Then again, many of the widely advertised Australian wines in the old country are sold too young; and unfortunately these young wines constitute the bulk of the trade done with England. They are bottled when too green and crude, and have not been given a sufficient time in cask to develop into high-class wines. They must be allowed to acquire a proper amount of cask ripeness, and if they were stored and attended to for twelve months before being bottled they would vastly improve. In some cases, also, wines are shipped from Australia before they are twelve months old, and as they are usually fined, bottled, and sold as soon as possible after arrival, it has actually happened that the British public have repeatedly drunk wines that are hardly one year old. Indeed, the wines are frequently bottled when in a state of fermentation, consequently secondary fermentation goes on in the bottle, and the bottles are often shattered by an explosion. And more than this, they are often badly blended; they do not receive sufficient care and attention; and they are not uncommonly in the hands of a few men whose sole object is to make money.
There is still something further which is greatly prejudicial to the fair name of Australian wine, and it is this : Many of the wine merchants hold very small stocks, so that any one supply soon runs out and is no longer obtainable. As a result it is urged against the wines that they are not constant, and that it is impossible to procure the same wine twice running. With larger stocks, too, there would be some certainty that the wine was matured, as for example with a merchant holding a three years' supply. In this case, also, the consumer would be enabled to obtain a continued supply of any particular wine to which he might have become attached.
My own belief, however, is that the most powerful impetus to our wine industry will arise from the Australians themselves taking an interest in all that concerns this great source of health, wealth, and employment. I have said so before, and take this opportunity of saying so again. Let our people take an active interest in every detail connected with the growing of the grape, and with the making of the wine! Let a light, wholesome wine, also, enter into the daily dietary of the whole people! For the national drink for Australian use is unquestionably a wine of low alcoholic strength; a wine of a sufficient age to be free from any reproach of newness; and a wine possessing those qualities which render it wholesome, beneficial, hygienic, cheering, and restorative.
There are two other matters which require to be noticed before leaving the whole subject of Australian wine. The first of these is a reference to the establishment of Viti-cultural Colleges, and it is one of very great importance, because it has much to do with the development of the wine industry. Now, I am not one of those who look to the State for everything, but it seems to me that if you recognise the necessity of State education, you must at least equally recognise the necessity of affording the youthful population of Australia the opportunity of learning that which must eventually develop into the one distinctive industry of this land. France at the present day, even with her unrivalled reputation as the wine-growing country of the world, avails herself of the advantages of Viticultural Colleges. Italy, also, by means of their help is making strides in a manner actually bordering on the miraculous. If these countries, then, in which vine-growing and wine-making have been carried on for centuries find Viticultural Colleges indispensable, how much more must a young country, with its wine industry quite undeveloped, need them !
It must with confidence be said, therefore, that Australia cannot do without these Viticultural Colleges. Something has already been done by the establishment of Agricultural Colleges, and this is most commendable. But what I believe is this, that a wine-grower must be a wine-grower and nothing else. To know everything connected with the growth of the grape and cellar management thoroughly is quite enough for any ordinary man to attempt to master. Therefore viticulture must either be made a distinctly separate course at the Agricultural Colleges; or, what is better still, Viticultural Colleges must be established for the purpose alone.
At Montpellier, in France, the course of viticultural education is elaborately comprehensive, and includes the study of the anatomy of the vine, its flowers, leaves, seeds, etc. The pupils become thoroughly acquainted with every variety of vine in practical form; they see it grow, learn the art of pruning, and of everything pertaining to the growth of the vine. They also master all the details connected with grafting, the laying out of vineyards, the diseases to which the vine is liable, and the remedies which are most effectual. And, in addition, there is minute instruction in every step in cellar management and the after care and treatment of the wine itself, from the start to the finish. In this way the subject is studied from a thoroughly scientific standpoint, with a result that influences for good the whole of French viticulture.
But if the benefits derived from the establishment of Viticultural Colleges in France are thus remarkable, those which have followed their introduction into Italy are nothing less than wonderful. The School of Viticulture at Conegliano has been the means of increasing the wine production of Italy to an incredible extent. In 1870 Italy exported only 4,000,000 gallons of wine; yet in 1890, in the short space of twenty years, this had risen to 88,000,000 gallons. This school has taught the people to make good wine; it has induced people who had never dreamt of it to plant vineyards; it has led people to plant them properly, since they were shown the way on a rational principle; and lastly, they have thus learnt how to make wine on a scientific basis. The course of study there is extremely severe, and as a result all those who receive diplomas from it thoroughly understand the cultivation of the vine and the management of the cellar. This School of Viticulture has been such a phenomenal success that other provinces of Italy brought pressure upon the Government. As a consequence therefrom, secondary schools have been established at many places, notably Gioia del Colle, Pozzuolo, Tmola, Avellino, Alda, Catania, etc.
In conclusion, there is that other most important matter to which I should like to draw attention. It is to advocate the establishment of an Australian Wine-Growers' Association on a federal basis. The advantage resulting from the formation of a strong Association, with a numerically powerful membership roll, would be very great. Such an organization would be well able to conduct a weekly paper of its own, with contributors from all the different colonies. There would be no dearth of literary material, for the whole subject is one teeming with interest. Even now a substantial beginning has been made, and The Australian Vigneron and Fruit-Grower's Journal is well deserving of success, and is already doing good work in this very direction. And besides the foregoing, an Intercolonial Wine-Growers' Congress should meet annually at the different Australian metropolitan centres (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, &c), in rotation, where there would be the opportunity of discussing theoretical questions, and of tasting practical results. In all these many ways public interest in the Australian wine industry would be continually sustained; and, rising from its unfairly neglected position, it would speedily attain to that pride of place which is manifestly its destiny.