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History of the Riverland

The Riverland is highly steeped in tradition and multiculturalism, and has seen various industrial and lifestyle adaptations which have helped shape the Riverland that you know today.

Named by explorer Captain Charles Sturt in 1830, the Murray River played a crucial role in the development of modern Australia. Pioneers from many countries have created a new life with the waters of the Murray River following the arrival of Aborigines over thirty thousand years ago.

In 1887, Canadian engineers and brothers George and Ben Chaffey established Australia’s first irrigation colony at Renmark. Encouraged by the success of Renmark’s fruit and wine industries, other irrigation settlements soon sprung up, including Berri (1910), Loxton (1940s) and Blanchetown, the site of the Murray’s first lock and weir, opened in 1922.

Paddle steamers ruled from the 1860s to 1910 and gave way to rail and roads, ferries and bridges. New crops and technologies allowed the dry lands to bloom and have created the most efficient irrigated region in Australia. 

In the 1920s development of the Riverland as a wine industry was gaining pace and winegrape growing co-operatives commenced with the Berri Co-operative Winery and Distillery. The Loxton Co-operative Winery achieved its first crush in 1953. 

The Riverland is now a powerhouse in wine production and accounts for 50% of South Australia's annual crush and up to 30% of Australia's total. 

Traditional grape picking and production techniques have evolved to the use of high technological and innovative practices with grand and impressive stainless steel wine storage facilities.

Water infrastructure evolved from the open channel systems to the current fully automated, water on demand, pressurised systems.  On farms, furrows and overhead sprinklers have been replaced with state of the art drip irrigation and undervine sprinkler systems, and water wheels have been replaced with advanced metres and water moisture monitoring equipment used to track the delivery and application of water.

The Riverland will never forget the pioneers and forefathers who instigated the industry that Riverland Wine is today.

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