"One not only drinks wine,
one smells it, observes it,
tastes it, sips it and
one talks about it"

King Edward VII

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One of the best kept secrets of wine history must be the heritage of the Swiss-Italian area of the Spa Country. Situated at the western end of the Macedon Ranges Wine Region, it is one of the coolest wine areas in Australia and predates its younger cousins at the Eastern side (Lancefield/Kilmore) of the region.

Around 1850, gold fever hit Victoria resulting in an influx of migrants from the "Old World". The migration of the area now known as Daylesford and Hepburn Springs was not only characterized by migrants seeking their riches but also by many eluding persecution, conflicts and instabilities in their native lands. Most hailed from areas of southern Switzerland ( the canton of Ticino) , and the adjoining regions of northern Italy.

Many found wealth and stability by settling in the area forming the basis of the Swiss-Italian heritage of the area. The foundation and existence of the Macaroni Factory in 1859 is testament to the convictions of the migrants.

One legacy of their heritage was the introduction and planting of grapevines for wine and food. Grape vines were sourced from the Colony of New South Wales or brought in by migrants as cuttings. They were planted as early as the mid-1850's and by early 1860's an industry was well established.

Records reveal many vineyards existed and that many were producing and several had received accolades. The founders of Great Western, Emile Blampied and Pierre Trouette had established their business relationship in Daylesford around 1853. Vineyards flourished especially in the Hepburn Springs, Yandoit and surrounding areas. A noteworthy vineyard was that established at Villa Palma in Hepburn Springs by Fabrizzio Crippa in 1864. The house still exists but the vineyards taken over by population increase and housing.

Villa Parma built 1864 had an early vineyardAt Villa Parma, ten acres of vines produced 16,000 bottles of wine per year for the local and Melbourne markets. This was later expanded to twenty acres. Other vineyards were established and likewise produced wines - some were presented at the Melbourne Exhibition in 1880. Several awards were given to wines of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs. An award at the Manchester Wine Show c. 1875 is claimed. Giuseppe Rolleri, who in 1883 took over the Hepburn Mineral Springs Family Hotel exhibited his wine at the 1888-9 Centennial International Exhibition in Melbourne and, in 1892, he won first prize for both red and white wine at the Daylesford Show. Several other wines were noted in the 1888-9 Centennial International Exhibition in Melbourne.

Viticulture was not without its challenges. The local newspaper, the Advocate, reported in April 1887 that a terrible hailstorm had hit Daylesford and surrounding area:

"The Grapers will be very heavy losers by the storm as their goods have been so much damaged, that a portion will have to be almost given away. The vineyards in Daylesford, Spring Creek, Hepburn, Elevated Plains, have been destroyed, which will be a great loss to the vignerons who were just congratulating themselves on having a splendid season............"

By 1892 seventy nine acres of vines were recorded with The Victorian Board of Viticulture, but in reality this represented more than three hundred acres planted and producing - much for local and family consumption.

Outlined area shows Swiss-Italian SettlementBy the turn of the century, economic, social and other factors resulted in a loss of this wine industry. Transport had became more accessible with the introduction of a rail link to Melbourne and led to a population growth that was house and land hungry. The conflicts in the northern Italian states had largely ceased resulting in less migration of potential growers; those that were here felt safe to return to their homelands and the rail link meant easier movement for locals to Melbourne for work. Refrigeration may have played some influence as perishable goods such as lamb and mutton could now be sent to "Mother England". They took the place of wine. Wine became less sought after in Britain and those who still favoured it preferred the Spanish and Portuguese styles. To add to this, there was a considerable and noisy rise of an anti-drinking lobby in Melbourne.

Currently, the Swiss-Italian influence exists within and just beyond the Western boundaries of the Macedon Ranges Wine Region. This area can be proud of the resurgence and resurrection of grapes and winemaking and builds on the long history of the area. It is likely that the area developed in tandem with Geelong as second wine regions in Victoria following the lead by Yarra Valley. All these areas have Swiss and/or Italian heritage in common.