Countdown: Blog 137 Final instalment on McLaren Vale history

Thomas Hardy had gained a reputation as an ace wine marketer, but in all other ways the wine industry was not going well. The state was in a tough recession. Domestic sales were plummeting. Exports were a struggle. Dr A C Kelly was the Colonies gun viticulturalist. His first book, The Vine in Australia (1861) was an esteemed text, so well regarded another new Australian vine expert, the Reverend Bleasdale, owned a copy and kept notes in the margins.

Kelly had spend his life studying vines and in his book displayed a deep understanding of making composts, recycling waste and caring for the environment.

Despite of his knowledge, and the backing of many prominent Adelaidean’s like Charles Kingston, Kelly’s wine venture was not going well.

He had his first try at planting vines in 1842 at Morphett Vale, too far from transport and at 12 acres too small to make itself pay. His second venture, planting a vineyard at Tintara and forming a wine company lasted barely twenty years.

Kelly was not alone. During the 1860’s the McLaren Valleys oldest winery, Hope Farm owned by George Manning had a cellar full of wine he couldn’t sell. He kept stockpiling wine.

It was only the young punk Thomas Hardy with his gold field money and his knack for marketing in the UK that kept the industry going. First he brought out half George Manning’s wine stocks, saving Hope Farm, then after the crash of 1870’s brought out the bankrupt Tintara from Kelly’s creditors.

Thomas Hardy then went on to move operations to the Flour Mill in the main street of Bellevue. He called it Tintara Cellars. With success he brought up nearly everything in Bellevue including the former Clifton Hotel, now the Belle Vue. He used the pub as his head quarters.

In many ways he became Mr Bellevue, as he visited from his Adelaide operations every week.

The story of Hardy is well remembered due to his success and the powerful company he established, Thomas Hardy and Sons.

Dr Kelly is still noted in the wine history books. He is credited as a pioneer but he did not have the sales skills to survive the downturn in the wine industry.

And as for those descendants of the Oliver Family, they did get through the big crash and kept the Taranga farm going.