Imposing brick exterior, tower and battlements … but it’s not Scotland

By Stephen Crafti

There’s a strong reminder of our Scottish ancestry when you visit the All Saints Estate at Wahgunyah.

Situated on the Murray River near Corowa, about a three-hour drive north-east of Melbourne, the winery was established by Scottish immigrants George Sutherland Smith and John Banks in the 1860s. Its design was inspired by the Castle of Mey – the late Queen Mother’s home in historic Caithness, in the far-north of Scotland.

All Saints Estate was at one time claimed to be the largest wine storage facility in the Southern Hemisphere.
All Saints Estate was at one time claimed to be the largest wine storage facility in the Southern Hemisphere.

Listed on the National Estate and Victorian Heritage Register, the late 19th-century winery building, with its imposing brick facade, tower and battlements, was at one time claimed to be the largest wine storage facility in the Southern Hemisphere.

However, when architect Nick Travers, director of Techne, first inspected the site with heritage consultants GML Heritage, the building’s interior was far less grand and in need of an update that was more aligned with the winery’s reputation for producing fine fortified wines that prosper in a dry, hot climate.

Castle of Mey, in Scotland
Castle of Mey, in ScotlandCredit: SHUTTERSTOCK

One can still see the original interior oregon beams that were imported from the United States and hauled by bullocks from the Port Melbourne pier. There are also some rudimentary dormitory steel sheds with crude built-in bunks that were used by many of the Chinese miners searching for gold in the Rutherglen region.

“It would have been blisteringly hot in summer and bitterly cold in winter,” says Travers, pointing out a roped-off area in the shed that now forms a museum and to mark these historic times.

A separate brick pavilion, designed by architect Philip Cox in the 1960s and following in the vernacular of castle architecture, was considerably more robust than the dorms, but still in need of rehabilitation.

The improvements have been specially designed to attract not only wine connoisseurs but also visitors keen on appreciating the estate’s manicured gardens.


While Techne retained the brick walls, floors and the original timber rafters of the cellar door – the first point of arrival – it removed a clumsy mezzanine that had been more recently added, along with some retail wine sale facilities, including an L-shaped bar that was a little awkward in the space.

Patrons now arrive at a curvaceous tasting pod, thoughtfully illuminated by a new steel-framed skyline – one of many that pierce the steel ceiling.

All Saints Estate features manicured gardens.
All Saints Estate features manicured gardens.

“One of the main problems was that when you first arrived you just wanted to escape the glare, but entering the building felt quite cavernous, void of any light,” says Travers, who strategically carved a few openings in the brick walls to form wine tasting rooms.

A new bar snakes through the building to a formal dining area that has replaced a basic tent-like pavilion. The new brick-and-glazed pavilion, with glass and steel bi-fold doors and a floating timber roof, allows views of the grounds, with its lake, and connects to an outdoor seating area.

“We thought that, like great wine, you need buildings to breathe,” says Travers, pointing out the separation between the past and the present, along with the covered walkways that bridge the two.

Techne also included circular brick banquette-style seating in the formal dining area, loosely inspired by the form of wine storage barrels. For those who prefer to dine in private, there are also two rooms that can easily be joined to form one.

Visitors looking for a more informal dining experience have the option of eating in the reworked building.

Complete with architect Philip Cox’s use of steel rafters to create an industrial aesthetic, there has been just as much attention given by Travers to the recent past as to the late 1880s castle. “It’s about stitching things together but, as importantly, making sure these spaces work for today,” he says.

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