Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Who was Australia’s First Wine Connoisseur?
On recent visit to Virginia I had the opportunity to visit Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the US. Among his many interests and achievements was a great love of wine; Jefferson considered wine a "necessary of life". Jefferson is also considered America's first wine connoisseur according to James Gabler’s book. Although this may in part be due to the extraordinary amount of material available about Jefferson; he is said to have written 20,000 letters and to have kept detailed notes and lists on his daily life. Jefferson tried to make wine from his vineyards at Monticello but never really succeeded. However he was confident that wine could be made in Virginia and encouraged several different attempts using the native and introduced varieties. The current 80 plus Virginian wineries attest to that confidence.

Having just finished Nicholas Faith’s Australia’s Liquid Gold, I’ve begun to wonder who might be considered Australia’s first wine connoisseur. James Busby brought many of vine cuttings into Australia, and is considered the father of the Australian wine industry but was he a connoisseur?

A little research on James Busby shows that he was not only interested in vines and wine but also co-wrote the New Zealand Treaty of Waitangi! Certainly makes him a contemporary of Jefferson, who is mostly known for writing the first draft of the American Declaration of Independence.

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