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White Wine Varieties

History of Chardonnay Vines

Ivor Roberts met with Alf Kurtz and his wife Laura in late ‘72/early 73. Roberts writes that ‘Laura Kurtz now produced their 1971 Chardonnay, then the 1972, and here’s what she told him: ‘Dr Boubals, and expert from Montpellier, came out from France early in 1970. He went to Merbein [the CSIRO viticultural research station near Mildura] and other wine districts in Victoria, and to South Australia and New South Wales. He also visited our vineyards and told us that ours was the only true French Chardonnay he had seen in Australia. He came when the fruit was still on the vine.’


The last is a crucial point since the best way to tell Chardonnay from Pinot Blanc is when the grapes are ripening - Chardonnay grapes tend more to gold-green than those of Pinot Blanc. ‘And these two vintages are 100% Chardonnay?’ asked Roberts. Mrs Kurtz confirmed that they were, and Alf said: ‘I have one earlier Chardonnay left, either a ’69 or ’70. We’ll try that one too.’ It was a 1970 Chardonnay, which means Alf Kurtz was making Chardonnay before Murray or Pieter van Gent.


James Halliday wrote in the Weekend Australian, in October 2003, that ‘Alf Kurtz obtained what turned out to be an exceptional, virus-free clone of chardonnay when he established his own business, Mudgee Wines, in the 1960s. It became the source block for much of the early plantings of chardonnay across Australia through the 1970s and 1980s.’ That doesn’t answer the question about where the chardonnay vines came from, but it confirms that Mudgee was the place to get the best cuttings from in the late sixties, and Alf Kurtz's vineyard the most likely source.

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