Growing Isabella Grapes since 1863 to create a good drop!

Updated: Mar 11

✦ An unusual offering, exclusive to Douglas Vale Homestead & Vineyard, is their 1821 Portabella. It's been over 150 years since George Francis planted Isabella vines on his property in Port Macquarie. His vines went in at Douglas Vale in 1863.

Mr Francis put a quarter of his 18 hectare property under vines. As there was no refrigeration back then all wines were fortified, commonly known as port. He called his Portabella. The name remains to this day and is the main wine produced and sold by Douglas Vale Historic Homestead & Vineyard.



As nobody kept a bottle, it is uncertain if there is much of a difference between the two vintages. History tells us though, that the Portabella wine produced by Mr Francis was a good drop back then; it won International wine awards from the vines that remain at the vineyard today.

Mr Francis was winning awards in Bordeaux in 1882, in Amsterdam in 1883, in London in 1886.

His sons weren't keen on continuing in their father's footsteps, but his daughter was.


Margaret Wilson was an amazing lady by all accounts, the winemaker at her father’s winery for the last 20 years of its operations. Margaret is the most documented vigneron of the 1880s. She kept detailed diaries describing the vintage, sugar content, diseases and pests that affected the grapes, and climatic conditions.


All that remained when the Conservation Group at Douglas Vale formed in 1995 to restore and conserve the property, were three of the original vines.


From those three original vines, in 1988 the group started to replant the vineyard. Fast forward to 2022 and the first nine rows are of the Isabella from the 1900s.


Run entirely by Volunteers


Douglas Vale Historic Homestead & Vineyard is the only volunteer run property of it's kind in Australia. The group’s aim is to continue to preserve this iconic site as a working museum and vineyard for future generations.

Douglas Vale in addition to the Isabella grape, now also grows Chambourcin, a red grape, and Villard Blanc, a white grape, both French hybrids.


We spoke with Ron, one of the volunteers who poured us a glass of Portabella from the 2013 harvest for a tasting.

He told us, “ The wine has some very different characteristics. It's gone from being a light Ruby style port to a full blown proper tawny port, different in colour, and different in taste. If you're fond of a good full strong port, this might be just the one for you.”

The fortified wine produced from Douglas Vale’s dark purple heirloom grape variety “Isabella” has been wood matured in oak casks for two years. A tawny colour, this is a simple fruity style Portobella that will continue to improve with cellaring. Perfect for your after dinner enjoyment.


The Homestead and Vineyard operates through the day, providing tastings of all the different wines that they have made from the grapes grown on the grounds.

“So we have a range from the original portabella made from black Isabella grapes through to our range from Chambourcin, a rose, a straight Chambourcin and a Heritage Red." Ron said. "And then we also have two very, very nice white wines that we make from the Villard Seyval hybrid known as Villard Blanc, a variety suited to our humid north coast climate and one we call the white cockatoo. Named after the family’s pet cockatoo, this white wine is a blend of Villard Blanc and Chardonnay.”

The homestead and its curtilage are classified by the National Trust of Australia and it is included in the Port Macquarie/Hastings Council list of Heritage sites.


Volunteers Wanted


Being a not-for-profit organisation run totally by volunteers, Douglas Vale welcomes new volunteers, so if you have some free time please consider dropping in for a chat. More hands make light work!


Be part of the team preserving historical Douglas Vale.


Contact


Douglas Vale Historic Homestead & Vineyard

Phone: 02 6584 3792 Email: Secretary@douglasvale.com.au

Website: www.douglasvale.com.au

Address: 235 Oxley Highway, Port Macquarie NSW 2444, Australia

Self guided tours of our Museum & Grounds, Wine Tastings & Cheese platters are available on: Wednesday: 10:00am – 3:00pm Saturday: 10:00am – 3:00pm

Sunday: 10:00am - 3.00pm Group Tours, Tastings and Functions by arrangement