Before settlement began in the Barossa, the German geologist, scholar and explorer Johannes Menge predicted “I am quite certain that we shall see … vineyards and orchards and immense fields of corn throughout all New Silesia (The Barossa), which is matchless in this colony.”
The first person to take up this prediction was Joseph Gilbert, of Pewsey Vale, who planted some vines in his garden in 1841-42, followed by an acre of wine grapes in 1847.
Among the pioneer settlers at Bethany in 1842 were several families from the district of Grünberg, in Silesia, where vines were grown and wine made. One of these, Johann George Hohnberg, planted vines very soon.
His vineyard consisted of a mixture of varieties without separate blocks for each variety. This vineyard was grubbed in the 1930s.
However the most significant pioneers of viticulture and winemaking in the Barossa were J.F. August Fiedler and his son, August Jr, and their neighbors the brothers, Marno and Ferdinand Aldenhoven.
Fiedler Snr was a veteran of the Battle of Waterloo and one of the leading lay members of the emigrating party led by Pastor Kavel and he went to London to be interviewed by George Fife Angas to arrange Angas’ support for the migrant’s passage to South Australia from Klemzig in Brandenburg, Prussia.
After moving to the Barossa, Fiedler leased and then purchased from Angas, Section 1 of the Hundred of Moorooroo, adjacent to Tanunda. Here he began planting vines in about 1844, he planted 72 different varieties so that he could learn which were the most suitable to grow in the region. This property is now Turkey Flat Wines.
The Aldenhovens, who were from Altona in Holstein, then part of the Kingdom of Denmark, leased from Angas the neighbouring Section 12 now, owned by Chateau Tanunda, where they planted a vineyard.
The Fiedlers and Aldenhovens constructed a winery set into the side of a hill below Chateau Tanunda in about 1848.
This building was demolished in the 1950s.
Within a few years some of the other pioneers of the wine industry, Johann Gramp of Jacob’s Creek, William Jacob of Moorooroo (Jacob’s Creek), Samuel Smith of Yalumba, Henry Evans of Evandale, Keyneton, Joseph Ernst Seppelt, of Seppeltsfield, and Abraham Shannon, of Teeneeningla, Moculta, had all planted vines and began making wine.
Several of these employed Carl August Sobels, of Tanunda, as their winemaker, having trained as a winemaker in Europe he was able to make a fine style of wine.
- Note – more history on the region next month.