James Busby travel, the story so far…
“To increase the comforts, and promote the morality of the lower classes of the Colony”.
So wrote James Busby about the uses of Viticulture in “A treatise on the culture of the vine, and the art of making wine”, published in 1825, a year after he arrived in Australia from him homeland of Scotland. Following a four month tour of the vineyards of France and Spain, Busby returned to Australia in 1832 with some 650 vine cuttings of which 362 survived. Cuttings were taken and planted at sites across New South Wales, Victoria and Southern Australia. Many of Australia’s oldest grape vines can trace their origins back to the early collections of James Busby, and thanks to Australia’s low levels of phylloxera in some regions many of these old vines remain original and ungrafted to this day.
Fast forward 175 years. It’s 2007 and I’m working on my Master of Wine Dissertation A Survey of the UK Wne Trade to Determine Current Attitudes to Australian Wine. At the time I was employed by a UK importer of Australian wine and had seen first hand how the category had fallen out of favour following the double digit growth of the 90s and early 2000s. My research paper found that not only were Australian wine styles out of step with current trends, but there was a disconnect between a younger generation of UK wine buyers and their Australian counterparts. In the late 2000s the generational baton had yet to be passed on. The survey also identified that the most effective way to get UK buyers to buy more premium, regional Australian wine was to take them out to visit the vineyards in person. But diminishing ecomonic returns meant that UK importers had stopped taking their customers out and Wine Australia had virtually given up on hosting inbound trade tours. The lessons of Hazel Murphy’s famous early 90s Wine Flights had been forgotten. When the Australian wine commuity needed it the most, the stream of visiting buyers had practically dried up.
Encouraged by the findings of my research, and passionate about Australia and it’s wine community, I decided to do something about it. James Busby Travel was born. I had always liked the idea of the name, as Busby had brought out grape vines so we were bringing out wine buyers, it seemed appropriate. It wasn’t easy getting an untried, disruptive, wholly original business plan off the ground, but luckily there were enough members of the Australian wine community who shared my vision and saw the potential. There was Steve Webber from De Bortoli, Phil Sexton at Giant Steps, William Downie and Mac Forbes in Victoria. In South Australia there was Penfolds’ Peter Gago, Chester Osborn at d’Arenberg, Stephen and Prue Henscke and Joch and Louise at Battle of Bosworth to name but a few. Where these led, others followed and after an exhaustive two years of plotting and planning, involving five separate research trips to Australia, the first James Busby Travel trip hit the road in October 2010.
From little things big things grow. What started out as a crazy idea has grown into a globally recognised initiative. Since 2010 we’ve taken over 150 of the world’s most influential wine buyers on the “trip of a lifetime”. In many export markets being invited on a Busby trip is seen as a badge of honour. The Australian wine community has joined us on this journey as we’ve developed and refined the tours from our experiences and feedback, adopting strategies from the experiential tourism industry to create what is now seen as the gold standard for inbound wine trade visits to Australia. Recognition comes in many forms, and we were honoured to be asked to project manage the visit of 44 Masters of Wine to Australia in 2015, followed by the Beyond Busby joint venture with Wine Australia in 2018.
Throughout this time we have remained fiercly independant and committed to the vision we set out with; to bring a precision and focus to the arena of educational wine travel, with a high degree of selection amongst both the wineries on the itinerary and the calibre of the guests in the group. What I never expected when starting out was the power of the friendships that would be forged not only between our guests and their winery hosts, but amongt the group themselves, many of whom established lasting professional and personal friendships during their two week tour. Our Alumni Community now stands at 158 individuals in 14 different countries, all of who keep in touch with each other and the wineries they visited. Once the tasting notes are lost and the vintages are forgotten, those long term relationships are the lasting legacy of the Busby trips.
Future challenges for the Busby project are to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the history, culture and stories of Australia’s Traditional owners of the land, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. There is a great deal of work to be done by the Australian wine community on Indigenous awareness and we hope in our own small way to contribute towards this in the years to come.
In September 2021 I wrote an article on this subject that was published in Australia’s Wine Business Magazine, which you can read here.
Tim Wildman MW. Who’s he?
Thwarted in my youthful ambitions to become a veterinary surgeon, Han Solo or Batman I opted to join the wine trade instead. I became a Master of Wine in 2008 and run my own independent portfolio business which involves winemaking, travel, education, film and occasionally wearing a cape and saving the world.
