The Eumalga Vineyard. Mai 8, 1876 [From the Sydney Mail]
As the name ‘”Eumalga” and Mr. Serisier’s wines have recently been the subject of remark in the papers, and as the wines have been exhibited and (young as they are) favourably commented upon at both the Sydney and Melbourne Exhibitions, an account of the progress and present state of the Eumalga Vineyard may be of interest to persons connected with the wine trade, and to colonists generally. Eumalga is situated upon the eastern slope and at the end of a range of low hills abutting from Dubbo in a southerly direction; it therefore has an eastern aspect. As the country south of Eumalga falls into a flat there is nothing to obstruct the view for many miles, and the Wellington and Obley Ranges in the far distance form a panorama of unparalleled, or at least unsurpassed beauty. From these ranges the south wind, tempered by its passage across the valley, strikes Eumalga with a perfect freshness and wholesome velocity. Added to the beauty of the scene, the new blossoming vines pour forth a fragrance (similar to mignionette) that is perfectly delightful.
The extent of the Eumalga Estate, or the number of sheep and cattle it contains, I need not mention, my present purpose being to convey a correct idea of and to confine myself to the vineyard and the progress of winemaking, and to give some idea of the very great difficulties attending the industry in these colonies.
The vineyard consists of 40 acres of vines, nearly all in full bearing, all planted in accordance with a prepared plan, and consisting of Dores, Madeira and Verdillio, Reisling, Burgundy, Hermitage, Verdot, Muscat, Labruscat, and Shiraz, there being a preponderance of the last-mentioned, it being a hardy plant. The Verdillios, some year or two ago, were the only ones that showed mildew, and Mr. Serisier proceeded to generally extirpate them; but having since recovered their health and shown no further signs of mildew, the extirpatory system has been for the present abandoned. The rows were planted due north and south, with sufficient space for cross ploughing, and the vines are trained to the east on the low training principle, bringing the fruit as near as possible to the soil, and to bring the fruit-bearing branches as much to the east as possible. The vines have made wonderful growth this year, and are now being tied to the stakes. This should now be completed, as it is not proper, to shake or touch the blossom now on the bunches; but in consequence of shearing and harvest operations, Mr. Serisier has been unable to obtain sufficient labour, and has been disappointed by the non-arrival of some Chinese who promised to come, and who are accustomed to the work. Indeed, the scarcity of suitable labour is one of the greatest drawbacks to the culture of the vine on a large scale. Ordinary labouring men treat the vines too roughly and in an impatient manner, seemingly only anxious to get the job done as quickly as possible. Chinese are the best vignerons. They are “all there” with the hoe and with the hand on the ground, are a patient race, and treat the vines tenderly. The European surpasses them only in farm work and rough labour. The vines this year promise a most excellent crop, we counting no less than 54 bunches on one vine. The vineyard is traversed by suitable avenues for carrying the grapes to the cellars. In view of the scarcity of labour the vines have been so planted as to admit of being cultivated with the plough. By this means they are kept free from weeds. The soil is extremely rich volcanic, varying in colour from red to jet black, the upper part of the hill being covered with basaltic rocks or stones.
The Eumalga cellars are about 155 feet long by 35 feet wide, and are built of sawn slabs double and with a vacancy between; 60 feet more will be added in time. The cellar contains the wine-presses — the best that can be procured; one has a 5 inch screw, and is similar in design to the round French press adapted to a square, and is capable of squeezing 1,600 gallons per day; the fermenting vats, capable of holding 1,000 gallons each, are in close proximity to the presses. Every attention is paid to temperature, the heat in summer never exceeding 70°. In the cellar are now many thousand gallons of wine, all as yet young. In 1873 Mr. Serisier attempted to make a light red wine, more suitable for French than English taste; but, finding his endeavours in this direction not appreciated as they ought to be, he has since abandoned the idea, and is following the usual custom of making a full-bodied red wine, more appreciated by Englishmen. His white wine of 1873 and since appear to be everything that can be desired. They are superb in colour, brilliancy, and flavour, and are made from pure sets of grapes, the mixing of heterogeneous fruit being avoided. All details of vinification are arranged with a view to producing pure, natural, unbrandied wines, capable of lasting and of being transported to any country and climate. Mr. Serisier has lately forwarded samples of wine to two or three exhibitions, but not for competition, except in one instance. The wines sent by him are unprepared and he guarantees to supply some thousands of gallons of similar quality. Wines to sip can also be chosen— wines to suit the palate, and to be drunk more as liqueurs, in small glasses. We trust the time is approaching when our really good colonial wines will become a national beverage, and be within reach of all who can afford to drink beer.