June Members’ Meeting

Friday 4 June 7.30 pm

Dr Geoffrey Bishop

Château Tanunda – Icon of the Barossa since 1890 – an experiment in adverse times

What sort of confidence do you need to establish a large winery in adverse times? The late 1880s were difficult times for Barossa Valley grape growers. They were unable to sell many of their grapes due to over-production and the situation was further accentuated by the onset of an downturn in South Australia’s economy.

However, despite the stagnant economy, a group of Adelaide-based winemakers went ahead and self-financed the construction of the largest winery to be built in the Barossa district for over 40 years.

The magnificent ChâteauTanunda winery at Tanunda was built in 1889. It remains as one of the Barossa’s grandest winery buildings. The origins of the winery and the nature of its business structure were atypical of how the wine industry in the Barossa Valley had developed since its beginnings in the mid-1840s.

Geoffrey Bishop’s presentation will consider the reasons for establishing the winery, the people behind the development and the operations of the winery over the ensuing 25 years when it was operated by The Adelaide Wine Company.

ChâteauTanunda was sold in 1916 to the Seppelt family who continued to operate the winery until 1990. The third phase of its story begins when the disused, rundown winery was purchased by the Geber family in 1998. John Geber and his family have since restored the buildings to their former glory as a modern wine-making facility.

The history of ChâteauTanunda is just one of a number of wine industry histories Geoffrey has researched. Others include the histories of the Angove, Tolley, Taylor and Norman wine family businesses, along with the story of the wine-making school at Roseworthy Agricultural College, winemaking in the Adelaide Hills 1837 to 1939, and profiles of a number of wine industry people including Mary Penfold, Richard Hamilton and Edmond Mazure.

Geoffrey is a past president of the Historical Society of South Australia and is currently its vice-president, and president of the East Torrens Historical Society.