Originally home to the Kambuwal people the area of the Granite Belt was first visited by the explorer Allan Cunningham in 1827. In 1840 Ballandean pastoral run was established and here a “White Syrian” grapevine was planted around 1859. By 1872 tin had been discovered and this led to an influx of miners to the region. With “Quart pot creek” later renamed Stanthorpe (Tin Village).
The Ballandean village was surveyed and officially named in 1872. Thomas Fletcher built the Britannia Inn in the same year which attracted other businesses to the area. Fletcher went on to establish the first commercial orchard and vineyard in the Granite Belt.
In 1875 the local parish priest Father Geranimo Davadi originally from Le Marche Italy encouraged the tin miners to diversify as he could foresee problems when incomes from tin petered out. He even helped with cuttings from his own established nursery. His first vineyard being the horse paddock of the presbytery. Later planting a vineyard at the foot of Mt Marley. He is referred to as ‘ Father of the Fruit Industry ‘.
After both world wars there was an influx of mainly Italian immigrants to the region many taking up land that Soldier settlers had abandoned. Some of them working and or farming on orchards and table grape vineyards. Local growers then making and providing bulk wine from excess ripe grapes to supply to their family and friends in the northern Queensland cane fields. A few vineyards today can trace their history back to this time with Bungawarra (Angelo Barbagallo 1920’s), Ballandean Estate (Salvatore Cardillo 1930) and Rumbalara (1928) all being established on older table grape vineyards.
The region had a thriving table grape industry for many years with stone fruit and table grapes being grown side by side on the same farm. The main varieties being muscat hamburg, waltham cross and purple cornichen. Around the mid 1950‘s there was over 2000 acres of table grapes grown in the district. This proved to be a very good indicator for wine grape suitability.
Modern Winemaking Era
In the mid 1960’s the Ricca family planted the first Shiraz grapes in the southern Granite Belt. This was followed in the late 1960’s and early seventies with wine-grape vineyards and modern wineries being established by the Zanatta (Biltmore Cellars), Puglisi (Angelo’s) and Robinson (Robinson Family Vineyards) families followed a few years later by Bob and Una Grey (Rumbalara) and Alan Door and Philip Christensen (Bungawarra). In 1970 Doctor Bryce Rankine visited the region and encouraged the local winemakers to adapt modern technology and in 1974/75 the QDPI imported over 140 thousand cuttings from more than 25 different wine grape cultivars and clones. In 1975 both Angelo Puglisi and John Robinson won Gold Medals at the Brisbane Royal Show signaling a promising start to modern winemaking in the region. By 1993 there were over 20 wineries in the district and today over sixty different producers of wine from grapes as diverse as Albarino to Saperavi and everything in between.
The Wine Show
The Stanthorpe wine show ran from 1970-1987 for wine produced in Queensland. In 1988 the Stanthorpe Wine show was replaced with the Australian Small Winemakers Show and now attracts wine entries from all over Australia and New Zealand. With a who’s who of National wine show judges right from the beginning in 1987-88.