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Explorers Story

"The Unknown Southern Continent" was what Australia was called before European man set foot upon her shores. In the first century AD, Greek geographer Ptolemy used this name in his book "Geographia", an important reference publication for the explorers and navigators of the day. During the period of the 15th to the 17th centuries, explorers were determined to find this mysterious land. Though hundreds of explorers over almost 100 years were unsuccessful, Australia was officially discovered in 1606.

Willem Janszoon (1573 – 1638) –
First explorer to discover Australia

On 26th February 1606, Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon became the first European to discover Australia, making landfall on the west coast of Queensland's Cape York Peninsula. After he and his crew were attacked by the Australian aboriginal people, Janszoon turned the expedition around and headed for Java. Whilst Janszoon discovered just a small part of Australia, historically his discovery was significant in that it made him the first European to do so. Furthermore, it finally put to rest centuries-old European ideas of the "unknown southern continent" and confirmed the reality.

Luis Vaez De Torres (1565 – 1607)

The second discovery of Australia by Europeans came in late 1606 by explorer Luis Vaez De Torres of Spain. Following news of his expedition, a number of other European explorers set out to visit and map Australia's northern and western coastlines.

Abel Tasman (1603 – 1659)

Famous for his 1642 and 1644 voyages, Abel Janszoon Tasman, a Dutch seafarer, explorer and merchant was the first to lead his crew to the southernmost part of Australia, Van Diemen's Land (known today as Tasmania). They also sailed to New Zealand and the Fiji islands. Along with his merchant Isaack Gilsemans and navigator François Visscher, Tasman mapped significant areas of Australia, New Zealand and some Pacific Islands. The island of Tasmania was named in honour of this prolific explorer.

William Dampier (1651 – 1715)

Intrepid English explorer William Dampier, born in Somerset, England was a sea captain, buccaneer, author and enthusiastic observer of scientific matters. The first Englishman to explore and map regions of New Guinea and New Holland (Australia), he was also the first person known to have circumnavigated the world not once, not twice but three times.

Captain James Cook (1728 – 1779)

British explorer, navigator and cartographer James Cook famously discovered Australia's fertile east coast, named it New South Wales and claimed Australia for Great Britain. It is believed to be Captain Cook who set the new land on a path to becoming the great country it is today.

Ambitious and industrious, James Cook rose to the rank of Captain in the Royal Navy and over his career, created detailed maps of Newfoundland before setting sail – three times – to the Pacific Ocean. It was during these voyages that he established the initial European contact with Australia's eastern coastline and the Hawaiian Islands, and also recorded the first circumnavigation of New Zealand.

Australia's first grape vines introduced by European explorers

The first grape vines to be introduced to Australian soil were delivered in 1788 by British Captain Arthur Phillip, having collected them in Brazil and the Cape of Good Hope. From these humble early origins over two centuries ago, Australia's flourishing viticultural industry now exports greater than 800 million litres of wine to the rest of the world.

The romantic origins of the Australian wine industry

Phillip's imported exotic grape vines were duly planted in Sydney but promptly perished as a result of Australia's harsh sun and humidity. Decades later in the early 1800s, John Macarthur established and cultivated Australia's first ever commercial vineyard and winery at his Camden Park property fifty kilometres to the south west of Sydney Town. Pinot Gris, Verdelho, Cabernet Sauvignon, Frontignac and Gouais comprised the principle varieties grown and nurtured there.

By 1850, commercial vineyards had sprung up in most Australian states. Wine production thrived thanks to the country's ancient, unspoiled soil which, by virtue of the extremely remote location, was spared the havoc delivered by disease and industrialisation.

The Hunter Valley's rolling hills, Geelong's oceanfront slopes and the Eden Valley's precipitous and weatherbeaten terrain all provided challenges and blessings for Australia's early wine producers. It was in 1854 that the United Kingdom received Australia's first wine export, a shipment of 1,384 gallons (6,291 litres).

Disease visited upon the European wine industry in the mid 1800s when Phylloxera devastated more than two thirds of the continent's vineyards. In 1875, Australia's grape crops too were afflicted. Fortunately, the Barossa Valley in South Australia was spared infection thanks to strict quarantine regulations and the restriction of movement of vine materials between the country's wine regions. Thus, South Australia can today boast the existence of some of the world's oldest vines, relying on their original European ancestry.

Australia's ongoing love affair with wine

When much of the globe was in the throes of World War Two, Australia and the US both endured beer shortages of critical proportions. To make up the alcoholic shortfall, wine became the alternative of choice, resulting in a massive increase in Australia's domestic consumption. Up to the 1960s, eighty per cent of wine produced in Australia was sherry and port, fortified, sweet and labelled as 'Colonial wine' by the British.

With the arrival in Australia of European migrants after the end of World War Two, a new culture was introduced. Table wine was now enjoyed at home as much as in restaurants. Coincidentally, a master blender by the name of Maurice O'Shea had been developing table wine in the Hunter Valley at his Mount Pleasant vineyard since as early as 1925. Recognised to be of excellent quality, O'Shea's products set a precedent for table wines.

In 1951, Max Schubert, the pioneering winemaker of Penfold's wineries set about creating the very first iconic Grange vintage, the dry red that has remained Australia's most revered wine ever since.

Fast forward to the mid 1970s and sales of fortified wine were finally exceeded by consumer demand for a good dry red table wine. Domestic wine consumption per capita arrived at 17.3 litres in 1980 and cask wine – also known as 'bag in a box' – gained popularity for its economy and convenience.

Also in the 1980s, Australia's liquor licensing laws became liberalised and a proliferation of retail liquor outlets sprang to life. Consumers could now enjoy their choice of wines along a spectrum of varieties and price points but the nation's appetite tilted towards white wine in a major way.


Australia's reputation for producing wines of distinction is legendary throughout the world. Although still akin to apprentice status compared with other longer-established wine markets, Australia's wine industry has triumphed. The mainstream consumer market is spoilt for choice thanks to the vast diversity of grape varieties, regional characteristics and the inherent skills of the talented winemakers. Australia's Landmark wines are admired the world over for their pedigree, sophistication and longevity. Winemakers in other countries aspire to Australia's innovation and standards which continue to reach ever loftier heights.

Explorer Estate
Australia's reputation for producing wines of distinction is legendary throughout the world. Australia's Landmark wines are admired the world over for their pedigree, sophistication and longevity.