"With time and care Australia ought to be the vineyard of the world." - Greater Britain.
Were I asked to name the one industry on which the prosperity of Australia must sooner or later rest, I should unhesitatingly answer, "On the cultivation of the vine." And this must be so; for while there is every reason to know that it will be called for from abroad, it is absolutely certain that it will be required in our own territories. The chief purpose of this chapter, indeed, is to insist upon the value of our own wines as the most healthful and the most wholesome drink for Australian use. It is a strange anomaly this, that at the present period of our existence a declaration of this kind should be necessary. Yet it is only in keeping with the rest of our food habits, with their perpetual challenge to our semi-tropical environment; and hence we are confronted with the astounding fact that although we are practically Southern Europe, yet we follow a mode of living suitable only for a rigorous climate and a land of ice and snow.
Moreover, as I shall attempt to show, the Australian climate and soil are beyond all question naturally intended for the cultivation of the grape, so that there is no occasion to overcome the forces of nature; on the contrary, they are unceasingly giving us the greatest encouragement. Then, again, think what widespread prosperity the use of our own wine would bring about. Apart from its beneficial influence on the national health, it would cover the land with smiling vineyards, and give to enormous numbers a healthy livelihood; it would absorb thousands from the fever and fret of city wear and tear into the more natural life of the country; and lastly, it would relieve the abnormal congestion of our crowded centres, and do more to bring about widely distributed employment than any other industry.
The history of the introduction of the grape to Australian soil deserves more than bare reference to that event. It will be remembered that Captain Cook discovered this territory in 1770; in November 1791, barely more than twenty years afterwards, the first vine was planted at Parramatta, near Sydney. Nothing can demonstrate the suitability of the climate and the soil for its cultivation more than this one fact, namely, that at the very beginning of Australian settlement it was plain enough that the land was meant for the grape; and there is an interesting historical association, well worthy of note, attached to this circumstance. By order of the Emperor Napoleon, the Great Napoleon, a voyage of discovery to the Southern Hemisphere was performed by a fully equipped expedition during the years 1801, 1802, 1803, and 1804. One of the naturalists, M. P. Peron, has given us an excellent account of his New South Wales experience, and after referring to the Parramatta vineyards as likely to be followed by the most excellent results, he goes on to say: - "By one of those chances "which are inconceivable, Great Britain is the only one of "the great maritime powers which does not cultivate the "vine either in her own territories or her colonies, nt-"withstanding the consumption of wine on board her fleets "and throughout her vast regions is immense." This is another illustration of the old adage that lookers-on see most of the game, for this observant Frenchman has recorded an opinion the very truth of which comes well home to us. His remarks, moreover, open up a vista of what a great trade might be done with India in connection with our wines; indeed, it is this interchange of products which keeps the circulation going in the blood-vessels of commercial life.
Yet, although the vine was thus early started in Australia, it has since made but little progress, relatively speaking, in comparison with the great industry of wool-growing, and it will be appropriate to make this reference to the grape and the fleece conjointly, for the same name - that of John Macarthur - is intimately associated with both. In a small way sheep-breeding had been initiated soon after the settlement of Australia. But it was John Macarthur, by his introduction of the merino sheep in 1797, who gave the first impetus which led to the subsequent creation of the Australian wool trade. It was John Macarthur, too, who formed the first vineyard in Australia at Camden Park in 1815; though, as I have already said, the growth of the vine industry has not advanced with anything like the same rapidity as that of wool; if it had, Australia would now occupy a position second to none in the world.
It seems most fitting and opportune also to mention the fact that at the very time I am writing there is a proposal in the Sydney Morning Herald to do something to perpetuate our gratitude to John Macarthur. It is not often that one man has the opportunity of establishing two such great industries as wine-making and wool-growing. The benefits to Australia which have followed from the latter are altogether beyond calculation; for which alone the name of John Macarthur deserves to hold a place in the memory of Australians for ever, and if the wine industry had only been developed in like proportion, Australia's prosperity would have marvellously increased. Knowing, therefore, what John Macarthur has done for Australia, it is to be hoped that before these lines see the light of day what is now proposed will be an accomplished fact.
The next most notable occurrence in the history of Australian viticulture is undoubtedly the action of James Busby, who in 1828, says Mr. T. A. Coghlan in his Wealth and Progress of New South Wales, "returned from Europe "with a large collection of cuttirigs from the most cele-"brated vineyards of France, Spain, the Rhine valley, and "other parts of the continent of Europe, and started, on "his estate at Kirkton, in the Hunter River district, a "vineyard which has been the nursery of the principal "vineyards of the Colony." This was a more important event than would be imagined from a bare recital of the fact, for Busby has conferred upon Australian wines a high quality for all time to come in this way. His collection of cuttings from the best of the vineyards in Europe consisted of the choicest varieties or "cepages," and this has been a matter for congratulation ever since. Fuller reference, however, will be made to this important subject a little farther on. What is certainly interesting also is that Busby was so impressed with the future of the Australian wine industry that in 1830 he published his Manual of Plain Directions for Planting and Cultivating Vinegards, and for Malting Wine, in New South Wales; and, as I have just said, the high qualities of our wines are due to him alone, so that the name of James Busby must always be gratefully remembered by all Australians.