Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages
Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.
The first British settlers to WA recognised that the Mediterranean climate of the South West was conducive to vine growing and wine production. Those who stopped at the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa), on their way to WA, collected vine cuttings with hopes of cultivation. 1
As early as the 1840s the Swan Valley was established as a grape growing region and by the end of the 19th century grapes and dried fruits were being exported. Evidence of the use of local wines at State occasions in WA is fleeting and barely recorded. At the dinner for the surviving members of the Enrolled Pensioner Force on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in June 1897, the only liquid refreshment recorded is “one bottle of English Ale” per head. 2
At the State Ball for the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1920, the Prince’s taste in music and his preference for fruit and burnt almonds is revealed in detail in the archived file. There is a price list for the State Ball which records the various types of “aerated waters” on offer, but the type and variety of wine is recorded as being “Claret Hock and Claret Cup”. 3 "Claret Hock" may well have been an unnamed local claret or red wine, while "Claret Cup" was a kind of chilled punch made from Claret or red wine mixed with soda water, lemon, sugar, brandy, fruit juices, etc - somewhat resembling what today would be called "Sangria".
Until the 1950s and 60s, the wine served at Western Australian official functions seems to have been of far less importance than the food. Many menus don’t even mention the varieties or makes of wine on offer. At the planned State dinner for the visit of the Queen in 1954, the official menu does not mention wines or refreshments at all. This is in contrast to information within the archived file about the visit, revealing that the Federal Viticultural Council of Australia was eager for local wines to be served to the Royal visitors. As well as a source of pride, it was seen as an opportunity to promote wines produced within Australia. What is not known is if any of these wines were from WA.
The first menu that has been located of a State occasion to exclusively feature WA wines was the State Dinner held on 3 March 1971 in the Government House Ballroom to celebrate ‘The First One Million’ of WA’s population. Local wines such as Valencia Special Bin Moselle 1970 and Houghton Special Hermitage Burgundy 1968 were served at this event. 4
Today there are several wine growing regions in WA, with Margaret River being one of the best known in Australia. After scientific research in the 1950s and 60s showed that WA’s South West was an ideal place for wine production, the first vineyard and winery in the Margaret River region was established in Cowaramup by Dr Cullity. Well known today as ‘Vasse Felix, its history is documented online.
1. Battye, J.S. The Cyclopedia of Western Australia : an historical and commercial review : descriptive and biographical facts, figures and illustrations : an epitome of progress Adelaide : Printed and published for the Cyclopedia Company by Hussey & Gillingham, 1912.
2. SROWA, Colonial Secretary’s Office, Cons 527, item 1897/1997, Queen’s Jubilee Celebrations – proposal to entertain surviving members of the Enrolled Pensioner Force.