Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser
(NSW : 1843 - 1893), Thursday 16 November 1865, page 2
THE VINEYARDS OF THE NORTHERN DISTRICT.
[BY OUR OWN REPORTER.]
We have taken the opportunity of the present favourable season to visit some of the more important of the vineyards in this neighbourhood.
Kaloudah vineyards are situated in a place of almost romantic beauty, about a mile from Lochinvar township, and eight miles from Maitland. The Lake or Loch after which the township was named, reposes at the base of the bill on which Kaloudah homestead is erected. At a short distance from it the pretty little village of Oswald lies nestling at the base of some lofty hills. Harper's Hill, Windermere, and Winden's Folly are clear to the view from the homestead, whilst in the distance the lofty peak of Tarrengower may be seen, and at the foot of the intervening hills the river Hunter pursues its winding course down to the valley in which Kaloudah is situated, the rich soil on either side being covered with fields of golden grain, or verdant crops. In no season more favourable than the present could it be seen. Looking from one of the adjacent elevations, in almost every direction, well-cultivated farms with their comfortable homesteads were present to the view of the spectator, delighting the heart with indications of long-needed prosperity. On many farms the wheat was gathered, and the sheaves, ranged in little stacks on the fields where they were out, dotted the glistening stubble. On other farms the harvest was being reaped, the settlers and their helps working with a good will, for the harvest has been a good one, and has brightened the prospects of the settlers; and, as a consequence, imparted a cheerful feeling amongst them. Then again in other fields the ripe grain was waving, and shedding, and the straw was bending beneath the weight of the golden ears, inviting the reaper to come and gather. Some of the samples of wheat shown to us were said to be equal to any ever produced in the district. One field of about fourteen acres had a very abundant crop of the variety known as the golden drop (introduced by Mr. J. F. Doyle, many years ago, from Victoria). Again the dark hue of the Californian wheat gave some fields the appearance of being affected by rust, and in a few plots this destroying pest prevailed to a serious extent, and, alas, affected the prosperity of those depending on it. A field of oats on the Kaloudah Estate, adjoining the lake, promised an abundant crop, and varied the scene. Maize and other crops were cultivated with apparent success, the growth of the maize being in some places luxuriant in the extreme. The lake on the southern border of this part of the valley added beauty to the view.
We will now proceed to describe the vineyards and the wine-making establishment.
There are now two vineyards on the estate, or, properly speaking, there are three, as the oldest was divided into two by one of the heavy floods in 1857. The old vineyard was formed in the year 1846, and at that time the extent was thirty-three acres; in 1843[i] the first wine was made from the grapes it produced, and, after passing through the hands of Mr. Duguid, the original proprietor, it became the property of the Aberdeen Company. For some years it was rented from this company by Mr. J. E. Blake, and through some cause or other but very inferior wine was produced after the first few years of the vineyard's existence. In 1855 the services of a thoroughly competent vine grower and wine maker (Mr. Philbert Terrier) were obtained, and he came from France to manage the Kaloudah vineyard for Mr. Blake. When he entered upon his task he found the cellars stocked with 12,000 gallons of what might be called indifferent vinegar. The sale of Kaloudah wine in that year did not exceed 500 gallons; three years afterwards It had so far regained its repute that 33,00 gallons were sold one season; and when Mr. Terrier left in 1861, 10,000 gallons were not sufficient to meet the demand. In that year be went to Victoria to plant the Tabilk vineyard, a notice of which appeared in this journal a few months ago. In six weeks he had 250 acres of land cleared and planted with vines, and with such success that not more than five per cent of them missed or failed to take root. From there he went again to France, and had an opportunity of examining the improvements introduced by vine-growers during the past decade. On his return to Australia he resumed the management of Kaloudah, which, at the time of Mr. Blake's cessation of occupancy, had been purchased from the Aberdeen Company by the present energetic and spirited proprietor and occupant, Mr. John F. Doyle.
By the flood of August, 1857, a large part of the old vineyard was destroyed, about eight acres of the vines being swept out by the roots by a vast stream which passed over them. The vines on this part of the estate have never been replaced, and the eight-acre strip which was left bare by the flood divides the old vineyard into two. This vineyard is about half-a-mile away, in a north-westerly direction, from the homestead it extends almost to the river bank on one side, and down to the lake on the other. The soil is a rich alluvial loam, the surface of it is partly mixed with sand left by floods since the vine-yard's formation. As a protection against further or future inundations, Mr. Doyle, after the floods of 1864, built an embankment on that part of the estate which, forming part of the river bank, was low enough to admit the stream to overflow. The embankment is about 40 rods in length, and for two-thirds of that length it is fourteen feet high, and now forms an effectual barrier against floods.
The second vineyard has been planted by Mr. Doyle. It comprises about 19 acres, 11 acres of which were planted in 1863 (and from which one cask of wine was made this year) and the remainder in 1864. This vineyard is also situated about half-a-mile from the home-stead, and has been named St. John's. It is on a hill rising from the lake, in the direction of the main road, and far beyond the reach of the highest floods. One of the most noticeable features of this vineyard is the great regularity with which the vines are planted; they are divided into four beds, and though put in at different seasons, from whichever point they are viewed straight lines of vines present themselves to the vision of the spectator. The aspect is western, and the soil is a rich friable loam, with a substratum of rock, at a depth of about three feet. The advantages of such a substratum are the retention of moisture about the roots of the vines, and an improvement in the flavour of the grape and quality of the wine. A great many varieties of the grape are planted in both vineyards, but lambrusca and burgundy for red wines are the principal varieties, and pineau, madeira, and muscatel for white.
