Wines, vines and passing time

Mike Zekulich is well versed in the history of the Swan Valley.
Mike Zekulich is well versed in the history of the Swan Valley.

The area was our first wine growing region and the second oldest in Australia after the Barossa Valley.

Various phases and changes have swept through the Valley over the past two centuries but the flow of wine has remained a constant theme and this year the region celebrates its 180th year of winemaking.

As part of the occasion, Swan Valley-raised author and icon of the Valley Mike Zekulich has finished one of the most detailed history books of the area to date, titled The History of Winemaking in the Swan Valley.

The history book project was commissioned by the Swan Valley and Regional Winemakers Association last year and is set for release in late July.

As a media veteran with a wine niche, author of several wine books and a family history dating back 100 years in the Swan Valley, Zekulich was an obvious choice to author the book.

His grandfather, a Croatian immigrant, arrived at the Swan Valley in March 1916, and with three other southern European families established vineyards.

‘They set about building on the early foundations established by the British pioneers,’ Zekulich said.

‘The advantage of the Croatians, especially those from Dalmatia, was they had great skills in viticulture and understood how to make wine from the fruit they grew. This was a huge fillip for the industry.’

The seven chapters in the book represent significant eras such as the arrival and influence of the southern Europeans in the Swan Valley.

‘None of the other wine areas around Australia had an emphasis on the southern Europeans coming and being a part of it like the Swan Valley did,’ he said.

‘There were some southern Europeans elsewhere but generally speaking they came to the Swan Valley where the climate was conducive and that’s also where the ships came in.’

While the Swan Valley remains steeped in WA history, Zekulich said the book would also dedicate significant space to speculate the future of the winemaking region.

He said the future of the Valley was in safe hands and the energy and enthusiasm of newcomers was promising.

‘They’ve brought in new equipment to produce the elegant wines consumers want, rather than the high-alcohol, old-fashioned wines.

‘They’re also producing newer styles that modern day consumers demand.

‘Many have invested in new technology like airconditioned cellars, must chillers, stainless steel tanks, which has helped make better wines than ever before.’

However, other contributors such as City of Swan Mayor Charlie Zannino, viticultural research scientist John Gladstones, winemaker Daniel Pinelli and Sandalford Wines owner Peter Prendiville also offer their insights into the future.

Zekulich said there would be a few surprises in the book. As for any hints ” readers will need to buy the book or wait to hear it through the grapevine.