Tim Wildman is a British born Master of Wine (MW) who runs his own independent portfolio wine business involving winemaking, travel, film and education. He became a Master of Wine in 2008 with a Dissertation on Australian wine, which is his professional speciality. In 2010 he established James Busby Travel to take wine trade professionals from around the world on educational tours of Australia. He is the owner of Wildman Wine, making pétillant naturel wines in South Australia under the Astro Bunny and Piggy Pop labels. Tim is also the founder of WineTutor.tv, an online resource for students studying for the Master of Wine and other higher level wine qualifications. He prefers analogue to digital, dogs to cats, and divides his time between Brighton in the UK and McLaren Vale in South Australia.
The world’s oldest civilisation
James Busby Travel acknowledges and pays respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
On our tour through wine country we hope to pass on information and awareness of Aboriginal culture, history and stories. We welcome our winery hosts to provide an Acknowledgment of Country when we arrive at their properties, to acknowledge the debt and highlight the cultural significance of Country to the Aboriginal Peoples who are recognised as Traditional Owners of the land.
Australia is the home to the oldest known continuous civilisation on Earth, The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The earliest scientific evidence of Indigenous occupation dates back over 60,000 years. At the time of European invasion in 1788 there were over 500 Indigenous nations, 250 languages and an estimated 800 dialects.
Aboriginal history has been handed down in ways of stories, dances, myths and legends for over 50,000 years. The Dreaming or Dreamtime is the cultural, environmental and spiritual lore of this ancient civilisation. Dreamtime stories embrace past, present and future, an holistic Everywhen, which are grounded in the land itself, or Country. They incorporate creation and other land-based narratives, social processes including kinship regulations, morality and ethics. The concept of the Dreaming is inadequately explained by the English language, or even the Western imagination. It has been described as an all-embracing concept that provides rules for living, a moral code, as well as rules for managing and interacting with the natural environment, it provides for a total, integrated, sustainable way of life. Modern Australians are coming to realise that there are lessons to be learnt from a civilisation that not only survived but thrived for tens of thouands of years on the hottest, dried contienet on Earth.
When British settlers began colonising Australia in 1788, between 750,000 and 1.25 million Aboriginal Australians are estimated to have lived there. Soon, epidemics ravaged the indigenous people, and British settlers seized Aboriginal lands. Up to 20,000 indigenous people died in violent conflict on the colony’s frontiers.
Today, about three percent of Australia’s population has Aboriginal heritage. Despite progress in recent years with recognition and reconciliation, Australia is the only country in the British Commonwealth not to have ratified a treaty with its First Nations peoples.
Recently published books such as Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu and Bill Gammage’s The Biggest Estate on Earth have challenged established views on how Aboriginal society and agriculture was structured.
In Dark Emu Pascoe brings together historical journal entries of explorers, physical plant specimens from various Aboriginal lands, and insights from research experts. He includes Aboriginal Elders and community groups to bring thoroughly and thoughtfully established insights. By shifting the lense of Australian history from unproven opinion to researched fact, Dark Emu abolishes what many have grown to believe since the First Fleet – that all Aboriginal cultures in Australia were ‘hunter-gatherers’. Rather, Pascoe proves that the First Nations of Australia had agricultural farming and sustainable land management practices intertwined within complex societal systems.
Bruce Pascoe’s 2014 book rewrote Australian history, and continues to win awards, inspire projects and change the conversation. Pascoe reexamines colonial accounts of Aboriginal people in Australia, and cites evidence of pre-colonial agriculture, engineering and building construction by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Across Australia, early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park, with extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands, and abundant wildlife. Bill Gammage has discovered this was because Aboriginal people managed the land in a far more systematic and scientific fashion than most people have ever realized.
Although the term “Dreamtime” is often not considered an adequate translation of the cosmology, religion or spirituality of Indigenous Australians, Munya Andrews of the Bardi people from the Kimberley region of Western Australia, acknowledges this, explaining that: “I love the term … For me, it conjures up a magical and mysterious world.”
Written from an Indigenous perspective by AIATIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies) and Bruce Pascoe this essential reference book covers not only cultural topics such as history and the arts but also political issues including activism and reconciliation.
Surveying two centuries of Aboriginal-European encounters, Richard Broome shows how white settlers steadily supplanted the original inhabitants. He also traces the continuing Aboriginal struggle to move from the margins of a settler society to a more central place in modern society.