My Days of Wine

1970 Vintage Crush 32981 tonnes

A record which stood until 1980

Allocation was 16,043 tonnes to Wine, Not including S.V.R and 16,938 tonnes to Spirit. Ratio 48.64%

Average Baume 11.62° (including Sultana)

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No. 9 Bin and Gradon -Whitehill Roller Crusher installed with the infamous Pinnacle Centrifugal Pump. Ivor Noske was ballistic with blockages and decreed the "Bloody Thing" would never pump. Mauri Bros installed this type of centrifugal pump at Karadoc for the 1974 vintage and the result was the same. Have photo from Butt Reece with workshop personnel in the bin and one from Howard Penrhyn's album. I believe it was for the 1970 vintage.

Another trial this vintage was to use the 50,000 stainless steel gallon tanks as red fermenters. Free run juice was chilled through the Ultracooler and we maintained a 15° Centigrade temperature. Some 50 tonnes of grapes were crushed to the tank after yeast culture had been introduced to provide a blanket of carbon dioxide in the tank and then cooling was commenced to bring the contents down to 15° Centigrade. At this time, the delivery of Red varietals, of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Malbec were usually in the heat of the day.

At this time we were using the A.W.R.I. Strain 729 (Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. ellipsoides). We had established over the preceding vintages that this yeast converted acetic acid to ethyl alcohol and for these vintages our table wines, both white and red had residual levels 0.15-0.20 grams per litre of volatile acid expressed as acetic acid. In the early Cabernet Sauvignon days we were desperate for quantity and there were some small deliveries that were damaged and we took the chance and pumped the crushed destemmed grapes into an active ferment. Result was that volatile acid concentration was reduced to the above sound level.

No. 10 Crusher installation with receival bin and a F. Miller & Co. Roller Crusher/Destemmer was approved for the the 1971vintage. This installation was for the processing red grapes for both wine and grape juice. The must pump was a 4 inch diameter open throat Mono pump.

A further two 50,000 gallons 316 grade stainless steel tanks were installed by Agricultural and General of Griffith, giving a total of fourteen .


Minutes 22nd December 1970

Auto Filling Machine $10,220
Labeling Machine $4,668
Corking Machine $4,435
Forklift $?
Ivor Noske finished!!

In 1969 Brian and I were fathers' of sons, Judson Watt-Barry in March and Trent Llewellyn Williams in May and we took this vintage as a celebration for our decisions and visions for the 1967-1970 period and perhaps for the benefit of the Company in the future.

We installed the 600 HP Cleaverbrook plus the second stainless steel continuous still.


1971 Vintage Crush 25561 tonnes

Aerial photo in 1971 shows No.10 Crusher. My diary notes also refers to maintenance on No.10, so was operational for 1971 vintage.

Allocation was 12,794 tonnes to Wine and 12,767 tonnes to Spirit. Ratio 50.05%

Average Baume 12.52° (including Sultana)

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New continuous still installed to cater for increased amounts of DM and to prevent alcohol loss during storage time due to microbiological spoilage. Also larger volumes of contract DM were being processed. We opted for a four column unit consisting of a stripping column, a purifying column, a rectifier and heads column. This unit would distil 2,500 gallons of wine equivalent to 500 proof per hour (1300 L'al per hour).

We also trialed a 150 square foot Canberra earth-filter built by Pinnacle Engineering Co. Brian was keen to try the filtration of grape juice prior to fermentation to perhaps enhance the quality of our table wines. The post vintage results were rather amazing and our customers' appreciation confirmed that this was the way forward to improve the quality of our table wines. Check with IJM

Convinced by the marvelous improvement to the overall result of the 1970 vintage we took a punt and ordered this very large and experimental unit from Pinnacle Engineering Company. With a filtration area of 450 square feet It certainly did the job and revolutionised our wine handling process. God knows what the accountants thought, but we could centrifuge a fermented table wine, both white and red, earth filter to remove yeast and germ proof pad filter to storage. Previously we used to bentonite fine the dry reds which was an added cost with materials and handling and also resulted in a loss of product to a lees volume that would have to be distilled. The wines, with proper attention to free SO2 content, would be stable until the next movement. It was a great step forward in our process.

