Our Winemaking History

Steeped in History

Pietro D'Orsa

Sanguine Estate was established long before we realised winemaking was already in our blood. In fact, our love affair with wine really began in Switzerland near the border of Italy in 1868 when Swiss-Italian Pietro D’Orsa (the Great Grandfather of Founder/Father Tony) left his small village of Poschavio to join a cousin in search of gold and a new life in Australia.

 Whilst he left his young wife behind (she was to join him five years later) Pietro brought with him a bundle of cuttings from his grapevines and his fathers (Giacomo D’Orsa) rifle issued by the Prussian army during the Napoleonic War.

 After arriving in Australia, Pietro planted his vines near the small town of Maldon, 100km west of Heathcote. Over a century later, the Hunter family purchased land and planted their first 16 acres of vines in Heathcote's ancient Cambrian soil. By 2002 the vineyard had grown to 55 acres (approx. 22 ha). In 2000, they bottled their first Shiraz, and it was at this time by sheer serendipity that Tony discovered the story of his ancestor.

 Tony was reading a book on the history of wine in Victoria and came across a listing of early Victorian Vignerons and there he discovered that the Board of Viticulture registered his Great Grandfather Pietro D’Orsa as a vigneron in 1892.

 For the Hunter family this discovery was simply amazing. Together, now with Sanguine’s chief winemaker son Mark, and daughter CEO Jodi and daughter-in-law CFO Melissa, they visited the Maldon site of Pietro’s vineyard located on “D’Orsa Lane”.

There they discovered remnants of 6 grape vines (taken from cuttings of the original vines prior to Phylloxera infesting Maldon) plus a chimney built by Pietro from rocks he found on his land. And to make this unearthing even more incredible, the property is owned by Tony’s second cousin Peter Byrne. It’s still in the family!

Not long after, a family reunion was held where Tony’s mother and Peter’s mother were reunited at 92 and 90 having last seen each other as children. Tony was presented with Giacomo’s rifle and a gold ring with the faintest of initials ‘PD’, said to have been made for Pietro from the first findings of gold from his mine in Maldon.

 As for the remnant vines that had made their way to Australia 120 years ago, they were DNA tested by an approved Australian laboratory and one variety of these vines remains a mystery. This vine was carefully grafted to a special vineyard on Sanguine Estate and we have named this unknown variety “D’Orsa Blanc”. 

Excitedly, the 2024 fruit from this small planting together with Verdejo and Viognier varieties have been sun dried in the traditional ways (Old Pietro would be proud!) to create our first dessert style wine called (yep you guessed it!) D’Orsa Blanc.

 We wonder what further family secrets will be revealed as we learn more about our long-lost ancestor. 

Tony Hunter Tony Hunter

Tony Hunter

Tony holding Giacomos rifle