The vintage this year will rank as one of the best the colony has had, as regards the quality of the wine produced. The vintage at Kaloudah usually commences about the last week in February or first in March, according to the season. Twelve or thirteen girls are generally employed to gather the grapes and place them in baskets, which are carried by men to a cart and taken up to the wine-house. The vintage lasts about nine or ten days, and in that time all the grapes must be gathered.
The wine-house is situated at the rear of the homestead, and contiguous to the cellars; it is a building about forty-five feet in length, and about fifteen feet wide. At one end of it, and near the entrance, the wine-press is erected; it is a machine of great power, one man with a windlass being capable of putting on a pressure of fifty tons; the pressure usually necessary does not exceed thirty tons. The grapes as they are brought to the wine-house are placed in what is termed a cylandre, or crushing machine. It is a cradle-shaped box with two wooden fluted rollers in the bottom which revolve by the turning of a handle, and crush the grapes. This is placed over a tub, and when the crushed grapes have passed through, the tub is emptied into another termed an égreppoir, which is perforated with a number of holes. By hand pressure in the égreppoir, the hulls or skins and liquid are forced through the perforated holes, and the stalks are thus separated from the grapes, and cast out. If white wine is to be made, the grapes, after being thus separated from the stalks, are placed in the doinaïde or case of the press, and, the lever being worked, the juice of the grape is forced through holes perforated at equal distances all round the doinaïde into a larger receptacle, and through a pipe in the latter it flows into buckets, and is then carried to the casks. To make red wine, the hulls and juice, after passing through the égreppoir, are placed in the fermenting casks, and allowed to remain for twenty-tour hours fermenting. At the end of that time the lees will have risen to the top, and they are pressed between the hands of three or four men, and sunk again in the wine. As it is from the hulls that colour is given to the wine, the process is repeated three or four times; the more frequently it is done the richer the colour given to the liquid. The next thing done is to let the wine settle in the fermenting casks, and it is then drawn off to other casks; the lees are taken out and crushed in the press to extract the remaining wine, and this remainder is divided into equal portions and run into the casks of wine from the same fermenting. In each pressing from 1030 lbs. to 1203 lbs, of grapes are placed in the doinaïde, and they yield from 250 gallons to 300 gallons of juice.
There are many minor details not here referred to. The next important process is racking the wine -removing it from one cask to another to get rid of all sediment. This is done chiefly by decanting syphons. When the syphon has brought the wine to an equal level in both casks taps and tubes are affixed, and by the use of an appliance called the odium bellows the remainder is forced from one cask to the other without disturbing the sediment in the vat. The tube of the bellows fits tightly into the bung of the cask, and the air forced into it having no escape, forces the wine through the taps and tubing into the other cask. The wine is racked or decanted from cask to cask several times until it is thoroughly clarified.
The fermenting casks are in the form of what on shipboard are called harneas casks; they are each capable of containing five hundred gallons; they are made of French oak, and were brought by Mr. Terrier from Dijon, a celebrated wine-making province in a distant part of France, and near the coast. Amongst the minor appliances shown to us in the wine-house were somewhat similar to those used in France far gathering the grapes in; these baskets where made cost a guinea a dozen, here they could not be made at less than four times that sum. A rasp-augur, for boring bunghole of any size and smoothing the sides of the hole at the same time, and a simple lever contrivance for drawing bungs without injuring the cask (as is usual by the use of the hammer and chisel) are much approved of by winemakers, and are used at this vineyard.
The cellars at Kaloudah are capable of holding 20,000 gallons, and the dimensions are about the same as those of the wine house. The wine is conveyed to the casks in them through piping which can be passed through windows or port holes near the floor of the wine house and in the top of the cellar. The wine casks of every size, from the 2-gallon keg up to the 500-gallon cask, are ranged on either side of the cellar. At one end of it there are four 500-gallon casks, which were brought out by Mr. Ferrier from Dijon. They are very strong, the heads and staves being made of 54-inch oak. The heads are made concave so as to give much additional strength to the cask, and avoid the possibility of bulging out, and the necessity of placing unsightly staying bands on the heads. In the outside head of each of these casks there is a porte, or man-hole as it is sometimes called, through which a small man may get into the cask and clean it. The porte is closed by a tight-fitting door, affixed by a strong screw, and in it the tap is placed. Mr. Doyle gave an order to Mr. John Williams, of Sydney, to make a cask like these, and a few months ago it was received at Kaloudah. The person who took the measurement of the cask must have failed to see the concave form of the heads of the French casks, and the only fault in that from Mr. Williams's cooperage is the level instead of concave form of the beads. Its cost was about £20. The imported casks cost £8 each at Dijon, but having to be conveyed 550 miles to Boulogne, and then to London for shipment to this colony, the freight and other expenses on them before delivery at Kaloudah averaged £10 each. The freight from London to Sydney was less than from Sydney to Kaloudah.
The wines in the cellars on the occasion of our visit had a delicious coolness, and a flavour that would recommend them to the taste of the fastidious. Mr. Doyle has a good demand for all that he can produce, and the Kaloudah vineyard is fast regaining its repute for excellent wine. All the land on the estate is well adapted for the vine. The great expense of planting and staking, and the long period before there is any appreciable return for the outlay necessary, at present deters the proprietor from extending his vineyard. The vines are all trained on stakes, which is preferred to the espalier system only from the foot of the ground being more easily cleaned; the plough and scuffler can be worked in any direction in this vineyard, and from its appearance when we visited it those implements had evidently been freely used, for hardly a weed or a blade of grass could be seen. The vines looked in splendid order, and the cop at present promises to be abundant and good.
We have also visited Eelah and Windermere vineyards, and in another issue purpose noticing them, and, as the opportunity offers, of visiting and noticing the other extensive vineyards throughout the district.
[i] Clearly these dates are not accurate and may have been reversed, with grapes planted in 1843 and the first wine made in 1846.