Wine Industry Newsletter

Timeline and distribution of Chardonnay clone ‘Gingin’

Chardonnay grapes
Chardonnay grapes

Arguably the most important clone of Chardonnay in Western Australia is what has become known as the Gingin clone (accession number IW576002).

Many acknowledge the unique attributes of this clone to being a key component to the success of the Margaret River region as a recognised and respected producer of some of Australia’s best Chardonnays.

Typified by its low yields, challenges in achieving ideal fruit set, hen and chicken (millerandage), loose and small bunches and powerfully rich wines with fine acid structure resulting in wines of both power and elegance.

The origins of this particular clone has been somewhat shrouded in mysticism with many local producers having their own beliefs on the source of this clone. In fact one of the most common questions DPIRD researchers have been asked is to explain the origins and early distribution of this important and uniquely Western Australian clone of Chardonnay.

Where time permitted, Research Officer Richard Fennessy has been interviewing senior industry members, corresponding with international grapevine improvement organisations and scouring through department and State archives collecting information that provides evidence to the origins of this important clone and its early distribution throughout the State.

To understand the origins of the Gingin clone we must first gain insight into the history of Chardonnay in California. The follow timeline attempts to set the background of key events in California involving Chardonnay (italics) before leading into the events in WA and Australia.


  • Charles Wetmore imports Chardonnay budwood from Meursault in Burgundy, plants La Cresta Blanca in Livermore Valley Ca. and distributes material to local growers (Sweet 2007)
  • Theodore Gier plants Chardonnay on his Pleasanton vineyard ‘Gier Vineyard’ using this same budwood (Sweet 2007).


