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Monday, 24 September 1906


Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania) . - The statement made by the Minister of Defence, that there was a general desire on the part of wine-growers examined bv the Tariff Commission that we should allow wine to be fortified to the extent of 40 per cent., was not quite accurate.


Senator Playford - A good many expressed that view.


Senator CLEMONS - Many of the winegrowers examined bv the Tariff Commission had grave doubts on the point. For instance. I find, on referring to the report of the Commission, that Mr. de Castella, one of the best wine-growers in Victoria, said -

If a wine only contains 23 per cent, of alcohol, and is fortified up to 31 per cent., it will never ferment any more ; it requires the addition of 10 per cent, of alcohol -

That is over and above 23 per cent, of alcohol - in order that it may be kept.

In other words, he considered that if wine contained 33 per cent, of alcohol it could be safely kept. That being so, fortification to the extent of 35 per cent, should be sufficient. One of the most capable witnesses before the Commission was the Victorian Government Viticultural expert, Mr. Burney, who said -

If the wine were not fortified up to the extent of 32 per cent, or 35 per cent, of alcohol, it would probably ferment and become undrinkable.

He did not say that it should be fortified to the extent of 40 per cent.


Senator Playford - He is not an exporter of wine.


Senator CLEMONS - But he is an expert.


Senator Playford - The honorable senator should question such makers of port wine in South Australia as Mr. Smith, of Yalumba.


Senator CLEMONS - With every respect to the vignerons of South Australia, I may say that we had no more competent witness to advise us than the Government expert of Victoria.


Senator Trenwith - Does the Minister merely desire that permission shall be given to fortify wine up to the point at which fermentation will cease, or does he wish permission to be given to fortify up to the point necessary to make it popular abroad? From, his interjection, I think that he !vis the latter object in view.


Senator CLEMONS - There may be something in that. Mr. V. R. Gosche, of Sydney, manager for Thos. Hardy and Sons, dealt with the necessity for fortifying wine to prevent fermentation, and said that -

Fortification up to 30 or 32 per cent, is necessary on this account. The Act fixes the limit at 35 per cent., which I think is rather excessive; hut we have nothing to say against it, as it allows a margin.

I do not think it necessary to make further quotations from the. report. I have shown that three competent witnesses were evidently of opinion that fortification up to 35 per cent, was sufficient. If we allow wine to be fortified up to 40 per cent., it will be sought after chiefly .by those who desire a strong alcoholic drink. I do not think we desire to encourage the production of wine for that purpose.


Senator Playford - We desire to encourage the export trade.


Senator CLEMONS - My own view of the- evidence given before the Commission is that it shows that Australia will not make a name for her wines abroad by exporting such highly fortified wines as sherries and ports.


Senator Playford - An immense quantity of port from Portugal and Spain is consumed in London. It is all fortified up to 45 per cent.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - It is not so highly fortified.


Senator CLEMONS - I do not think it is. If Australia is to gain a name abroad for her wines, she must export the better class of light wines which do not need to be fortified up to 40 per cent.


Senator Playford - There is no great demand for light wines in England.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - There is. The great bulk of our export trade relates to claret and the light burgundies.


Senator CLEMONS - In England, the greatest demand is for light wines, and not for ports and sherries.


Senator Playford - Not ports and sherries, but heavy burgundies.


Senator CLEMONS - Of which class of wine does the Minister expect the public to consume the largest quantity? Does he expect them to favour port, a tumblerfull of which no man can safely drink, or the light wines which may, or ought to be, drunk with impunity?


Senator Playford - Everything depends upon the thirst of the man.


Senator CLEMONS - It would be a strange thirst that would require a tumbler of port to satisfy it. I am afraid that if the honorable senator were to take a tumbler of port he could not continue to conduct the proceedings of the Committee, though he might be able to take a quart of Australian light wine, and be all the better for it. If fortification to the extent of 40 per cent, overproof is allowed, Australian vignerons will, from my point of view, be turning out. a wine containing an excessive amount of alcohol, whilst if we cut down the strength overproof to 35 per cent., as I think we should, we shall do something to secure the manufacture in Australia of good light wine which, I think, this country can best produce. I move -

