A little piece of Italy

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Mulligan Wongara Vineyard, Cowra, New South Wales

Mulligan Wongara Vineyard, Cowra, New South Wales [©VisitVineyards.com]

Mulligan Wongara Vineyard, Cowra, New South Wales
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Andrew Mulligan of Mulligan Wongara Vineyard, Cowra, NSW [©VisitVineyards.com]

Cowra in New South Wales is probably best known for its POW camp during the war and the famous Japanese breakout in 1943. Many visitors go for the beautiful Japanese War Cemetery and the Japanese Gardens. However for Andrew Mulligan of Mulligan Wongara Vineyard it was the culture brought here by the Italian prisoners that attracted him.

"The Italians went out from the POW camp and worked on farms in the area and they grew olive trees and grapes and they brought a lot of that food and culture to Cowra. Before that people didn’t know what broccoli was and that’s what the Italians had left Cowra and Australia and the world, and that’s what we are trying to recreate here, a little piece of Italy."

Working with literally a blank canvas, they erected a Tuscan tower that can be seen from miles around and planted gardens and lavender as well as an olive grove.

There is also a large function room housing a collection of POW photos from the war. "The walls are surrounded with the Italian POW photos showing activities that the Italians did during the War, from wood chopping to putting on plays and opera and all sorts of things. They really brought a huge sense of culture to Cowra."

The first plantings for the vineyard were entirely experimental. "We planted the grapes in 1993. We put in 10 acres in a trial block just to see how they’d go in this area because there weren’t many grapes here and it took off after that. In 1995 we put another block in and so we’ve got 50 acres now."

Living in Sydney and running the vineyard from there proved hard work. "We had a bad frost in 2001 and were paying someone to look after our vineyard that year, and we were wiped out with the frost. We lost quite a bit of money and we realised that if we were going to have a vineyard, we should move up here and look after it ourselves.

"Cowra is not a very hot climate, the grapes are on a river land, and it’s not a cool climate area, it’s somewhere in between. This brings out a sort of peach melon flavour. Sometimes that can lead to apricot and banana but I think down in the river land you get a more tropical flavour in your wines, and in Orange, say where it’s a cool climate and 300 or 400 metres higher than Cowra, you get much more finer flavours."

The fertile valley produces excellent chardonnay, in fact Cowra chardonnay is premium. "Year after year we’ve just had winemakers remark at how excellent our chardonnay is, and our reds are very promising and coming on all the time. But our Cowra is famous for chardonnay.

"Our wine is very good for early drinking wines. They are not 10 or 20 year wines and that comes more from the fact that our reds are only 10 years old. I’m sure when they’re aged and have 20 years on the vine they’ll produce some more intense strengths."

But for Andrew it all started with the Italians. "Your know I think a lot of those soldiers were more dedicated to their art than the fighting and there were an extraordinary number of them who grew vegetables in the middle of the race track in town, and were very friendly to the locals, so it’s a beautiful relationship they started."



  • Cowra (NSW)
  • Explorer Country (NSW)

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January 15th, 2010
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