Pioneer Christian Auricht first settled the trading site of Langmeil where he planted what is understood to be the world’s oldest surviving shiraz vineyard, believed planted in 1843.
Unfortunately, categorically proving the age of any old vineyard in the Barossa is rather difficult due to a lack of available records that pinpoint the planting of any particular block and the fact that the very term ‘vineyard’ was not in common use. As such the provenance of the Freedom vineyard has had to be gleaned from considerable research into the Auricht family history and broader colonial records.
The key to our understanding is the consistent use of the word ‘Garden’ to describe a vineyard. So integral is this to the Barossa’s culture, that vineyards are still often called gardens by fourth, fifth and sixth generation Barossans, and until the 1980’s ‘gardener’ was an official title for vineyard workers at various Barossa wineries.
In seeking further clarification, Valmai Hankel (awarded an Order Of Australia for “significant service to library and information services, particularly in South Australia, and to the wine industry as a writer”) advised us that her own research had confirmed the same.
This is of particular significance in the context of the most comprehensive agricultural record available, the 1844 South Australian Almanac compiled by James Allen. This volume of 300 pages was produced just two years after the village of Langmeil was established and provides a complete directory, giving an account of all the land under cultivation and stock in the colony up to the close of 1843. Most pertinently on page 29 Allen writes;
“The grape succeeds everywhere, and as this fruit is of the greatest commercial importance – an acre being estimated to yield, after its sixth year, a profit of £200 per annum- it will not, perhaps, be out of place to give a more lengthened account of its most approved method of cultivation”
On page 248 Allen goes on to tell us that of the 12 families in the settlement of Langmeil, in addition to their other mixed crops, four had planted ‘gardens’, among them Christian Auricht, then owner of section 36 on which the Langmeil Winery now stands. Our confidence that this was indeed vineyard is reinforced by the fact that on his arrival in the colony Christian’s occupation was listed as a blacksmith, yet by the time of his passing in 1860 his death certificate describes him as a farmer and vine grower.
Our belief is perhaps best summarised in correspondence again received from Valmai;
“Aurichts’ occupation given on his death certificate as a vine grower, and the alignment and appearance of the old vines, all give strength to the validity of the claim. It certainly seems likely that these vines are the oldest shiraz still bearing in Australia. In any case, you have some extraordinarily old, and healthy looking vines, something to publicise and be proud of.”