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OUR VINEYARDS AND ORCHARDS.

EVANDALE

THE RESIDENCE OF HENRY EVANS, ESQ.


by Ebenezer Ward
                         South Australian Advertiser
                                                                                       29 January 1862


There is probably no vineyard in South Australia possessing a better or more widely extended reputation than Evandale. The time that has elapsed since its formation, the proved superiority of the wines produced there, the extent and completeness of the arrangements for the manufacture and storage of the wines, and the known experience and good judgment of its proprietor have long since caused it to be regarded as an establishment that would afford a most satisfactory test of the wine producing capabilities of the colony. Further than this we feel assured that many vignerons who in this or the adjoining colonies are earnestly engaged in the extension of their vineyards will freely acknowledge Evandale to be an excellent example for them to copy as far as circumstances will permit. Vine growing is an interest still in its infancy in South Australia, and therefore too much regard cannot be paid to the systems of cultivation and management that have been pursued in such vineyards as Evandale or Pewsey Vale. The last named establishment, which is entitled to equally honorable mention with Evandale, is the residence of Mr. Joseph Gilbert.

Recent destruction


We deeply regret that we must preface our remarks upon Mr. Evans' establishment by recording the catastrophe which occurred there on the 21st inst. Our readers have been already informed in the columns of this journal that on that day the principal cellar at Evandale was destroyed by fire. The building, which was 154 feet long by 44 feet wide, was the largest and, we believe, the most complete of its kind in the colony. The walls were of stone, with a double thatch roof. It appears that at about 5 o'clock on the afternoon of the 21st one of Mr. Evans' cellarmen was engaged in the cellar in purifying an empty cask. This man had put a lighted sulphur match into the cask in the usual manner, but had only left it there for one or two minutes when it was suddenly impelled into the thatch above with the force of a skyrocket. The cause must have been either the presence of some spirit in the cask, or that the bunghole was stopped up so tightly as to prevent the escape of the foul air, which would fully account for the explosion. An immediate and strenuous effort was made by the man who had had charge of the match, and another who was working in the cellar at the time, to arrest the progress of the flame which instantaneously ignited the roof. The poor fellow only burnt his hands in his fruitless attempt. The fire spread with great rapidity, and before the workpeople could all be summoned it was evident that it would be impossible to prevent the destruction of the roof. Mr. Evans was quickly on the spot and his first thought was to save the casks and utensils in the cellar, but urged on by the hope that the building might be saved, he directed every possible effort to that purpose. Fortunately the wind was blowing away from the house and the adjoining premises, or it is very probable that the masses of burning thatch which were blown over the vineyard would have caused much greater destruction. As it was, a good many of the vines near the buildings were scorched up. Notwithstanding that all Mr. Evans' neighbors who could reach the spot hurried thither on the first alarm, almost two hours elapsed before the flames could be subdued, and then only the bare walls remained standing. The roof had fallen in, and the whole range of casks and the collection of tools and utensils were destroyed. In the north-east corner two huge store casks filled with wine escaped the fury of the flames, but the liquor was boiling with the intense heat, and a huge portion of it evaporated. Only about 15 hogs-heads of wine were totally destroyed. The greatest loss to Mr. Evans will be the casks and implements, because it is very questionable whether they can be replaced before the ensuing vintage must be commenced. Unfortunately, neither the building nor its contents were insured.


Vineyards


Evandale is about eight miles N.E. of Angaston. The vineyard comprises 20 acres, the orchard 40 acres, and the nursery 10 acres. Mr. Evans's residence stands on gentley [sic] undulating ground, which trends to the North Rhine ranges. The vineyard lies principally east and south of the house. On the north of the house is situate one portion of the orchard, bounded by a deep border of vines on three sides, the remaining portion of the orchard being due east of the house beyond the vineyard. To commence with the vine border of the orchard - the sorts planted there are Frontignac, Tokay, and Early Portugal, but principally the former variety. These vines were planted in 1853, at distances of 4 feet by 5 feet apart. For several years they made comparatively little progress, and in 1860 every alternate row was uprooted, leaving the survivors at 8 feet by 5, and since that time the latter have thriven well and yielded larger quantities of better fruit than the whole did previously. It is Mr. Evans's determination in future to plant at distances of not less than 8 feet by 8. The width of the border is 150 feet throughout on the south, east, and west of the orchard, which is protected on the north by a substantial white thorn fence, which in only five years has attained a height exceeding 10 feet.


