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Kim Tyrer
 
5 March 2014 | Stories | Kim Tyrer

A Booklet which inspired the Great Southern Wine Industry.

One of the major documents that influenced the start of the Great Southern wine industry, the largest viticulture area in Western Australia

My object is a booklet entitled The Climate and Soils of South-Western Australia in Relation to Vine Growing by J.S. Gladstones, reprinted from the Journal of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science December 1965.

This is one of the major documents that influenced the start of the Great Southern wine industry. Now the Great Southern is the largest viticulture area in Western Australia, boasting more than twice the acreage of the more well-known Margaret River region, which began two years later in 1967 with the establishment of the Vasse Felix vineyard by Dr Tom Cullity.

This document was created by the WA Agriculture Department to try and development new and emerging industries outside traditional agriculture. The other document which gets widely acknowledged was written by Professor Harold Olmo in 1955 A Survey of the Grape Industry of Western Australia.

In Mount Barker, apples were the major industry in the region until the mid 60's. Then the market collapsed due to the drop in export prices and new industries were encouraged. An early settler to the region, George Egerton-Warburton, planted vines on his property at St Werburgh's in 1859, and bottled his first vintage two years later. But commercial foundations for the local wine industry weren't laid until these documents were produced.

The first vines were planted in Forest Hill in 1965, followed by Plantagenet Wines in 1968, and Alkoomi in the Frankland region in 1971. It was then a decade later in 1976 when Goundrey Wines planted their vines, and was then followed by Galafrey Wines in 1978, established by my parents, Ian and Linda Tyrer.
This document belongs to my parents as they used it as part of their research into the wine industry. We have kept it as a part of our history, and our local industry's history not unlike one would keep a photograph or a certificate.

The document drew attention to the very favourable climatic conditions of Mount Barker and Rocky Gully. It examines the soils and climate of South-Western Australia, revealing several regions where natural conditions are favourable to vine growing. Those regions include Mount Barker and Rocky Gully and the area north (Frankland River), Margaret River and along the West Coastal Plain. The document covers temperature, rainfall and soil types in relation the growing vines. And while Harold Olmo's document had already drawn attention to the region being able to produce high quality table wines, this document came out at a time when very there was very little published information on the soils of Mount Barker and Rocky Gully.

Now of course, the wine industry is well established in the Great Southern but this object talks to me about tackling the unknown, and the risks people took without really knowing the outcome. They put all their money, sweat and dreams into vineyards at a time when traditional agriculture dominated.

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