Great Western, Victoria
Visited by Twain October 19, 1895
Great Western is a town in the east of the Wimmera region of Victoria, Australia. The town is located on the Western Highway, in the Shire of Northern Grampians local government area, 225 kilometres north west of the state capital, Melbourne. The town has a population of 644.
The first European settlers in the Great Western area were sheep graziers in the 1840s and closer settlement began with the discovery of gold during the Victorian gold rush, the Post Office opening on 1 June 1858. . The first vineyards in the Great Western area were established by two Frenchmen who met at the gold diggings at Daylesford. Following their example, Joseph Best and his brother Henry established vineyards in 1865. Following Joseph's death in 1888, the property was purchased by Hans Irvine. Irvine imported staff from France and dedicated himself to establishing a sparkling wine of comparable quality of French champagne. In 1918, Irvine sold the winery to his friend and Australian wine pioneer, Benno Seppelt.
"The Stawell region is not productive of gold only; it has great vineyards, and produces exceptionally fine wines. One of these vineyards—the Great Western, owned by Mr. Irving—is regarded as a model. Its product has reputation abroad. It yields a choice champagne and a fine claret, and its hock took a prize in France two or three years ago. The champagne is kept in a maze of passages under ground, cut in the rock, to secure it an even temperature during the three-year term required to perfect it. In those vaults I saw 120,000 bottles of champagne. " [FTE]