Royal Reels: Gambling


The postcard advertises Seppelt’s Famous Wines, and the green 1d KGV Head stamp is postmarked GREENOCK/ ( ) 1938/ S.A. The printed message is addressed Seppeltsfield, South Australia. Dear Sir, We desire to advise you that our Representative, H.A. YEOMAN will have pleasure in waiting upon you on or about the 6th June when any order you may favor us with will receive our careful attention. B. SEPPELT & SONS LTD. The cover is addressed a client Messrs Hopping Bros Store, Tumby Bay [South Australia] (Figure 1).

The reverse has a picture of a bottle of SEPPELTS PORT, IMPERIAL RESERVE and the lower edge of the front of the bottle is etched ‘B. Seppelt & Sons Ltd Melbourne (Figure 2).

For more than 150 years, Seppelt has been at the forefront of Australian winemaking. From its beginnings in the Barossa Valley, South Australia in 1851, Seppelt has pioneered vineyard plantings in regions of Southern and Eastern Australia. Seppelt is the only premium Australian winemaker to offer wines for every occasion. It is constantly innovating and creating new wine styles, new packaging and new ideas tha position this winery as a world leader. If you think this an advert, you are right for it is taken with modification from its extensive website.

To contemporaries, Benno Seppelt may have appeared a little strange. Dressed in outfits he designed himself, he always carried two things, an umbrella and a violin. Except wxhen he galloped from Seppeltsfield to Nuriootpa S.A. on his white stallion, when he left the violin at home. Benno could see into the future, especially when it came to wine. A century ago he was blending wines from different regions. It was madness then, but it is wisdom to-day.

Benno Oscar Seppelt, winemaker and viticulturist, was born on 13 July 1873 at Seppeltsfield, South Australia, second (and eldest surviving) of sixteen children of Oscar Benno Pedro Seppelt a spirits merchant from Lower Silesia, and his wife Sophie Helene Henriette, , who was born in South Australia. Educated at Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, young Oscar spent several years studying viticulture in Vienna. In 1895 he returned to South Australia where he joined his father and brothers at their winery at Seppeltsfield, in the Barossa Valley. On 25 June that year at the Flinders Street Lutheran Church, Adelaide, he married Hedwig Cecilia Leichter Müller (d.1955) from Vienna. They were to remain childless.

In 1902 the family business was registered as B. Seppelt & Sons Ltd. Oscar junior took charge of operations at Seppeltsfield and his brothers managed branches in other States. In 1914, in the first of a series of property acquisitions, Seppelt bought Clydeside Cellars, at Rutherglen, Victoria. When his father retired in 1916, Oscar became managing director. That year, he arranged the purchase of Chateau Tanunda, which brought the firm substantial stocks of spirits and enhanced its production capability. In 1918 the company bought the Great Western vineyards, near Ararat, Victoria. A Sydney office was opened in 1922, more land was acquired at Barooga, New South Wales, and winemaking began at Rutherglen in 1929 after the Clydeside Cellars were renovated and new vines were planted. While directing these developments, Seppelt retained his interest in the practical and scientific aspects of production: he designed and patented a wine-pasteurizer which began to be manufactured for sale in 1927. A cave for the wine bottles at the Great Western wine storage is seen in Figure 3.

Seppelt regularly contributed articles to the Wine and Spirit News and Australian Vigneron. He wrote about viticulture and its prospects in South Australia, the wine industry at home and abroad, and the effect of government policies on Australian production and sales. In 1939 he retired and moved from Seppeltsfield to the Adelaide suburb of Tusmore. His brother Leo succeeded him as chairman of the company. Oscar served (1931-58) as consul for Greece in South Australia and was appointed to the Royal Order of George I in 1958. Survived by his adopted daughter, he died on 26 July 1963 in a private hospital at Toorak Gardens and was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at £122,652. A picture of (Ocar) Benno Seppelt is seen in Figure 4.

There is a story, which may be apocryphal, that the famous Australian operatic star, Dame Nellie Melba wondered to her neighbour, Hans Irvine, who sold out to Seppelt, that she would like to bathe in champagne. Hans duly instructed his cellar hands to put a bath in the winery, fill it with fizz and assemble a temporary screen. It took 152 bottles to fill the bath, Melba enjoyed the experience, though she complained that it was a little cold. The cellar hands decided to bottle the fluid, and a strange finding was that the fluid now filled 153 bottles!

I acknowledge I used a greatly abridged text of the Australian Dictionary of Biography for Benno Seppelt.

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