About Richard Hamilton Wines

THE HAMILTON FAMILY STORY

The First Family of Wine


Making History Since 1837...

Grape growing in the Hamilton family dates back to 1837 when Richard Hamilton (1792-1852) took out Land Order 449 in the colony of South Australia. After a journey of 4 months from England on the Katherine Stewart Forbes, he arrived at Holdfast Bay, near Adelaide, with his wife and eight children on October 17, 1837. Shortly after his arrival he planted the first vineyards on the Adelaide plains from cuttings sourced from a friend in Cape Town. These vines formed the foundations of the Hamilton Ewell Wine Company. 

Initial vine plantings required Herculean efforts to clear the land with hand, horse, axe and fore. Subsequent plantings saw the harvesting of traditional varieties – Shiraz and Grenache. A small number of these gnarled old vines still bear fruit today in some of the world’s last urban vineyards at Marion, Adelaide.

Hamilton Ewells Winery

By the 1850s, Richard’s third son, Henry Hamilton (1826-1907) had planted additional vineyards and established his wine cellars, securing a significant local market for Hamilton Wines. Within 20 years, Henry had won the Angus Award twice for agricultural farms, awarded annually by the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society. 

Frank Hamilton (1859-1913) joined his father in the vineyard and winemaking business in 1875 and managed it from around 1890. During these years, Frank produced a Chablis-style, dry white wine. 

In 1928, his son Sydney pioneered the Hamilton’s Moselle. In order to retain natural acidity, the grapes were picked early, and fermented in closed wooden vats instead of the usual open cement tanks. This was a milestone in Australian winemaking. A noted oenologist, Sydney Hamilton spent over 30 years as winemaker with Hamilton Vineyards. 

A Family Legacy of Winemaking and Grape Growing

In the mid 1930s Sydney began experimenting with cold fermentation techniques and went on to use a refrigerated cellar to control the fermentation in the production of quality Germanic-style white wine. Later he used mechanical refrigeration to chill must prior to fermentation. These pioneering techniques allowed for the preservation of delicate aromas and flavours in white wines and have become the hallmark of Australian vinification. 

Burton Hamilton (1904-1994), fourth son of Frank Hamilton, was a born viticulturist who spent almost 90 years cultivating vines and producing grapes for his family company. Burton was a pioneer of Australian viticulture with a strong belief in hand tending his vines from pruning to picking. He began establishing vineyards in McLaren Vale in 1947 and was a great believer in the quality of the region. It is the legacy of Burton’s 70 vintages and hand-tended old vineyards that see the company in the strong position and with its unique resources it has today.

In 1972, Burton Hamilton’s son, Dr Richard Hamilton established a small winery in McLaren Vale and gradually began to build up the family’s vineyard holdings, under the watchful eye of his father. Richard honed his skills as a winemaker under the guidance of Burton, Uncle Sydney and French winemaker Maurice Ou, and throughout the 1970s produced a number of award winning wines. 

Still Making History...

As a fifth generation direct descendant, Dr Richard Hamilton now perpetuates the Hamilton family’s long involvement in the wine industry. Leconfield is now the umbrella company for two of South Australia’s leading wine labels – Leconfield Wines, Coonawarra and Richard Hamilton Wines, McLaren Vale. Both wineries have developed enviable reputations for distinctive wines and in 1981, Richard purchased Leconfield from Sydney, ensuring the winery stayed in the family. Leconfield Coonawarra then became the sole winery for both regions.

Leconfield Wines boasts two picturesque cellar doors in both McLaren Vale and Coonawarra. The stunning McLaren Vale facility opened in October 2005 and incorporates head office.Dr Richard Hamilton, as well as maintaining his wine and viticulture interests, is a leading surgeon in the field of Plastic and Reconstructive surgery based in Adelaide.