by Fred McMillin
for June 22, 1998

Hurrah for Victoria


June 20, 1837—Alexandrina Victoria becomes Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. She ruled for 63 years, the longest of any British monarch.

The Rest of the Story

This weekend marked the 161st anniversary of Queen Victoria's ascendancy to the throne. It marked the beginning of the U.K.'s greatest years of power, the Victorian Era, named after her. Three years earlier, in far away southern Australia, one Edward Henty planted the first vines in the colony that soon also would be named after her. In fact, local wine was served Nov. 28,1850 at a ball to celebrate the establishment of Victoria Colony, separating it from New South Wales.

What were the wines like? Sweet and fortified (alcohol added). So, my weekend toast to Alexandrina had to be made with a sweet, fortified wine from Victoria. And, you can buy it in the USA.

The Wine

Benjamin Port, Victoria, Australia
Producer—Mildara Blass, Lmtd.
Style—An aged, tawny Port, partly from a solera (aging system) established 30 years ago.
Varietals—Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat and Shiraz (alias Syrah)
Rating—My tasters made it a BEST BUY, since it sells in the $10 range.
The Name—Canadian-born Benjamin Chaffey was hired by the Victoria government in 1887 to build a large irrigation system. He stayed and became a leader of the local wine industry. His efforts were so appreciated that his peers gave him the area's first auto, a 1911 Ford.
Service—This time of year, serve 1 ounces in a small, chilled half cantaloup.
Contact—In the USA, Mildara Blass Wines, Inc., Michael Parkinson, (919) 846-5800, FAX -1447.


Northern California and Victoria have much in common. They are at about the same latitude in their respective hemispheres. When Edward Henty was planting the first Victoria vines, General Mariano Vallejo was becoming the first commercial vintner in northern California. Most suprising, by 1851 both were blessed and cursed by the same phenomenon; in both areas there was a major GOLD RUSH!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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