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Howard Duncan
24 January 2018 | Barossa, The Artisans, What's Happening at Artisans | Howard Duncan

What's on this Australia Day weekend at Artisans

The winemakers get a rest from the house this weekend with the annual grape squashing festival around the corner (possibly next week). We'll let them put their feet up for what will be the last time in many weeks of very long days. But don't let the absence of winemakers in the house take the shine off a visit to Artisans this long weekend... because we're launching something very, very special!

January 26 is a day in the Australian calendar that represents many things to many people. For plenty of folk it’s the day to simply celebrate what it is to ‘be Australian’. And there’s good reason to celebrate as a nation, because the big brown land is indeed a wondrous place. But it’s also the day that marks the landing of the First Fleet in 1788, and the notion of celebrating on this day is one the First Australians (and increasingly many others) find painful and offensive. Hopefully this current escalation of conversations, public discussions and debate (much like that accompanying the same sex marriage plebiscite) will enable broader awareness of the cause for malcontent, greater consideration for what Australia Day should signify and ultimately collective agreement on a date that Australians can celebrate as one. Let’s see how it all unfolds.

Captain Phillip - Australia's first vigneron, vintage 1788. (Pic courtesy of

This Australia Day weekend at Artisans, we’re celebrating the 230th anniversary of something else that happened on the 26th January. A moment in this land’s history that should be rejoiced by lovers of Australian wine across the globe. For this day represents the arrival of vine cuttings into Australia, courtesy of Captain Arthur Phillip’s First Fleet. On the way down under, and with instructions from ‘Mad’ King George, Arthur Phillip collected vine cuttings from Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town to establish vineyards at Sydney Cove. The first vines hit the dirt in what is now the Sydney Botanical Gardens, before finding a more agreeable home at Parramatta by 1791. (It wasn’t until 1817 that John MacArthur is gazetted as the person to import the first Shiraz cuttings to plant at his property ‘Camden’, often credited as the birthplace of Australian farming.) Cuttings from Camden were sent to Barossa in the late 1830’s… and we all know what happened next!

George Blaxland, amongst the first Europeans to find a way west through the Blue Mountains was also in on the wine game early, and James Busby lit a fire under the whole show when he landed 570 cuttings of almost every known grape variety in Sydney in 1833. (Busby kept sailing and landed in New Zealand, where he planted the first vineyard and drafted the Declaration of Independence to stop the French laying claim to the world’s greatest rugby team. He also drafted the Treaty of Waitangi, written in both English and Maori, recognising native title and acknowledged as the foundation document of New Zealand. Waitangi Day is on February 6 and is New Zealand’s national day, commemorating the signing of that treaty. Pity he didn’t stay in Sydney a bit longer!

Those First Fleet vines were the catalyst for what has become one of the most exciting (if not the most exciting) wine producing nation on earth. What is remarkable is we know the precise date that wine came to Australia… a knowledge of ‘inception’ shared only with South Africa. But perhaps what is truly prescient of Australia’s future thirst for wine was that ‘plant the vines’ was at the very top of the list of ‘jobs to do’ when Arthur Phillip set foot on the beach!

To celebrate this great moment in this nation’s wine history, we’ll be putting our best foot forward with a tasting of our absolute finest Shiraz… the grape variety that John MacArthur bought to Australia in 1817 that went on to define Australia as a great wine making nation on the world stage. We’ll have a rare presentation of Autumnus and Romulus from Sons of Eden, John Duval’s Eligo, Hobbs Gregor, Schwarz’ Schiller and Spinifex’s La Maline on tasting all through the long weekend for just $15. When you consider the rare provenance and extreme pedigree of these wines, and their collective retail value of nigh on $900 (and maybe the cost of a glass of house wine in a fancy bar), that’s small change.

Come on up to Artisans this Australia Day weekend and commemorate the birth of a winemaking nation! January 26 - Australian Wine Day - you heard it first at Artisans!



Thanks to John McArthur for bringing Shiraz to Australia... and also sheep, thus creating the nation's greatest food and wine match! (Thanks to the for the pic)


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