February 7th marks the birthday of James Busby, widely regarded as the father of the Australian wine industry. Busby brought vine cuttings from Europe to New South Wales in the 1820’s, and planted a small vineyard in Cabramatta in Sydney’s west.
Busby soon published his first book on the subject, A Treatise on the Culture of the Vine and the Art of Winemaking, which established him as an authority of New World Wine. Wines produced from this early vineyard were sent back to England, achieving promising reviews.
A move north to the Hunter Valley followed, with a land grant enabling the planting of a larger vineyard, with convicts assigned to work the land. A 4 month journey back to Europe allowed Busby to send a further collection of tens of thousands of cuttings back to the colony, which were planted in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney. Although many of these died due to neglect, other thrived and formed the basis for some of the great, historic Australian vineyards.
In 1832 Busby married and crossed the Tasman to New Zealand, where he was appointed British Resident. He lived in Waitangi, where he planted more of the vine cuttings brought from Europe. In 1840, Busby co-authored the Treaty of Waitangi, with the purpose of recognising Māori ownership of their lands, forests and other possessions, and giving them the rights of British subjects, paving the way for a declaration of British sovereignty
His legacy continues today, with the aptly names James Busby Tour organising for Sommeliers from around the world to visit and tour the Australian vineyards.