July 21, 1856: On this day, William Ryrie died. William was a Scottish-born Australian pastoralist who pioneered settlement in the Port Phillip District and the Braidwood district of New South Wales (now Victoria). In 1838, William Ryrie planted the first vines in Victoria at Yering in the Yarra Valley. By 1868, Victoria had more than 3,000 acres of vines planted, making it the leading wine state at the time. By the middle of the century, there were numerous vineyards around Geelong and Bendigo, and the first vineyards were established in Victoria’s northeast in the 1850s, close to Rutherglen. With its full-flavored sweetish table and fortified wines, Rutherglen had become Victoria’s primary wine district by 1860.

July 21, 1932: On this day in 1932 the British Empire Economic Conference began in Ottawa in Canada. This conference was called as a meeting between members of the British government and leading member states of the British Commonwealth such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The delegates aimed to foster new ways of helping their nations act in accord with each other to better their economic situations in the context of the Great Depression. One of the measures adopted out of the conference was the system of Imperial Preference, whereby Britain would favour the importation of goods from Commonwealth nations over those from third party countries and vice-versa. One of the largely unexpected results of this was that in the years that followed the amount of Australian wine being imported into Britain (which had been on the increase anyway during the 1920s) grew to be so large that by 1939 Britain was actually importing more wine from Australia than it was from France. This was an enormous boon to the growth of the Australian wine industry. For more information, see this page on the UK National Archives and Jancis Robinson’s entry on Australia in The Oxford Companion to Wine (Third Edition, Oxford, 2006). See also Robert A. MacKay’s ‘Imperial Economics at Ottawa’, in Pacific Affairs, Vol. 5, No. 10 (October, 1932), pp. 873–885, as well as Donald MacDougall and Rosemary Hutt’s ‘Imperial Preference: A Quantitative Analysis’, in The Economic Journal, Vol. 64, No. 254 (June, 1954), pp. 233–257.

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