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Trouette, Jean-Pierre (1833–1885)

by David Dunstan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Jean-Pierre Trouette (c.1833-1885), vigneron, was born at Estampes, Gers, south-western France, son of Pierre Trouette, farmer, and his wife Marie Jeanne, née Sorbet. As a young man, Jean-Pierre went to Montevideo, probably to avoid army service. After three years in Uruguay he travelled to Adelaide in 1853 and, while working in the mines at Burra, heard of the gold discoveries in Victoria.

At Daylesford he met Ann Marie Blampied (c.1825-1905) and her brother Emile (c.1837-1914) from Meurthe-et-Moselle, Lorraine, north-eastern France, who had reached Melbourne in 1853. Jean-Pierre married Anne on 9 April 1856 at St Monica's Chapel, Heidelberg, with Catholic rites. In 1858 the Trouettes and Emile Blampied took over a vegetable garden on Concongella Creek, Great Western, and purchased twenty-seven acres (10.9 ha) freehold about 1862, the year Trouette was naturalized. Sludge and gravel were cleared and fruit and vegetables sold to miners at Lamplough, Redbank and Landsborough. In 1863 half an acre (0.2 ha) of vines was planted for fresh fruit. By 1866 the vineyard consisted of more than fifteen acres (6.1 ha) with enough grapes to make table wines. At the Intercolonial Exhibition in Melbourne that year connoisseurs noticed Trouette's well-made wines. His varieties included 'White Nice', chasselas, riesling and esparte (mourvedre). A prize-winning red wine in 1867 was 'clean and full, yet delicate of flavour'. The complex took the name St Peter's. Other vignerons followed their example at Great Western, notably the brothers Best.

In 1873 Emile Blampied married Louise, daughter of Louis Metzger, an Alsatian-born winemaker from nearby Doctors Creek. By 1878 the partnership had 200 acres (80.9 ha) with orchards, and forty-five acres (18.2 ha) under vine, with cellar storage and a two-storey building; the vineyard would later reach 110 acres (44.5 ha) and the Trouette children Nicholas and Marie were groomed to take over the enterprise, which employed six people and thirty extras at vintage. Jean-Pierre was a shire councillor at Stawell and sold wine there, although he complained that publicans undercut him with 'doctored' material.

Trouette was a talented viticulturist and winemaker. Old World experience helped him, but he was resourceful as well; close planting was abandoned early. The soil that he considered unremarkable, a mixture of clay and loam, produced the finest grapes. More important was the climate, as good as the South of France without its devastating storms. Champagne method sparkling wine appeared in 1882.

St Peter's was famous for its vintage and holiday festivities, attracting travellers from Ballarat, Melbourne and Geelong. Hubert de Castella visited on the Queen's birthday in 1882, when food, wine, toasts, singing and dancing were enjoyed well into the night. Madame Trouette was 'tall and strong', wearing traditional Lorraine dress, only 'a little bowed by her toil'; her brother Emile, 'large and handsome', had a face 'which inspires confidence from the first', and Jean-Pierre was 'hospitable to the last'.

Trouette died of pulmonary tuberculosis on 24 November 1885 at Great Western, and was buried in the local cemetery. His wife, son and daughter survived him, inheriting an estate sworn for probate at £7461. Next year, however, Nicholas and another worker were asphyxiated in an underground wine tank. The cumulative effects of personal loss, crop failures, bad seasons and economic depression led to the sale of the property in 1894 to purchasers with no interest in winemaking. The Blampieds, whose share had been a third, moved to Nhill. St Peter's vineyard and winery did not survive but winemaking, which the French migrants had pioneered at Great Western, flourished.

Select Bibliography

  • H. de Castella, John Bull’s Vineyard (Melb, 1886)
  • R. Kingston, Good Country for a Grant (Stawell, Vic 1989)
  • L. R. Francis, 100 Years of Wine Making (1965)
  • A. Kuehne, Grapes and Gold (1980)
  • D. Dunstan, Better Than Pommard! (Melb, 1994)
  • Australian Brewer’s Journal, 20 Mar 1886, p 128
  • Ararat and Pleasant Creek Advertiser, 19 Feb 1867, p 2, 2 July 1867, p 3, 12 Nov 1867, p 2, 25 Dec 1868, p 2, 6 Aug 1869, p 4, 26 May 1882, p 2, 5 Jan 1906, p 2.

Citation details

David Dunstan, 'Trouette, Jean-Pierre (1833–1885)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/trouette-jean-pierre-13224/text7937, published in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 3 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

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