A former gold mining town, Rutherglen is best known as the centre of Victoria’s long established wine producing district. Located in the easterly corner of the Murray River valley plains, Rutherglen is 275km north east of Melbourne via the Hume Freeway and just 10km from the Murray River, which forms the state border. In addition to wine production, tourism, wheat-production, wool, dairy products and stock farming further support the local economy. The population is approximately 2500.
The land around Rutherglen was once occupied by the Whroo people, a subgroup of the Bangerang tribe who lived a life based around the Murray River. It was estimated that there were 1200 Bangerang in 1841. European settlement began when the explorers Hume and Hovell crossed the Murray in November 1824. By 1845 the whole area was taken up by squatters’ runs.
The first vines had been planted in the Rutherglen district in the 1850’s and the wine industry was well under way by 1865. It had greatly improved by the end of the 1870’s, by which time wine was being exported to Europe, winning a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1878.
Meanwhile in September 1860, the gold rush had started when a deep lead was found underground on the present site of Rutherglen. The township of Barkly sprang up, however, it was subsequently re-named Rutherglen in October after the Scottish birthplace of John Wallace, who set up the Star Hotel (the first major establishment in the town).
As with agriculture, the enhanced market access provided by the railway proved crucial to the wine industry which greatly expanded in the early 1880’s and flourished until 1899, when phylloxera was first noted in the local vines. This led to the virtual destruction of the wine industry at the beginning of the 20th century.
Nonetheless, the industry did not disappear, thanks largely to the Viticultural College which was established in the 1890s. The college began providing American vine stock resistant to the incursions of the mite. Thus, the industry struggled on and began flourishing again after the first wine festival in 1967.
Today, there are over 20 wineries within the Rutherglen region. The area is an important visitor destination with an emphasis on cellar doors and wine tourism, coupled with its many restaurants which showcase the very best regional produce.
Rutherglen Wine Experience & Visitor Information Centre
Winemakers of Rutherglen
Corowa Visitor Information Centre
North East Valleys Victoria Visitor Information
Destination Albury Wodonga
Rutherglen Wine Show
A+ Australian Wine