REGION

THE MURRAY DARLING REGION

A quick 25 minute drive from Mildura and you’ll arrive at the historic port of Wentworth the confluence where Australia’s two greatest rivers, the Darling and Murray meet. Wentworth was established in 1859 by the 1890s there were 92 paddle steamers working the Darling. This quickly increased between 1890 and 1900 when Wentworth became the largest river port in Australia with over 400 craft using it in a year. Captain Charles Sturt named the Murray River on 23 January 1830 from the vantage point of the junction of the rivers.

Today the Murray Darling region is known as the Food Bowl of Australia, due in no small part to the rich multicultural tapestry of a society built on pioneering spirit, entrepreneurial bravery and sheer hard work. Today some of the country’s most innovative and exciting agriculture projects are happening right here in the Murray Darling region.

The Murray Darling is a vast region stretching from north west Victoria and western New South Wales. The Murray Darling region is the second largest wine region in Australia.

Duxton Vineyards have three locations throughout the New South Wales side of the Murray Darling region in EustonWentworth and Coomealla.

Situated between Swan Hill (Victoria) and Mildura (Victoria), Euston (NSW) is located on a beautiful serene stretch of the Murray River nestled on the opposite bank from Robinvale (Victoria) which is a key centre for table grape and vegetable production.

The township of Euston was founded in 1846 on the site of Boomiarcool Station and was named after a mansion in Suffolk, England. From the 1850’s the town developed as a river port and was devoted to wool production. Grapes have been grown in the district for over a century.

Gol Gol is a small township of 700 people located between Euston and Mildura. The name Gol Gol means ‘meeting place’ and was named by the local Aboriginal people. In 1886 the township was officially proclaimed and today it is an important regional centre for irrigated horticulture and viticulture.

The main population centre of the Murray Darling region is the rural city of Mildura (Victoria). With a district population approaching 60,000, Mildura is known for its food, wine, rich red earth and vast patchwork of vines. It was Canadian brothers George and William Chaffey in 1887 who established the first irrigation schemes in Australia right here in Mildura and in the neighbouring South Australian Riverland.

Mildura is the gateway to the Mungo National Park and the World Heritage Willandra Lakes. With a genuine claim as the birthplace of civilization and home to the world’s oldest known ritual burial and oldest living culture, scientists have uncovered artefacts dating back over 50,000 years across the last ice age.

THE RIVERS

The Darling River finds it origins 2844 km north of Wentworth where one of its tributaries begins in the Darling Downs in Queensland.  Most of the course of the Darling flows through plains so the average gradient of the river is just 16mm per kilometre, meaning its waters meander slowly south to meet the Murray, usually only fully flowing in flood years.

The Murray Darling River System is one of the largest in the world.  Its catchment area covers 1,062,025 square kilometres or approximately one seventh of the total area of mainland Australia

The Murray River is the longest river in Australia at 2508 kilometres in length and flows through three states, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.  In New South Wales, it joins the Darling River at Wentworth.

THE CHAFFEY BROTHERS

George and William Benjamin (WB) Chaffey were developing an irrigation settlement in Ontario, California when they heard of Victorian Cabinet Minister Alfred Deakin’s visit to the region. Deakin was appointed by the Victorian parliament to visit America on a fact-finding mission.

The Chaffeys’ model irrigation settlement impressed Deakin, who in turn impressed them with the potential for irrigation from the Murray River in Australia.

The Chaffey brothers subsequently came to Australia and after protracted negotiation, in 1887 purchased the then defunct pastoral lease and created the Mildura Irrigation Colony. The indenture was signed on 31 May 1887 between the State Government and the Chaffey brothers.

The Chaffey’s adapted the plan of Ontario to the present site of Mildura. They developed a series of steam-driven pumps to lift water from the Murray River, first into King’s Billabong then subsequently to various heights to irrigate up to 33,000 acres.

Their plans included many visionary concepts for the community which extended beyond the irrigation scheme itself including a locally resourced agricultural college. Prominent locations were made available for churches and facilities for clubs were encouraged. Parks and town transport were considered – together this gave us the picturesque centre plantation of Deakin Avenue, surely one of the finest thoroughfares in Australia. Lanes and streets were laid out in all the town planning making Mildura the beautiful inland oasis it is.

GEOGRAPHY

Climate

Although the distance between the eastern and western extremity of the region is in excess of 350 kilometres climate throughout is virtually identical. It is hot, with long sunshine hours, low humidity and negligible growing season rainfall, making irrigation essential. The Continental influence is strong, with high shifts in diurnal temperature ranges, however, these shifts are insufficient to make spring frosts a problem. Disease pressures are also low.

Soil

The soil is unique to the Murray River system and is known technically as calcareous earth, ranging from brown to red-brown loamy sand, sandy loam or loam. The surface is neutral to moderately alkaline with increasing alkalinity at depth as textures become more clayey and calcareous. Overall, the soil in combination with carefully applied irrigation supports strong, balanced vines and consistent crop yields. The especially calcareous sites give great chalky texture to white wines while the heavier soils can produce distinctive reds.

Vital Statistics:

Map Coordinates: 34° 10’S
Altitude: 55 – 70 metres (180 – 229 feet)
Heat degree days, October – April: 2150 – 2240 (cut off at 19ºC (66.2ºF) but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall October – April: 130 – 150 millimetres (5.1 – 5.9 inches)
Mean January temperature: 23.7º C (74.6ºF)
Relative humidity, October – April, 3 pm: Average 30%
Grape Harvest: Late January – mid March

A COUPLE OF LITTLE FAST FACTS

Mildura means ‘red earth’ in the Aboriginal language of the Latje Latje people

Wentworth was one of the locations .Considered for the Australian capital at the time of Federation

The Murray Darling region is home to ancient saline aquifers which are used to produce the award-winning Murray River Salt (pink salt).

The Mildura region grows:

98% of Australia’s dried vine fruit
75% of table grapes
66% of almonds
48% of pistachios
9% of asparagus
13% of carrots
24% of citrus
23% wine grape crush
10% of melons

The first wine grape varieties planted in Mildura included Mataro, Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat Gordo Blacno and Shiraz, planted in 1888.

The first vintage was harvested, and winery established in 1891.

Sources: Wine Australia, Visit Wentworth, Visit Mildura, Destination NSW, The Chaffey Trail

Images supplied courtesy of Mildura Tourism.