National Geographic : 1967 Nov
Murray Tyrrell, manager of Tyrrell Vine yards Pty. Ltd., uses rockets to dissipate hail in threatening storms. "About those rockets," said Murray, who at 40 looked more like a researcher in the south stacks of a college library than a vint ner. "The theory is that discharging silver iodide among dust particles in the clouds pre vents ice from forming; hence, no hail." One of many viticulturists in the Hunter Valley, Tyrrell plants 90 acres. His 1966 wine output: 14,800 gallons of red, 10,300 of white. But Please Don't Call It Burgundy "Until the early 1950's," he told me, "we didn't sell much wine." "Then," I guessed, "postwar immigration of wine-loving Europeans put you in business?" "No," said Murray, "it wasn't that. Just a growing sophistication. After the war, Aus tralians traveled more widely than ever be fore, and they developed a taste for wine." Beer-excellent beer-is still the national drink. But wine has become increasingly pop ular. What's more, this nation takes pride and pleasure in its own vineyards. For example: "Please don't call that red wine a Bur 624 gundy," said a wine grower. "It's a Hunter River dry red-an Australian wine." On a far larger scale than the Hunter Val ley, the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Areas in south-central New South Wales grow grapes and make wine. The state's biggest irrigation project, MIA also produces other fruits, in cluding citrus, and half of Australia's total rice production of 170,000 tons a year. In a small plane piloted by 25-year-old Greg Searls, I flew over the 450,000-acre patchwork of blue, green, and yellow that is the MIA-blue for canals, green for vine yards and orchards, yellow for ripening rice. Two market towns, Griffith and Leeton, floated like little islands in this sea of fertility. We landed at Griffith and drove to Wes Kircut's farm. Wes was harvesting 120 acres of rice. He'd get about three tons per acre. "This year," Wes said, "I sowed half the acreage by plane, and it took only two hours. Ground sowing the other half took three days." No doubt about it, the small plane is a boon to rural New South Wales-a mechani cal advantage not only for farmers but for travelers like me, wanting to see as much of this big state as possible in a limited time.