Dalwood ESTATE - AUSTRALIA’S OLDEST VINEYARD Given a New Lease on Life!
It is Australia’s oldest surviving vineyard and the site of the country’s first commercial Shiraz plantings. But for more than half a century a vital piece in the historical puzzle was missing from the site credited with being the birthplace of Hunter Valley wine – its name.
Established on the banks of the Hunter River near the township of Branxton in 1828 by immigrant George Wyndham, the property was named Dalwood in honour of his father’s family estate in England.
George set about planting a vineyard on one part of the property and produced his first vintage in Branxton in 1835. For the next 130-odd years, despite a change in ownership, the property and its Dalwood label wine became renowned across Australia and internationally.
When the 260-acre site was sold in 1967 without the wine brand attached, the Dalwood label and the vineyard where it was created were forced to part ways, with all future wine from the vineyard sold under the new Wyndham Estate label in honour of its founder.
After the 1970's when production of the Dalwood label wine stopped, the iconic brand seemed destined to live on only in the annals of Australian wine making history – that is until late last year when Sydney hotelier and developer Sam Arnaout secured both the vineyard and the wine brand in separate business deals.
It was the third Hunter vineyard bought by the developer’s Iris Capital group in recent years, following its purchase of both the Sweetwater Estate in Rothbury and the Hungerford Hill complex in 2016.
Reunited once again for what is the 190th anniversary of the vineyard, 2018 marks a significant new chapter in the history of Dalwood Estate according to General Manager and Senior Winemaker BryanCurrie.
“Dalwood is an integral part of Australia’s wine and agricultural history,” he said.
“When you visit you can sense the history in the property with the house and buildings, old trees and Wyndham family cemetery. Combined with its natural beauty, Dalwood is a jewel in the crown of the Hunter Valley.“
George Wyndham purchased the property in 1828 and named it Dalwood. It is the property’s original name, and with the release of the premium Dalwood Estate wines this year from grapes grown on the Dalwood vineyard, this name carries with it the history of the property.
English pastoralist and vigneron George Wyndham and his wife Margaret settled on the Dalwood property near Branxton in January 1828. They were accompanied by several servants and a collection of sheep, pigs, horses and hounds, as well as New South Wales’ first herd of pure bred Hereford cattle.
Using a variety of vine cuttings, George began planting his vineyard,systematically trialling over 70 different varieties of grapes to establish those which best suited the soil and conditions.
Around 600 vine cuttings were given to him by British botanist James Busby, but among George’s most important plantings were a selection of Shiraz and Semillon (originally called Shepherd's Hardy White) vines, with Dalwood later becoming recognised as the Australian “home” of these varieties.
“Dalwood had these varieties planted before the famous James Busby vine collection even arrived in NSW,” Bryan said.
“Dalwood is widely credited as having the first commercial vineyard of Shiraz planted in Australia and is the ‘home’ of Shiraz.“
George Wyndham sourced cuttings far and wide from the original colonial vineyards around Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River for the original Dalwood vineyards.”
After a successful first vintage in 1835, George expanded his plantings to a further 38 acres of vines at Dalwood, while in later years his son John expanded the vineyard to 78 acres, with Dalwood becoming the second largest vineyard in NSW by 1886.
Dalwood wines were being exported to England and India by th