A short history

Wine has been continuously made in Australia for 190 years, and there are a number of family-owned companies with six generations directly involved in winemaking. It is often assumed that South Australia pioneered viticulture, but the first wine grapevines were planted in New South Wales in 1817–18, in Tasmania in 1823, then Western Australia in 1830, and finally in South Australia in 1837.

Australia’s population in the first 60 years of the 19th century had many components. New South Wales and Tasmania received over 160 000 convicts from England; these were mainly people convicted of minor crimes, and sentenced to be deported to what was to become Australia, there to be used as slave (unpaid) labour for a period of years, some for the rest of their lives.

From the 1840s onwards South Australia received migrants from Silesia (part of modern-day Germany) who emigrated because of their religious beliefs, escaping
persecution in their homeland. Many of these became grapegrowers and winemakers in the Barossa Valley, and their descendants still play a central role in winemaking and in the social life of the region.

The discovery of gold in Victoria in 1851 had a major impact on the economic and social fabric of the entire country, as the population rushed to the areas where gold was being mined. Here there was a large number of Chinese immigrants who helped dig the mines; when the gold ran out, many moved to Queensland to work in the sugarcane fields. Others established restaurants providing Chinese food in the capital cities, and continue in this role today.

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