Prospect creating what became Tasmania’s first commercial vineyard.  By 1827 he was advertising “grape wine made in imitation of champaigne”.  After Broughton’s death, a new owner, Captain Swanston, produced wines that were recognised internationally and on the mainland.

In his paper A History of the Tasmanian Wine Industry, Anthony Walker traces its beginnings in the island state. Although wine was being produced from various fruits and grapes early in the colony’s history and Tasmania’s first commercial vineyard was planted as early as 1823, these first attempts to establish an industry failed. The modern wine industry in Tasmania dates back only to the 1950s.

Bartholemew’s farm, on the banks of the Derwent River, was producing wine by 1826 and advertised in 1827:

FOR SALE, at MR BROUGHTON’S at Newtown, 200 Gallons of GRAPE WINE, made in imitation of Champaigne, from the last year’s Grapes, in Casks of 20 Gallons each; also, between 2 and 3 cwt. of RASPBERRY JAM, made from this Year’s Fruit. Wanted to Purchase from 50 to 60 Dozen of Wine Bottles.

At the time, prospects for the wine industry in Tasmania appeared high, with The Colonial Times writing:

TASMANIAN WINE – The first attempt to make wine from the grapes in this Colony, to any extent, has been made by Mr. Broughton of Prospect, New-town. Our readers will notice his advertisement in last week’s paper. Several Gentlemen, among whom are Mr. Colonial Secretary Burnett, Dr Sherwin, Mr. Bryant, the Wine Merchant, and several others, have tasted this wine and all pronounce it very little inferior to Champaigne; and have recommended him to distribute the produce of one Vintage throughout the two Colonies, and in England, in order that various opinions might be formed upon it.

Broughton died in 1829 and for some time thereafter wine-making at Prospect Farm ceased. It was later revived by a new owner, Charles Swanston. According to Walker, these were the only vignerons who produced commercial quantities of wine in the early years.  Many other estates included vineyards, but there is no evidence that their wines were sold commercially.  However, Tasmanian estates did provide cuttings, which were used to establish vineyards in Victoria and at Reynella in South Australia.

After a hiatus in the industry from the 1850s onwards, in the 1880s, an Italian immigrant, Angelo Giulio Diego Bernacchi, arrived in Tasmania with a grand plan to produce silk and make wine on Maria Island, off the east coast. He cleared large areas of land, planted many fruit and nut trees and began the construction of a hydraulic system to bring water to his vineyards.  The Tasmanian News reported that:

The number of vines planted to October, 1886, has been 13,000 Cabernet sauvignon, 4 years of age; 4000 golden chasselas, white Hamburg, black Hamburg, white Hermitage and muscatel, 4 years of age; 3000 Reisling, 3 years of age; 30,000 chassilare, Tokay, white Heritage, Burgundy and Savignon, 1 year old: total 50,000.

Bernacchi’s plans extended beyond wine, however. His Maria Island Co., floated in 1887, was intended to expand into fruit-growing, farming, cement, limestone and marble, fisheries, and sheep and cattle fattening. Although results initially appeared promising, by 1892 the company was in receivership and it seems many enterprises, including wine-making, were abandoned.

Although there were no doubt “backyard” winemakers, it wasn’t until the 1950s that there was renewed interest in the industry. La Provence (now Providence) was Tasmania’s first commercial vineyard of the modern era, planted by French immigrant Jean Miguet in 1956. Two years later, Italian immigrant Claudio Alcorso founded the Moorilla Estate. Both are still in production.

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