Orchard


The larger portion of the trees in this orchard were planted eight years ago, and the remainder in 1856. Its extent is about ten acres, and in its almost interminable rows of flourishing trees not one gap is to be observed. The huge majority of trees in this, as well as the younger portion of the orchard to which we shall have presently to refer, are apples, of which there are upwards of 100 varieties. The trees are heavily laden with fruit, many of them drooping beneath the weight, until their branches resemble in form the weeping willow, while others have fairly broken down under their burden. The fruit is of the most perfect character in shape and appearance. The apple trees stand now at distances of 30 feet by 25 apart, but in some places they were originally planted with only half that space from tree to tree in order to bring on the fruit sooner, and with the intention of thinning them subsequently. This has since been done, and notwithstanding the increased cost entailed by this system for extra labor and trees, it has been repaid over and over again in the first two or three years. It would be too tedious to recapitulate even the principal of the 100 varieties, and it would be, perhaps, invidious to do so if we may judge by the circumstance that one fine-looking sort known as the "Yellow Wesleyan" has been locally corrupted into the "Bilious Methodist."   It has hitherto been Mr. Evans's practice to keep down all the weeds in this portion of the orchard by machine and manual labor, but he has now resolved to discontinue this, and only to plough a few furrows in the centres of the intervening spaces to ventilate the soil, because when the land under the trees is bare in the summer months the numerous windfalls are quite destroyed by the sun before it is possible to gather them. We may mention, however, that the jealousy with which Mr. Evans keeps his vines free from weeds warded off at the recent fire the danger which would otherwise have been imminent of the burning thatch igniting and destroying the staked vines where it fell, which it would have been almost certain to have done had any sere grass or weeds been there to have served as a conductor. Immediately fronting the house is a broad gravel walk of considerable length dividing the vineyard, and leading to the largest and younger portion of the orchard, and of which the extent is 30 acres. This and other walks in the grounds are bordered with thickly studded rows of ever green privet which present a very pretty appearance. The trees on the 30 acres are five years old, and are bearing excellently. Apple trees predominate, but as in the older orchard almost every variety of ordinary fruits is represented. In this portion the grass has been allowed to grow uninterruptedly for about six feet round all the trees, only a few furrows being ploughed, in accordance with the opinion already stated. In the winter months we think the grass in such a large orchard might be advantageously fed off with sheep, as their droppings would more than compensate for the vegetable matter they would consume. At the first thought it would appear almost problematical whether at such a distance from town Mr. Evans could ensure a market for the produce of so large an orchard. His estate is, however, less than 20 miles from the Kapunda railway station, and nearly the whole of the fruit grown at Evandale is sent thither en route to the Burra, where there is an ample demand.


