It is not my purpose to enter fully into the entire subject of grape-growing, for that is too extensive to be dealt with here; nevertheless, there are many points about it of Australian concern, over which there has been considerable discussion. This shows that our vignerons, instead of placidly following out old lines, are determined to find out for themselves the methods which will give the best results. That such a spirit is in active existence is unquestionably a source of satisfaction to those who have the welfare of Australian viticulture at heart, for it is only by a determination to find out the best course to be pursued in the many points connected with grape-growing, and more especially with wine-making, that we can hope to reach perfection.
And although we have the climate, and the soil, and everything in our favour, yet it must be recollected that there are vignerons of the very highest excellence in the old wine-making countries, and that it will only be by surpassing them that we can hope to secure the markets of the world. As I have already said, my own belief is that the best way of infusing vigour into our wine-making industry is to arouse public interest in the subject; and with that object in view, therefore, I shall endeavour to bring forward those matters which are of Australian viticultural importance.
Even at the outset we come against a disputed point, about which there has been, and is still, considerable diversity of opinion. It is to what depth the ground should be cultivated. On the one hand, there are some who affirm that a shallow depth of 8 or 9 inches, or even of 6 inches, is quite a sufficient penetration of the soil for most land; but, on the other, there are many who, while conceding the fact that a superficial cultivation like this may be successful for a few years, are strongly opinioned that a deeper working is eventually necessary. More than this, they contend that, even admitting good results were obtained by simple ploughing, yet they would have been still better with a deeper working. It would seem, however, that climate has a good deal to do with the matter. In the hot districts the vine attains a far greater development than in the cooler parts, and the roots require a deep soil. And besides this, in the warm regions the wine is naturally too strong, and the deeper the soil is worked the lighter the wine will be.
But there is one thing in particular which should not be overlooked, and it is that the land should be in a state of fine sub-division. One American writer insists that the ground before planting should be "as fine as bolted flour." This expression serves very well to show the importance of a thorough pulverisation of the soil; and the best results are certainly obtained where this is energetically carried out.