At this time, over a number of years, we had installed bottom man-ways and stainless steel racking valves on all Block 3 Tanks. Our practice was to have all the tanks re-waxed prior to vintage and could be properly sterilised and ready for the new vintage table wines. From this mix of wines we would submit samples to our large customer list. Once the decisions were made by the purchasers we would then proceed to blend, dispatch, and of course, maintain the wines in the best possible condition until transfers to the customers were all completed.

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At some period after the 1971 vintage, Mick Auld, Director of the Burnside Cooperage in Adelaide, spoke to Brian regards a shipment of German oak timber. Mick felt the oak had a broad range of the Family Quercus flavours and had been well seasoned. In September Brian gained permission from the Board of Directors and ordered 100 hogsheads at $59.50 each, for delivery in time for the start of the 1972 vintage. What followed from that remains a marvelous piece of winemaking and history for the Company.


1972 Vintage Crush 23096 tonnes

Allocation was 12,603 tonnes to Wine and 10,493 tonnes to Spirit. Ratio 54.57%

Average Baume 12.7° (including Sultana)

I retired from the position as Cellarmaster of Berri Wine and Food Club and Ian McKenzie took on the job.

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We took a punt on making a dry white wine with the White Hermitage grape which has now been identified as Trebbianno. For a few years we had been converting this variety to dry white and it showed promise with a delicate fragrant nose and interesting palate characteristics.

Some twenty or thirty casks were used to carry out the fermentation of a batch of Trebbianno filtered juice which had been seeded with the once famous #729 A.W.R.I strain, and we fermented at 10° Centigrade via an Ultracooler heat exchanger until dryness. The wine was then centrifuged, earth and pad filtered, stabilised, sterile filtered and then bottled using the best quality cork plus a Stelvin ROPP closure.

I was judging at the Riverland Wine Show at Loxton Winery in 1982, and in one of the table wine classes, I recognised the Berri 1972 Trebbianno. Still fresh and full of flavour. I checked the cork and it was completely saturated and the wine had been saved by the secondary ROPP closure. There have been rumblings about the effect of the trend to Stelvin caps at the time of writing and let's hope the situation can be solved.

The balance of the German oak casks were used to mature a selection of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Malbec dry reds. From these wines which were tasted weekly, and even twice in a week towards the end of their time in oak, was the Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend that was awarded the "Jimmy Watson" Trophy at the 1973 Melbourne Wine Show. The first and only "River" wine ever to win the award.


Minutes 26th July 1972

100 German Oak Hogsheads @ $77 each
80 American Oak Hogsheads @ $53 each
100 German Oak Hogsheads @ $60 each


1973 Vintage Crush 23412 tonnes

Allocation was 13,113 tonnes to Wine and 10,299 tonnes to Spirit. Ratio 56.01%

Average Baume 12.23° (including Sultana)

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New Bottling Facility and Warehouse commenced in 1973 to replace the operation in the Barrel Shed at Rear of Block 4/5.

W. V. Gillard 1922-23, 1
J. C. Cheriton 1923-1933, 2
W. N. Ellis 1933-35, 3
A. H. Kelly 1935-1945, 4
F. J. Cocks 1945-1956, 5
J. H. Brown 1956-67, 6
R. D. Stone 1976-1970, 7
W. J. Harris 1970-1986, 8

I resigned from BCWD and started with Mauri Bros as Company Oenologist in July 1973.

Prior to that I had asked Cec. Lever on a number of occasions to provide me with an assistant. I asked again and no result. During the preceding 18 months Val Solly, Manager of Pinnacle Engineering Co. had asked me if I would consider joining their firm. It was one of those difficult decisions that you make and I decided to accept the offer. The immediate need was to find a place to live and we purchased a property at 6 Marshall Street in the Berri township.

On the final day in the process of moving out the last of the furniture etc my then mother-in-law, Gladys Crocker, was crossing a road to attend the local weight-watchers meeting and she was hit by a vehicle and subsequently died that evening.

With the ensuing events I missed my farewell at Berri and never got to say thank you to all of my workmates. I can still remember Cec Lever asking me would I stay if he gave me an assistant and I could only refuse because I had accepted Mauri's offer, purchased a house, etc.

After settling in at Marshall Street, I then went to Sydney to be introduced to the staff and the system.

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