Landscape design & nursery


It is about ten years since Mr. Evans commenced planting on his estate, and we were forcibly reminded of the magnitude of the alterations he has effected on what was previously an almost untrodden waste [-land], by examining a water-color drawing of the spot taken by Mr. George French Angas before a sod had been turned upon it. The sketch represents the residence and one or two outbuildings, which are still standing, with a flock of sheep grazing where the orchard and vineyard flourish now. But in laying out his estate Mr. Evans has had an eye to the ornamental as well as the useful. In such large plantations it was of course necessary to have roads broad enough to permit the passage of at least one-horse carts, and these have been laid down with gravel and with the evergreen borders we have already mentioned. They increase materially the beauty of the place. Beds of rare plants and flowers are planted in front of and around the house, and on either side of it pines and cypresses are springing up in almost endless variety. Amongst the choicest plants is a specimen of the Aricaria Bidwilli, a native of Queensland. The tree has been known to attain a direct height of 100 feet before putting out its branches. It bears a fruit resembling an immense pineapple in appearance, and when ripe the shell breaks and yields a quantity of delicious kernels, about the size of dates. Aboriginals are in the habit of assembling at places where the tree grows, and of gathering its fruit when ripe, and they feast themselves upon the kernels until the supply is exhausted. Mr. Evans' specimen is growing rapidly. The nursery at Evandale comprises about 10 acres and contains young plants and trees almost sufficient to supply the requirements of a colony. Four years ago it was a stubble-field - now it is difficult to imagine how prolific is its vegetation. For this department of his business Mr. Evans is fortunate in having secured the superintending services of Mr. John Frederick Wood, a gentleman of great horticultural experience and knowledge, and who with remarkable intelligence combines a large amount of enthusiasm for the study of the science he professes. Last year Mr. Wood budded upwards of 100,000 plants with his own hands, and his devotion to his work recognises no sacrifice that will enhance its success. We cannot enumerate the names or the numbers of the plants which flourish in his nursery, but to convey an idea of its resources we may state that it contains 80,000 young vines, not one of which has suffered from the incursions of that dire enemy of tender plants - the grub. The purposes of the nursery must not however be under stood as being confined to the propagation of vines or fruit trees, for Mr. Wood's enthusiasm embraces floriculture within its liberal range, and rose trees appear to multiply a hundredfold under his artist touch. We understand that at Evandale in future the price of these trees of all varieties will be reduced to 1s. each. Nearly all the two-year old fruit trees in the nursery are already bearing fruit, and no inconsiderable quantity might be gathered from them although they stand at only a few inches apart. Amongst its rarer plants are the purple-leaved sycamore, the new Siberian elm (which in two years has grown six feet high), and a new evergreen shrub called the Escalonia Flora Bunda and resembling the white lilac in appearance. The hothouse is 40 feet by 8 feet. It is chiefly used for raising seedlings. Several of Stuart's seeds brought by the explorer from the interior have been reared there, amongst them several specimens of "Stuart's grape seed." Adjoining the hothouse there are several of the Zante currant vines growing splendidly and bearing fruit in large quantities.


Vines, trellising & terroir


The varieties of the vine planted by Mr. Evans in the years 1852 to 1859 inclusive, in what we may term the left wing of the vineyard (taking the broad gravel walk stretching due east from the house as the dividing mark) are the Shiraz, Espanoir (or Mataro), Muscat of Alexandria, Pineau, Black Portugal, Frontignac, Riesling, Tokay, and Morillon. On the right wing the varieties planted principally in 1857 are the Riesling, Shiraz, Verdeilho, Black Portugal, and Morillon. Every vine in the vineyard is staked, except a few with which Mr. Wood is testing the new mode of trellising recommended by M. Jules Guyot, and which appears to excel for neatness, and for the capability of training the vine so that it will yield more fruit than under any other treatment. Mr. Evans has already trenched 25 acres which be intends adding to his vineyard. This land lies due west from the homestead and its soil and position are good. The varieties to be planted on it are chiefly the Grenache, Shiraz, Carignan, Black Portugal, Malbec, and Espanoir. Mr. Evans' estate is situate in the centre of what he believes to be a volcanic formation of about three miles in diameter - an opinion endorsed by Mr. Babbage. From the nature of the soil, which in many spots is an alluvial deposit, the ironstone which crops up every where around mixed with burnt clay and decomposed stone, and other equally striking indications, he believes the surrounding ranges to be the upheaving of volcanic eruptions.


Beneficence to faith


We should not omit to mention that the range of buildings at Evandale comprises a convenient chapel [one of the outbuildings], which affords accommodation for about 100 people. Mr. Coward, the Independent minister stationed at North Rhine, attends at Evandale and conducts a service there every Sunday, at Mr. Evans' cost. Mr. Evans has also given three acres of ground, lying about a quarter of a mile from his homestead, on which a German chapel has been erected and a cemetery formed. It is his intention shortly to build a new and larger chapel at Evandale. 


Innovation


We visited Evandale two days after the unfortunate accident by which the principal cellar was destroyed, and are therefore unable to describe the arrangements of that building, but we are informed they were as nearly perfect as possible. In the smaller cellar, which was not at all injured by the fire, everything evinces the exercise of care, judgment, and cleanliness. A quantity of lime is spread under every cask, to absorb any droppings or spilt liquor, and correct every possible tendency to acidity in the cellar. This practice is so useful and cheap withal that we wonder it is not more generally adopted. The stock of wine on hand is not large, and it is in one sense fortunate that the vintages of previous years have been so closely disposed of, otherwise Mr. Evans' loss by the fire would have been larger than it is. Mr. Evans is not insensible of the advantage and desirability of giving something like age to his wines, but he argues that as buyers will give him when they are six months old as high a price for them as he would ask after keeping them for three years, it would be folly to retain them. Perhaps so, as far as immediate profits are concerned, but there is no disguising the fact that when maturer wines are retailed to the public of this colony and exported hence, not only will the reputation of the respective vineyards be enhanced, but South Australian wines will be everywhere more highly thought of and prized as they ought to be. This is a fact that cannot be gainsayed, and it may be illustrated on every ground.