  • The Gier Vineyard becomes the primary source used by Ernest Wente to establish the Wente Livermore vineyard (Sweet 2007).
  • Paul Masson imports Chardonnay from Burgundy for his La Cresta vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains (Sweet 2007).
  • Carl Wente (Ernest’s father) imports Chardonnay from the University of Montpellier for the Wente Livermore vineyard (Sweet 2007).
1920 – 1933
  • Prohibition has a significant impact on the American wine industry.
  • At the end of prohibition only the Wente Livermore vineyard and La Cresta Santa Cruz vineyard remain with commercial potential (Sweet 2007).
Post 1945
  • Around WWII, the University of California recommended Chardonnay as a variety for producing white table wines however the variety at this time was typified by low yields and virus symptoms.
  • Many plantings were mislabelled as Pinot Chardonnay (Sweet 2007).
  • Fred and Eleanor McCrea collect budwood from the Wente Livermore vineyard to plant Stony Hill vineyard in the Napa Valley (Sweet 2007).
1951 or 1952
  • Louis Martini, Jr uses wood from Stony Hill vineyard to plant the Stanly Lane vineyard in Carneros (Sweet 2007).
1950s & 1960s
  • Dr Harold P Olmo conducts clonal selection at Stanley Lane vineyard in Carneros and the University of California’s Oakville vineyard.
  • Goals of this project were to increase yield, eliminate shot berry formation and remove virus.
  • The selections made on these two sites by Olmo were then given heat treatments to remove virus by Dr Austin Goheen (Foundation Plant Services) who had developed the technique at this time (Sweet 2007).
Feb – Oct 1955
  • Dr Harold P Olmo, Professor of Viticulture at the University of California, Davis (UCD), travels to Western Australia and conducts a comprehensive ‘Survey of the Grape Industry in Western Australia’.
  • Department of Agriculture, Western Australia submits order to the University of California for cuttings of seven varieties, including Pinot Chardonnay (3 December 1956).
  • Chardonnay clones held within the University of California’s foundation vineyard at this time are the Meursault material (known at one time as Chardonnay-2), two clones from Alsace (Chardonnay 430 and 439) and Chardonnay-1, one of oldest Chardonnay clones in California which was sourced from Department of Viticulture and Enology’s vineyard on the UC campus and pre-dates Olmo’s work. Records of the source of this clone are absent but this clone was widely used to supply orders and was possibly used to supply the Western Australian order (N Sweet 2017, pers. comm. 31 May).
  • 12 cuttings of Delight, Perlette, Scarlet and 1613 rootstock ; and 24 cuttings of Emperor, French Colombard and Pinot Chardonnay received by the Department of Agriculture in Western Australia from UCD via air freight (6 February 1957).
  • Foundation Plant Material Services (FPMS) becomes an official organisation on 1 July 1958, later to become Foundation Plant Services (FPS) on 1 June 2003 (N Sweet 2018, pers. comm. 25 April).
  • After a period in quarantine, Pinot Chardonnay is planted at the Department of Agriculture’s Swan Valley Research Station.
  • The vines struggle to establish and are very weak (I Cameron 2017, pers. comm. 11 May).
  • Olmo’s selected Chardonnay clones are planted at the Foundation Plant Services (FPS) foundation vineyard. Olmo’s selection criteria excluded vines displaying virus symptoms or low yields (Sweet 2007).
  • As of 29 May 1964 the Department of Agriculture listed Chardonnay (IW576002) as available to industry (J Elliott 1992, pers. comm. 9 April).
  • 15 cuttings of Pinot Chardonnay were taken from the Swan Valley Research Station and planted at Belhus Estate Vineyard owned by John Barrett-Lennard (J Barrett-Lennard 2018, pers. comm. 10 April).
  • The vines performed strongly in the rich loamy soil (I Cameron 2017, pers. comm. 11 May).
  • CSIRO (Merbein, Vic) release Chardonnay clones Mendoza (IC688025, FVC2V16/CX/UCD) and O.F. (IC688026, FVF1V3/CX/UCD) from quarantine, these clones were imported directly from University of California, Davis (UCD).
  • Cuttings of Pinot Chardonnay were taken from Belhus Estate and planted at Moondah Brook Vineyard (formerly Valencia Wines), in the locality of Gingin.
  • During this time the department would source propagation material from other properties as demand far outstripped supply from the departments own vines (Jamieson 1977).
  • Californian Chardonnay clones 1 (I10V1, accession #IC698127), 3 (I10V3, accession #IC698128), 5 (I10V5, accession #IC698129) and 7 (G9V7, accession #IC698130) imported into WA from the CSIRO collection at Merbein (J Elliott 1992, pers. comm. 9 April).
  • Bob Cartwright makes the first believed vintage of Chardonnay for Valencia Wines. The grapes were obtained from the Gingin vines and processed at Valencia Wines in Caversham.
  • “The first vintage was small and fermented in a painted 44 gallon (imp) drum. In those days in the Swan Valley there were no small stainless steel containers or barriques and no refrigeration”. (B Cartwright 2017, pers. comm. 29 August).
  • Department of Agriculture supplies Gingin cuttings to Rob Sippe in the Great Southern. Also a consignment was delivered to property referenced only as ‘Stewart’.
  • Material supplied to Leeuwin Estate are believed to be cuttings taken from Moondah Brook Vineyard (J Brocksopp 2018, pers. comm. 3 April).
  • Cuttings taken from Belhus Estate to plant at Ashbrook (T Devitt 2017, pers. comm. 17 October).
  • Moss Wood was also supplied with Chardonnay directly from the department (B Pannell 2018, pers. comm. 24 April) as was Cullens (V Cullen 2018, pers. comm. 15 May).
  • Testimony shows that there was potentially Chenin Blanc mixed up with these Chardonnay cuttings for the early orders (B Pannell 2018, pers. comm. 24 April) but this was a common occurrence at the time as Chenin Blanc was widely planted around the state (T Devitt 2018, pers. comm. 9 June) .
  • Department of Agriculture supplies Gingin cuttings to Westfield vineyard in Frankland, Sippe (Great Southern), Yates (Wanneroo) and Vignacourt (now known as Jane Brook Estate, Swan Valley).
  • Department of Agriculture supplies Gingin cuttings to Yates, a small vineyard in Wanneroo which has since been removed.
  • Leeuwin picks their first Chardonnay crop, the wines is used as a sparkling base (J Brocksopp 2018, pers. comm. 3 April).
  • Leeuwin harvests Chardonnay which goes to produce their first varietal Chardonnay table wine (J Brocksopp 2018, pers. comm. 3 April).
1981 - 1982
  • John Brocksopp, vineyard manager at Leeuwin Estate identified vines that had the best fruit set from the Leeuwin Gingin block and takes cuttings to supply Pemberton vineyard, Smithbrook (J Brocksopp 2018, pers. comm. 3 April).
  • Department of Agriculture supplies Gingin cuttings to Karri Gold Vineyard (Mountford, A.) in Pemberton which is now known as Mountford Wines.
  • The 15 vines of Chardonnay at Belhus Estate are removed as the property is sold and subdivided (J Barrett-Lennard 2018, pers. comm. 10 April).
1993 - 1994
  • Department of Agriculture takes cuttings from the Chardonnay (Gingin clone) vines at the Swan Valley Research Station to plant 20 vines at the Harvey Agriculture College farm site, formerly known as the Wokalup Research Station (C Gordon 2018, pers. comm. 12 April).
  • Sampling of mature and early generation Gingin Chardonnay vines from six vineyards (Gingin, Geographe, Margaret River and Mount Barker) supports the anecdotal view that Grapevine Leafroll Associated Virus 1 is indicative to the Gingin clone.


The early distribution of Gingin Chardonnay clone within Western Australia

For more information contact Richard Fennessy on +61 (0)8 9780 6219.


Colin Gordon (DPIRD), Ian Cameron, Jim Campbell-Clause (AHA Viticulture), Cheryl Rogers, David Winstanley (Leeuwin Estate), John Brocksopp, Bob Cartwright, Nancy Sweet (FPS), Carole Lamb (FPS), John Barret-Lennard, John Elliott, Tony Devitt and Dorham Mann.


Sweet, N 2007, ‘Chardonnay history and selections at FPS’, Foundation Plant Services Grape Program Newsletter, November 2007, viewed 5 June 2017,

Jamieson, W R 1977, ‘Improved planting material’, in Viticulture Principles and Practice, Western Australian Department of Agriculture – University of Western Australia Extension Service.