On 15 May, Dr Julie McIntyre will be presenting the John Turner Memorial Lecture – The World in a Glass of Hunter Valley Wine on Thursday 15 May, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.
Julie is a lecturer in history and member of the Wine Studies Research Network at the University of Newcastle. She has published widely on wine in colonial history across themes of Aboriginal-settler relations, migration, transnational exchange and cultural taste. Her book First Vintage: Wine in Colonial New South Wales won a 2013 Gourmand International Publishing Award for Best Drink History in Australia.
Answering our questions this week, Dr Julie McIntyre tells us about how she found history swirling in a wine glass.
Tell us about your background, including what drew you into research?
Over the past decade I’ve commuted from Newcastle to teach in universities in Sydney and to research in archives in Australia’s capital cities, and in London. Instead of drawing me away from intellectual engagement with the Hunter region, working away from Newcastle has sparked a deeper curiosity about regional characters, events and issues within broader contexts. Now, even though my wine history research originally grew out of childhood connections to the wine region of Mudgee, it’s a natural progression that I’m focusing more closely on the Hunter Valley.
What are you passionate about? Can others in the community get involved?
I love connecting regional history to wider narratives using the main themes of contemporary historical studies. These themes –gender, imperialism and colonisation, Indigenous populations, migration and the environment – are too often seen as separate from regional history. Community engagement is central to my work. My current projects involve the Hunter wine community and Mid North Coast historical societies.
What do you hope will be achieved by what you are doing?
I hope my research offers a deeper and more socially inclusive understanding of where we live. In, turn, I hope it also shows how where we live fits into bigger histories.
What’s been the most unexpected aspect of your work so far?
Until recently, studying alcohol remained largely taboo in the humanities and social sciences. That is, unless the research discouraged drinking. This is not surprising as alcohol abuse has such tragic consequences. What has been unexpected is how rapidly this has changed. International trends such as the democratisation and globalisation of wine, increases in wine exports, and the rise of wine tourism have created a need for more nuanced inquiries into alcohol, history and culture. This is the sort of research underway within the Wine Studies Research Network.
What’s been your proudest achievement to date?
The success of First Vintage has been very rewarding. Its story of the forgotten past of early Australian wine has been embraced by historians, the wine industry, and general readers alike. I think it has helped that the book is a beautiful object. The UNSW Press book designer, Di Quick, did a stunning job presenting the images I‘d spend years collecting.
Do you draw on any people or resources for inspiration?
At the University of Newcastle I work with world class colleagues who are prepared to share their expertise. It’s important to be able to spark and test ideas in an environment like this. The intellectual heritage of Newcastle historians such as Professor John Turner is also inspiring. Apart from that my inspiration is eclectic and very much of the moment. Just now, I’m in awe of the skilled prose of Australian author David Malouf.
What would be your dream project?
My dream project would be extensive fieldwork! I’d begin with a tour of each of Australia’s wine regions, and time to explore their archives. I would then tour New Zealand’s wine regions as I’m keen to compare the Indigenous Australian wine growing project at Murrin Bridge in central NSW with New Zealand’s Maori wine company. After that, as next year is the bicentenary of a French wine tour by colonial Australian John Macarthur and his sons – I’d love to make a documentary of their journey by following in their footsteps.
What does the future hold?
The Hunter Valley wine history project I am working on is likely to take several years, and as it proceeds I’d like to begin a national version of First Vintage. I’ll keep you posted about this on my blog, The World in a Wine Glass.
What’s your favourite Newcastle neighbourhood and why?
I’ve lived on The Hill for nearly 25 years. Almost on my doorstep are beautiful parks, the inner-city beaches, the harbour, the museum, the gallery, the library; much of the city’s most historic architecture, many of its best places to eat, and unique artisan shopfronts. As often happens, after several months living overseas in 2010, it really came home to me what a fine place Newcastle is.
What do you look forward to doing most in Newcastle in summer?
Long lazy days with family and friends. The beach. Fish and chips with Hunter Semillon.
Brisk walks with our Jack Russell terrier, Vinnie. Hearty dinners in front of the open fireplace with Mudgee Cabernet Sauvignon.
Where and what was the last greatest meal you had in Newcastle?
Last year, at Restaurant Mason in Hunter Street. It has a beaut wine list, fiendishly clever food and friendly service.
What is your favourite getaway destination?
My partner and I have a house with a large garden in a small farming village on the Mid North Coast. When we’re not waking up to ships’ horns, the Town Hall clock and church bells in Newcastle, we start the day at Comboyne with the sound of native birds, chooks and dairy cows. The best of both worlds!
Your #1 Newcastle insiders tip?
Walk through King Edward Park to Garside Gardens – pause a moment to look over the Pacific – and continue down through the park and along Newcastle Beach. At any time of year, this corner of Newcastle is sublime.