In the late 1830s, the British colonial government of Australia had a problem. There was a continual stream of settlers–the ex-convicts who had served their time in the prison colonies–but they were nearly all from the city. What was needed for Australia to become a self-sustaining colony was farmers. Colonial officers heard of a group of skilled farmers from Germany who wanted to emigrate due to religious persecution. These were “old Lutherans” who refused to go along with the liberal theology of the state church in Prussia and other principalities. (Others went to North America where they founded the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.)
The colonial government offered these Lutheran immigrants good farmland along the Murray River in South Australia, in the country surrounding Adelaide, including the Barossa Valley. These farmers soon realized that the soil and climate were just right for growing grapes. Thus began the Australian wine industry.
Others too began making wine, and today big corporations are sending rivers of Australian wine throughout the world. But the best wines are made by small, family-run wineries, many of which are still made by Lutherans who go to churches that are sometimes built right next to the vineyards. (As in this photo of Zion Lutheran Church next to the Hill of Grace vineyards.) There are some 50 wineries in the Barossa Valley in an area of just 352 square miles, as well as some 550 vineyards that supply grapes for 170 other Australian wine companies. Nearly all of the wineries are open to visitors and offer free samples. (Check out this page on Lutheran winemakers and see some of the wines they make. This organization, started by TV wine expert Tyson Seltzer, himself an active Lutheran, supports Lutheran congregations.) [Read more…]