That paragraphs b and c be left out.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [5.22]. - No one will say that I am likely to be loth to do everything possible to increase the production of Australian wines, not merely for local consumption, but also for export. I believe the wine industry to be most suitable to Australia. I have strong enthusiasm for its extension, and I believe that it should be extended . in every possible way, and that markets for it should be sought everywhere. I regard every increase of the 35 per cent, to which, under the Distillation Act, Australian wine may be fortified as extremely dangerous. I am glad to have heard the quotations made from the evidence given before the Tariff Commission, because they support mv own view that it is entirely unnecessary that there should be any increase beyond the 35 per cent, now permitted. Honorable senators will recollect that that percentage was arrived at in 1901, after a great deal of investigation. I know that the then Minister of Trade and Customs, Mr. Kingston, took an immensity of trouble in his efforts to fix a fair and safe limit, and he reached that eventually in the provision made for fortification to the extent of 35 "per cent, over proof . The object of fortifying wine is to prevent the possibility of a fresh fermentation. That is all. You do not fortify wine in order that you may supply to consumers a blend of wine and spirit.


Senator McGregor - Because you would not get the price for it.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That is quite true, but we have heard of people drinking a mixture of port wine and dark brandy for certain complaints. That, however, does not indicate the object of fortifying wine. The sole object is to prevent the possibility of a second fermentation. The question is: How can that be accomplished ? It was determined when the Distillation Act was passed that, to permit of fortification, to the extent of 35 per cent, over proof would be sufficient to prevent wine going bad by a second fermentation, and also to allow some margin. The evidence taken by the Tariff Commission establishes that absolutely. One witness said that 32 per cent., and another that 33 per cent, would be ample, and the representatives of Hardy and Sons Limited, the great wine producers in South Australia, stated that 35 per cent, was more than sufficient, but as it allowed a margin it might be considered a fair thing. There is, therefore, no necessity for the proposed increase. If the object of the increase be to enable people to obtain a blend of wine and brandy to drink, it ought not to be encouraged or even tolerated. The high natural strength of our Australian wines usually preserves them from a second fermentation, if they are properly fermented and made in the first instance.


Senator Trenwith - That is without fortification at all.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Yes. I mav tell honorable senators that the improved methods and equipment of the vignerons enables this to be accomplished without any difficulty. However, in the case of the heavier class of wines exported, we cannot always trust to that, and it is necessary that spirit should be used not merely for. the purpose of making .port or sherry in the ordinary way, but for the purpose of making it travel, so to speak - of protecting it from fermentation in transit. But we do not require the opportunity to fortify up to 40 per cent, over proof for that purpose. The statement is made that wines of this class imported to Australia are between 35 and 40 per cent, over proof, but even if that should be so, we should not permit Australian wines, merely for the purpose of enabling them to compete with such, wines, to be fortified up to that extent. The danger is that, by this provision, we should allow immature and inferior wines to be made palatable to a certain class of consumers by the introduction of spirits to an extent which would overpower what we might call the wine quality of the liquor, and produce an exceedingly deleterious article. The Minister of Defence has said that the cost would be a safeguard against that being done unduly. We know that it has been done, and that many of .the wine-shops have, in consequence, been a curse to the country. Much as I desire the wine industry to be extended, I cannot help saying that many of the wine-shops have done great injury, simply because they" "have encouraged the sale of immature wines which have been fortified to a high degree. The Minister says that the production of this wine spirit would cost about 4s. a gallon, but that would mean that six bottles could be produced for 4s., and if the quality of the wines is diguised and overpowered by the introduction of strong spirit, we know what the consequences must be to those who consume them. I object to the proposal, because I agree with the evidence given to the Tariff Commission that it is not necessary, in the interests of winegrowers, and because it is calculated to be dangerous to the wine-growing industry itself and to the community in country districts, where it is difficult to control the quality of the liquor retailed to the public. I venture to think that we should avoid any increase of the 35 per cent, provided for by the Distillation Act if we desire to do the best we can for Australian wine production. If a case can be made, and none has been yet, for the fortification to the extent proposed of wines of a particular class for export, the provision should be administered with great care and under very special restrictions. In connexion with some statements which have been made, I may say that I happen to know that the bulk of the consumption of Australian wines in the old country has not been of sherries and ports.


Senator McGregor - Because we have never been able to send them.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - We have been able to send them, but we cannot compete with the continental wines of that class, which are up to a standard almost unchallengeable. We can produce hock, claret, chablis. and other light wines of that kind to compete with any light wines of European production. It is Australian wine of that class that is most largely consumed in England - with this qualification, that there is also a very considerable consumption of Australian fullbodied red wines, a medium between a fullbodied claret and burgundy, but I may tell honorable senators that such wines are sent to the merchants, who blend them, very often with wines that have never seen Australia at all. Therefore, we should be very careful what we do.







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