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The First Century 1840 to 1940 – Barossa

The First Century 1840 to 1940

Barossa is founded by a wealthy, philanthropic English shipping merchant, George Fife Angas, soon after South Australia is settled in 1836. The free colony’s first Surveyor General, Colonel William Light names the fertile valley after the Barrosa Ridge in the Spanish region of Andalusia where he fought a famous battle in the Peninsula Wars of 1811. However there is an error in the registration process and a new Australian name is born, Barossa.

Back in London, Angas welcomes a proposition by a dissenting Lutheran leader, Pastor August Kavel, who wants to re-settle his flock of Silesian peasant farmers and tradesmen to the New World and they arrive in 1842 in Bethany. The Silesian settlers find fruit growing -– especially grapes -– ideally suited to the Mediterranean climate and by the 1890s dozens of wineries have been established including: Oscar Seppelt’s Seppeltsfield, Johann Gramp’s Orlando, Samuel Smith’s Yalumba, William Salter’s Saltram and Johann Henschke’s Henschke Wines. 

Fortified wines such as Port, Sherry, Muscat and Tokay became popular overseas due to the Mother Country’s policy of Imperial Preference and by 1929, 25% of Australia’s total wine production comes from Barossa. However, the Great Depression and World War II slash demand for wine and wineries and growers struggle to sell their fruit.

Read next story: Post-War Reconstruction 1940