Rutherglen property fetching ‘Fairfield’ of interest

By Rhys Williams

One of Rutherglen’s most notable vineyard properties, Fairfield, has been listed for sale for the first time in over 40 years and is already generating significant interest from prospective buyers.

The 852-hectare property, which includes a 130-year-old Victorian mansion at 3210 Murray Valley Highway Rutherglen, is being sold for the first time since the late 1970s.

Property agent Phil Rourke said the listing, which has now been on the market for two weeks, has already generated significant interest from a diverse range of prospective buyers.

“There have already been over 10 inspections from serious buyers to date,” The Landmark agent told The Free Press.

“There’s been interest from buyers from Melbourne in the homestead, and there’s also been local interest from farmers in the separate blocks.”

The property can either be sold in five separate blocks or purchased in one line.

Based on similar sales in the region, it is estimated that the entire Fairfield property is worth over $10 million, but Mr Rourke was tight lipped on what figure he thinks it will fetch.

“It’s almost impossible to put a value on the homestead and the historic improvements, but what I can say is the land is making roughly $11,000 a hectare.

“There’s also 99 megalitres of water that’s making about $5,000 per megalitre.”

The property is being sold after its previous owner, Melba Morris-Slamen, passed away late last year.

Ms Morris-Slamen was the great granddaughter of the renowned 19th century vigneron George Francis Morris, who established the foundations of Fairfield in 1859 when he bought 89 hectares of land in Browns Plains.

In 1889, by which time Fairfield had become the viticultural jewel of Rutherglen, GF Morris commissioned architects Gordon and Gordon to build a grand two-storey Italianate-style mansion. He added extensive underground cellars in 1892, and a ballroom in 1896.

By 1904 Fairfield was described as the country’s largest vineyard and winery complex with 280 hectares of vines, extensive cellars (with a capacity for 1 million gallons) and a staff of more than 100, according to the Victorian Heritage Database.

Fairfield produced “rich, strong, dry red wines so favoured by English merchants and the sweeter, fortified wines preferred by most 19th century Australians” according to the VHD, with its wines exported around the world.

After GF Morris died in 1910, Fairfield passed out of the family’s hands before Ms Morris-Slamen regained possession in 1977, paying around $200,000.

Over the course of her ownership the vines have withered away, but Ms Morris-Slamen did invest a considerable amount of money on renovating the mansion,

The Morris family continues to produce its highly regarded fortified wines in Rutherglen with Morris Wines’ Robyn Boyd-designed cellar door on Mia Mia Road, located just two kilometres from Fairfield.