Vineyards and wine making have been significant in the Central Highlands district of Victoria since the early times of settlement. The Italians at Yandoit realised the potential of the land near Daylesford. Vineyards are in the Creswick, Smythesdale, and Buninyong areas among others. Wine from the Ballarat area is of excellent quality and has been much sought after through the years. Recently the vineyards of Ian Watson at Tom Boy Hill, Ballarat, have won a major national wine-making award
The vineyard of Mr Andrew Jackson, ‘Spring Vale’, was picturesquely situated on the slopes of Mt Challambar, near Ararat in 1890 and was well known for the manufacture of unfermented wine. Alex Smith, a grocer of Sturt Street Ballarat and of the YMCA Rooms in Main Street, Ballarat East, sold the wine produced by Jackson in Ararat.
The vineyard established before 1890 and from around that time bore fruit from which many different wines were made. Its position was described as ‘attractive, and strikes visitors as having been admirably chosen, both for its beauty and for its suitability for the growth of vines. The villa residence, together with cellars, factory and fernery was situated within the vale or lower ground of the property and had a snug and comfortable appearance’. The vineyard itself was considerable and the land had been well laid out with parallel rows of vines stretching away to the top of the ridge. The cuttings selected were of the best kind, ‘and from time to time the area under cultivation was being added to’. The scene at the time of picking was one of well-grown and well-kept vines heavily laden with fruit and ‘a sight to see’.
A huge variety of wine was made. Muscat from Gordo Blanco and black Muscat grapes with a rich Muscat flavour; Hermitage had a pleasant tartness; while Raisin Wine was prepared mainly for Sacramental use. Ginger Wine was a pleasant warming drink while Quinine Wine was described as an excellent unfermented tonic. Each of these wines could be mixed with water or aerated with ‘Sparklets’ or Seltzogene. Wine is still being produced in the area and I would recommend readers to try a wine with a Eureka flavour, Rebellion from the Tom Boy range.