Lovedale, in the Hunter Valley, NSW, is often referred to as the “Heart of the Hunter”. The beautiful region is renowned not just for its family-owned and operated cellar doors and award winning wines but also for its community spirit and the entire lifestyle that has sprung up around it. Lovedale offers a wide selection of quality boutique accommodation, restaurants, galleries, gourmet foods, golf courses, adventure activities, horseriding and day spas.
History of Lovedale
The history of Lovedale as a major wine-producing area dates back to the early 1800s when local wheat and general produce farmers turned to grape growing.
James Busby, widely considered the father of Australian wine, was vital in helping establish the Hunter Valley as a key wine region, which in turn was vital in establishing Australia as a grape growing country.
Busby arrived in Australia in 1824 as a young man, travelling with his parents having completed studies in viticulture in France. In 1825 his first book on grape growing and winemaking was published, A Treatise on the Culture of the Vine and the Art of Making Wine. In 1831, Busby travelled extensively throughout Europe and South Africa, collected cuttings from over 500 vineyards, including six cuttings of Syrah from the Hermitage hill in the Rhône. When he returned in 1832, 20,000 of these cuttings are reportedly distributed to fifty or so vignerons in the nascent Hunter Valley area, where Busby had purchased land for vineyards between the settlements of Branxton (just north of Lovedale) and Singleton.
The name “Lovedale” is said to have combined the name of one of the early families in the area, the Loves, with memories of the hills and dales of Yorkshire. Margaret Bancroft, the owner of Hunter Valley Horse Riding, on Talga Road Lovedale, is a descendent of this family.
Settlement in Lovedale dates prior to 1825 when there were significant land grants along Black Creek. This area was particularly suitable for vineyards. This area was favoured also for its proximity to “Old North Road” to Windsor.
There were more wineries in this area before the 1920s than there are today.
The Love’s Winery in Lovedale Rd, for example, processed grapes from their own vineyard as well as from others, and had 80,000 gallons of wine in their cellars when they closed in 1927.
The Rothbury Cemetery
The Rothbury Cemetery, next to Emma’s Cottage on Wilderness Road, Lovedale, was originally established as an Anglican Cemetery. It contains inscriptions from as early as 1851 but those remaining from the first several decades of its existence are now small in number.
Original Wineries of Lovedale
The site of Allandale Winery is close to what was originally one of the largest wineries in the Hunter Valley in the 1890s, also called Allandale. The 1890’s Allandale winery had a capacity of 518,000 gallons (2.35 million litres) and included some fine stocks of claret and hock.
In 1891 Allandale was awarded the champion medal for NSW, and by that time had received over 70 awards in exhibitions around the world. It was technologically advanced for the time; it boasted a machine used for the purpose of immediately separating the stalks from the fruit before finding its way into the presses; a steam engine was used for driving the crusher and cleaning casks and centrifugal pumps were used for racking the wine.
Historical records are scarce on who owned and operated the old Allandale Winery and why it ceased operation in the late 1920s. The Great Depression that started about 1929 was a likely contribution to it finishing.
Resurgence of the Hunter Valley Wine Industry
By the 1960s, there was a resurgence of the Hunter Valley wine industry, with the growing interest in wine as Australian tastes and knowledge of wine grew with the influx of European immigrants after the Second World War. By the 1980s, the wine industry was flourishing, and the Hunter Valley became well known for superb Semillon, widely considered the iconic wine of the region and “Australia’s gift to the world”, according to Wine Master and writer Jancis Robinson. But the area also produces excellent wine from a variety of grapes including Shiraz, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Verdelho.
Lovedale now hosts a number of events throughout the year including the famous Lovedale Long Lunch in May, which attracts up to 20,000 people over the two day event held each May. The area boasts many cellar doors, beautiful accommodation, galleries, restaurants and gourmet food outlets – a far cry from the early days of the region.