It was no trick of the light that the Beefsteak and Burgundy movement was such an early success. All of the founding fathers were either winemakers or wine marketers. Those men who in turn were attracted to the movement as clubs emerged were mostly prominent men of business, medicine and academia. “The News” of Friday October 14th 1955 in a full page article about the fledgling B&B movement commented, “Among these men are some men who make or sell wine. Others include bank officers, accountants, managers of finance, furniture and machinery firms, an obstetrician, a book-seller, a hardware man [sic], and a university man.” Given the line up of quality wine people drawn to the Adelaide B&B Club particularly, a veritable viniscenti [my word. ed.], the current members should feel very privileged to be the baton carriers today.
In the first two busy years 9 new clubs were inaugurated. Sadly one, the Angas Club, is no longer. The others are Adelaide [Foundation], Brighton, Lockleys, Burnside, Edwardstown, Nagambie [the first interstate], Sydney and Norwood. There were even enthusiastic mentions in the press that there would be 500 clubs established in England [Adelaide Stock & Station Journal, April 24th 1956]. It can be noted,” …that big numbers of clubs should be possible because the British public seemed to find a strong appeal in all Australian ideas and activities” – an ambitious15,000 members. Well the Brits did invent the flushing toilet, rubber bands and the toaster.
In the little red book published by the Adelaide B&B Club for our 50th entitled “Celebrating 50 Years” it is interesting to note on page 3… “There would be no thought of membership drives or urgings to form branch clubs. One of the great successes of the idea was that all of the clubs since then [foundation] have been formed by a groundswell of people wanting to get together in friendship and a shared affection of wines.” Here we are a decade plus further on and the trend is continuing.
During the club’s second year of operation fine wines and the Claret/Burgundy debate abounded. As one luminary, Mr Colin Haselgrove, commented,
“… it’s so very hard in Australia to draw the line. It is seldom that Australian wines sold under these type of names bear any resemblance to the original wines.”
He could not abide the Hunter Valley Hermitage made from Burgundy grapes! So too today. However, the wines enjoyed by members were impressive.
This list includes Lindeman’s Hunter River 1949/50 dry red, 1949 Cos d” Esternel, Saint Estephe, 1953 Penfold’s Special bottling by Max Schubert, Tintara Cabinet Claret [interesting nomenclature, so un-Haselgrove], Yalumba Selected Burgundy, a 1948 Liebfraumilch, a Maurice O’Shea 1954 Hunter River Hermitage, Erdener Herrenberg Moselle, Stonyfell Pearl-Moselle, so called because of the presence of a “pearl of gas”. Mosel on the German side of the Rhine and Moselle on the French side were terms adopted in Europe, however, it seemed that Moselle was the more favoured, and in fact registered, in Australia by Stonyfell. The members and guests also consumed Hertier Guyot Volnay from the Cote d’Or, Burgundy, a Stonyfell 1951 Burgundy, Walter Reynell 1954 Claret and Riesling, Rhinecastle 1953 Private Bin Claret, 1953 Milawa Medium Dry Red, 1948 Penfold’s Dry Red as well as the ubiquitous sherries of the era. The Penfold’s consisted of Shiraz from Magill with distinctive traces of Kalimna Cabernet [shades of Granges to come?]. Also partaken in this heady year of imbibing were wines from Hope Valley and Tea Tree Gully, both Shiraz and Mataro. All these in a time when a wheelbarrow cost 70 shillings and sixpence [$7.05]
In April of 1956 120 members and guests of the then five B&B Clubs [the others were founded in the ensuing months] were invited to a barbecue and educational tour of the cellars of the Walter Reynell Winery at Reynella instigated by the Foundation Club. The meal consisted of olives, cheese, biscuits, soup, crayfish [not the Yankee lobster of today] and of course barbecued steaks with no doubt the appropriate wines from Walter Reynell.
It was also in ’56 that the first convention of S.A. Beefsteak and Burgundy Clubs was held. Presidents, Secretaries and Winemasters were invited to the Chamber of Manufacturers on Wednesday evening, July 4th. Discussions around alteration to rules, the Club’s bull’s head logo and the initiation of Club ties were all on the agenda. Further considerations were given to some way of exchanging wines with other countries, the Adelaide B&B Club organising an annual barbecue picnic and annual dinner dance. A sub-committee was formed to consider the best way of recognising the founder, Mr. R. D. Clark. Also clubs for Perth, Hobart, Dubbo and Strathalbyn were mooted, all probably over sherry.
The year was completed with a partners’ dinner at the Lido.
“At a sumptuous dinner, accompanied by continental and Australian wines, several of the wives present gave clever disquisitions on various vintage wines, and how and when and where to serve them – which quite confused their husbands.” Truth August 4th 1956
The article proceeds to note that Mrs Clark wore a royal blue skirt with guipure lace top and fur and Mrs. Drew teamed a grey and cyclamen brocade top with her black velvet skirt. Interestingly it was only at the last dinner that Phil Kleinig noted that I had brought my suit for a ridiculous price. The truth is I bought it for an absurd figure. Phil, however, has a shirt for every day of the year, and we have all seen it.