A Commonwealth Festival Perth 2011 Event
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Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages

Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.

 Louis Pasteur

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.

3. SROWA, Premier’s Department, Cons 1496, item 1920/0239, H.R.H - Catering for Banquet and State Ball.



Image Courtesy of State Library of Western Australia (599B)

The State Records Office invites you to pick up your fork and join us in Eating the Archives - an online exhibition and event that forms part of the Commonwealth Festival Perth 2011.

Witness history come alive on Friday 28 October at 12.00pm in the Perth Cultural Centre as celebrated WA chef Hadleigh Troy of Restaurant Amus√© interprets and reinvents menus from the State archives collection using fresh, local produce with a modern twist. 

Twenty lucky West Australians will join State Archivist Cathrin Cassarchis and some well-known guests to experience Hadleigh Troy’s take on these historic menus.

Eating the Archives is a partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Food; and the dishes presented will reflect a Buy West Eat Best ethos, showcasing premium West Australian produce.

The online exhibition will take you on a culinary journey to experience food fashions of the past and gain an insight into how these events have shaped today’s food culture and informed WA’s identity. This exhibition will be served up in three courses; Appetiser, Banquet and Dessert. Come back and sample more food related offerings from the State archives collection and follow us on our journey.

Eating the Archives is an event for all to celebrate as chef Hadleigh Troy pays tribute to a bygone culinary era, bringing a small part of WA’s history alive through food.

See and hear Hadleigh begin his journey...

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