Vintage variation & mode of manufacture


For instance, the choicest wine (to our taste) in Mr. Evans' cellar at the present time is a pure Riesling of the vintage of 1857, and this is equal if not superior to any hock that can be obtained in English or colonial markets. Side by side with it is a hogshead of wine made from the same grape, with the same treatment, but of the vintage of 1858, and this, although an excellent sample and possessing more body, is not to be compared with the first-named for delicacy or purity of flavor. Of the other wines we sampled we may especially mention a Frontignac, which is rapidly acquiring a Riesling character, although it retains the Muscat flavor, a circumstance for which Mr. Evans is at a loss to account; another Frontignac made from dried grapes, and which has a deep color like burnished gold, and a rich luscious flavor; a Muscat of Alexandria, also made with dried grapes - it has a powerful aroma, but is a young wine, and rich and sweet; a Chrystal grape wine, made with boiled wine, and Muscats, very much resembling sherry; and some excellent samples of Shiraz and Espanoir of various vintages. Mr. Evans adopts a simple process in the manufacture of his wine, and its chief characteristics appear to be care and cleanliness. To the absence of cleanliness with regard to casks and utensils, and of care in keeping the casks full during fermentation, he attributes in a great measure the disappointments which overtake many wine producers. Rum, whisky, gin, beer, or porter casks, in his opinion, ought on no account to be used, because they invariably deteriorate the quality of the wine. He regards the grape as a perfect fruit, containing within itself all the elements that are essential to the manufacture of first-class wine. The addition of brandy, coloring matter, or finings of any kind, he regards as altogether unnecessary except in wet or unfavorable vintages, He uses a mill for crushing red grapes for dark wines, but in treating white grapes for white wines, he adheres to the primitive system of pressing with bare feet. He believes that the best constructed mill crushes some of the seeds, giving thereby a harsh and unpleasant flavor to the wine. He removes the rough stem from both red and white grapes by rubbing them through a box with a grating at the bottom, and until   this has been done he thinks that the grapes should on no account be passed through the crushing-mill or pressed. The skins of white grapes should not be fermented with the juice if the fruit is at all bruised, as in that case the skin will impart a bad color to the wine. Mr. Evans does not prolong the fermentation in vats in accordance with the ordinary custom. His practice is to draw the wine off into store casks before the sweetness is quite gone. To save the trouble of filling up the casks several times a day, which would other wise be necessary, he inserts in the cask a tin tube made in the shape of a syphon, the longer leg in the cask and the shorter one in a vessel of water. By this means the carbonic acid gas is allowed to escape, but the atmospheric air is excluded. The secondary fermentation is continued thus in the store casks for a considerable time, and the result is found to be that the wine acquires clearness and maturity of taste more quickly than when the fermentation is more fully completed in the vats. Mr. Evans informed us that he regarded the works of Mr. Macarthur and Dr. Kelly as invaluable guides, which should be in the hands of every winegrower.   Mr. Evans estimates the produce of his vineyard for the ensuing vintage at about 12,000 gallons.


Lindsay House


Lindsay House, the residence of the Hon. G. F. Angas, is situate about four miles west of Evandale, on the road thence to Angaston. The grounds, which were, we believe, originally planned by Mr. Evans [unverifiable & discounts the expertise of his mother-in-law, Mrs Rosetta Angas], evince great taste in their design, and in their support and present appearance. The house itself is a most complete and elegant residence, and a splendid view of the surrounding country is obtained from the verandah, which stands at a more than ordinary elevation, surmounting a suite of rooms on the ground floor. The garden and pleasure grounds abound with choice plants, flourishing fruit trees, and prolifically bearing vines, but we are not aware that the hon. proprietor has turned, or is likely to turn, his attention to the production of wine therefrom.