While many people these days know Minchinbury as a residential suburb near Mount Druitt, Eastern Creek and Rooty Hill, this area was once the site of a highly successful vineyard, which pioneered new wine varieties, and methods of wine production in Australia. At the height of its success, Minchinbury wines was the first and largest producer of champagne in NSW, and the second biggest in Australia This successful vineyard was eventually purchased by industry giant Penfolds due to its fertile land and economic success. The remaining buildings (located at the corner of Minchin and Barossa Drives), are locally listed for their heritage value, as the former Minchinbury winery is ‘of national significance for its special role in the establishment and development of the Australian wine industry’ (Heritage Listing, Former Minchinbury Winery).
While the ‘Minchinbury Estate’ was originally named after the first land grantee, William Minchin in 1819, Dr Charles McKay, a doctor originally from Ireland purchased the 1,220 acres in 1859. In the early 1860s, the first vines at ‘Minchinbury’ were planted, and the original winery constructed. While his wines grew to modest success, winning three awards at Sydney’s Garden Palace Exhibition in 1879, little did he know the viticultural legacy that would unfold from these first plantings. The contribution of Dr McKay to the Blacktown area has been acknowledged with the naming of a park in Mt Druitt, Dr Charles McKay Reserve in Beames Avenue.
James Angus (a Scottish born rail contractor and a foundation member of Blacktown Shire Council) purchased ‘Minchinbury’ in 1895 and started introducing new wine-making technology, at Minchinbury. Hermann Paul Leopold (Leo) Buring, considered one of the most famous wine makers in Australia, worked as the manager Minchinbury wines from 1902 to 1918. The vision of these two men saw the production of the first bottles of champagne from Minchinbury in 1908, from the 1903 vintage. Using machinery shipped from France, the wine was produced using the same process as used in the Champagne district in France, with the fermentation of the wine, taking place within the bottle itself.
Disaster struck Minchinbury in 1898. The vineyards were infested with a viral disease. Originally native to North America, Phylloxera, an aphid-like insect which attacks the roots of grapevines, eventually completely killing the vine. With no known treatment, to remove the pest, the only solution was to burn the entire vineyard. To avoid this pest ever again gaining a foothold, new grapevines, grafted from vines imported from North America, which were found to be resistant were planted. While a setback in its development, Minchinbury overcame this misfortune, and continued producing quality wines.
By 1912, the success of Minchinbury wines prompted Australian wine industry giant Penfolds, to purchase the estate, for the price of approximately 50,000 pounds (equivalent to almost $6million in 2016). Penfolds increased the Minchinbury cellars to store over 1.25 million bottles of wine, and vineyards to cover over 400 acres across the Minchinbury estate. The variety of grapes grown at Minchinbury in the height of its success included Verdelho, Riesling, Cabernet Riesling, Pinot Noir, Hermitage, Traminer, and Pinot Blanc.
The fame of Minchinbury wines was such that during her 1926 Australian tour, famous Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, after which the iconic meringue dessert is named, visited Minchinbury wines, and stated that “The greatest of my many surprises in Australia, is Penfold’s magnificent wine. I congratulate you heartily on the excellent quality” (Evening News May 3, 1926).
Soil erosion eventually led to the closure of the Minchinbury vineyard in 1978, when the land could no longer support the vines. The overwhelming success and importance of Minchinbury in the Australian wine industry can still be seen in your local bottle shop. While no longer grown or produced in Minchinbury, you can still pick up a bottle of famous ‘Minchinbury Sparkling Wine’, and reflect on the important part that this land in Minchinbury played in one of Australia’s biggest industries.
Title: Minchinbury reflects good taste in every glass.
Creator: Troedel & Cooper. Not dated, created between 1945 and 1950.
Copyright: ‘The State Library of Victoria is not aware of any Copyright restrictions on this work’
Harvesting grapes in the Minchinbury Vineyards, winery visible in the background.
Title: Minchinbury Vineyards
Courtesy of the collections of the State Library of NSW. Call Number Home and Away- 19660. IE Number: IE1486089
Out of Copyright.
‘WINE INDUSTRY’. (1913, November 13). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 6. from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article117946018
Accessed November 28, 2016
Sharpe, A., 2000, Pictorial History, Blacktown and District. Kingsclear Books, Blacktown.
Heritage Listing: Former Minchinbury Winery http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=1140035
‘PAVLOVA WAS SURPRISED’ (1926, May 3). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 9. from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article117289522
Accessed November 26, 2016
Australian Dictionary of Biography—Buring, Hermann Paul Leopold (Leo) (1876-1961). http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/buring-hermann-paul-leopold-leo-3333
Australian Dictionary of Biography—Angus, James (1836-1916). http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/angus-james-5031
Authorship: This history was prepared by Curio Projects, with valuable input from Mary Ternes, Jan Herivel and Jackie West of BCC Library, for the site at 60 Wallgrove Road, Minchinbury, on behalf of Mirvac.