A silver medal produced by the Department of Agriculture, Victoria as a generic agricultural prize medal. This example was used for the Warrnambool Industrial & Art Exhibition and won by Hans Irvine for 'Champion Red Wine for export', 1896 - 97.

Hans William Henry Irvine, born in Melbourne in 1856, was a successful vigneron and politician, and was known as the 'wine king of Australia'. His largest holding was the Great Western winery, which he owned from 1888-1918. In the early 1890s Irvine purchased two-thirds of the produce of local vignerons, much of which was distilled into his brandy. He also became known for his claret, hock, chablis, burgundy, hermitage, sparkling hock and sparking burgandy. He was an effective self-promoter, and in 1982 entertained the Victorian governor in lavish style. He also pioneered wine advertising. Irvine was particularly interested in the science of wine-making, and used the latest technologies in his cellars. These contributed to his success at a time when so many other Victorian wine-makers were struggling.

In 1892 he was commissioned by the Victorian minister of agriculture to write a report on the Australian wine trade. Two years later he suggested a conference of vignerons to discuss problems facing the industry, and supported the proposal for a college of viticulture and the introduction of phylloxera-resistant American root stocks. He encouraged industry self-regulation through an elected board, the establishment of regional wineries and cheaper finance for investors in the wine industry. He travelled to Europe several times to learn wine-making techniques and arrange sales.

Irvine's wine was judged at the Warrnambool Industrial & Art Exhibition by Mr W. J. Seabrook. There were so many entries in the wine section that Mr Seabrook 'was occupied for the greater part of the day in tasting the exhibits and it was not until late in the evening that he completed his work' (Warrnambool Standard, 19/1/1897, quoted in O'Callaghan, E., The Great Warrnambool Exhibition, p.102).

Warrnambool was a prosperous town in 1896. It had a population of 6,500, with a further 9,200 living within the Warrnambool Shire boundaries. It was a popular holiday destination and boasted well-established industries including food processing.

The Exhibition was held on the site of the Warrnambool Town Hall, in the hall itself and specially-erected buildings; the Art Gallery and School of Arts rooms were also used. The Patron of the Exhibition was the Governor of Victoria, Lord Brassey; the President of the Exhibition was the Mayor, Cr Walter Hickford. The Exhibition buildings covered 31,500 square feet, with a further 14,000 square feet of outdoor space. It opened on Monday 21 December 1896, declared a local public holiday. The Exhibition featured a range of competitions: musicals and recitations, map drawing, ironing, wood-chopping, butter and other dairy produce, domestic produce such as cakes, breads and confectionary, and wine and beer. It closed on 19 March 1897.

"The Irvine Wine Collection was acquired by Museum Victoria in 1989. It represents the history of the Great Western Vineyard and the achievements of Hans William Henry Irvine, vigneron and politician, from 1888 until 1922. It comprises 130 items ranging from publications, marketing items, packaging materials, wine labels, award medals, ceramics, illuminated address, commemorative trowel, trophy plaques, wine makers tools, and silverware."

Physical Description

A silver medal (47 mm diameter) produced by the Department of Agriculture, Victoria as a generic prize medal, this example used for the Warrnambool exhibition of 1896-97 and won by Hans Irvine for Red Wine. It features a rural scene of cows and sheep with a farmer and his wife driving a two-horse, four-wheeled vehicle in the background with the motto INDUSTRIA NIHIL IMPOSSIBILE (with work nothing is impossible) all surrounded by farm machinery, wheat and grape vines.

Obverse Description

Rural scene of cows and sheep with a farmer and his wife driving a two-horse four-wheeled vehicle in the background, with the motto INDUSTRIA NIHIL IMPOSSIBILE (with work nothing is impossible) on ribbon; all surrounded by DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE VICTORIA and farm machinery, wheat and grape vines.

Reverse Description

Within an olive wreath (engraved), Warrnambool Exhibition 1896-7 CHAMPION RED WINE for export Hans Irvine Great Western Vineyard

Edge Description


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