Drunk September 2013
About Peter Lehmann
Peter Lehmann, a member of the Order of Australia and the original Baron of the Barossa, and a legend of Australian wine. He helped shape the Australian wine industry over seven decades. Peter was born in the Barossa village of Angaston in 1930, the fifth generation of one of Barossa’s pioneering families. His father Franz was the local pastor.
Peter was only 14 when his father died, and the impact was great. He wanted to leave school, and with his mother’s support and community connections, he secured a role as apprentice winemaker at Yalumba in 1947. Over the next 12 years, he gathered skills that made Peter one of Barossa’s most promising red winemakers.
“Three mentors were most significant,” Peter recalls. “Alf Wark (the company secretary who first employed him) taught me the joys of food, wine, hunting, shooting and fishing; winemaker Rudi Kronberger, taught me the fundamentals of winemaking and proprietor Wyndham Hill Smith taught me the value of a man’s honour. I have adopted that philosophy and my word has been my bond ever since.”
In 1959, Peter was offered the lucrative position of Winemaker/Manager at another historic Barossa winery, Saltram. Over the next 20 years, he forged relationships with some of the best grape growers in the region, and cemented Saltram’s name as a key player in the red wine boom.
And so it was in 1975, when consumers discovered fruity white wines and red wine consumption declined. Peter saw the trend coming early, and introduced whites to the Saltram portfolio. He presented a long-term strategy for the business to survive, based on his pendulum philosophy. Unfortunately Saltram’s multinational owner didn’t share his vision.
In 1978, the directors instructed him to stop buying fruit, forcing him to renege on the deals he had established with the growers. Knowing that livelihoods were at stake, Peter said no, effectively putting his own on the line as well. With that, he mounted a “rescue operation” for the growers, raised capital to buy their fruit, processed it at Saltram and then sold it to other wineries.
“Wine is made in a vineyard, not a boardroom. Without growers, there is no wine. It’s a circle of life you can’t just cut off because of what the bottom line looks like.”
Saltram’s owners allowed Peter to work with the growers and process their fruit on-site as a “side-project”, which was considered a massive gamble by virtually everyone in the Barossa. He acknowledged the gossip in the best way he could. The side-project was named “Masterson” after the most famous gambler of all – the Guys and Dolls character Sky Masterson. Keeping it separate from his Saltram position, Masterson was officially managed by Peter’s wife Margaret.
In 1979, Saltram was sold, and the new owners put a halt to the operation. With more than 60 family growers facing ruin, Peter took the rescue mission one step further and resigned. The stakes of the gamble got a lot higher. History now shows that the gamble paid off, however luck had little to do with it. With Margaret by his side, Peter enlisted a collaboration to build a winery for the growers, which in only three decades has become one of the most respected brands in the wine world.
His contribution to the industry as a whole was acknowledged in 2009 with an International Wine Challenge Lifetime Achievement Award.
During this time Peter had little financial security and an impending vintage of 10,000 tonnes of grapes. Family, friends and business associates were rallied to the cause to raise much-needed funds to house and process the fruit. With a very short time frame to work in, Peter and his partners got a lucky break when Hoffmans, an established winery on the outskirts of Tanunda, was put up for sale. The 1880s building overlooked the North Para River on fertile ground, and – with Peter’s guidance – his primary investor bought it as the new home of Masterson Wines. Peter and Margaret bought the block next door, and built the house they still live in today.
The greatest resource was the team who joined Peter’s mission from Saltram. The breakaway team was a “Noah’s Ark” of wine talent, including winemakers Andrew Wigan, Charles Melton and Leonie Lange, and engineer Mick Anderson.
The original plan was to process fruit and sell it to other companies as bulk wine. This worked well for the first two vintages until the industry took another dive, and the bulk wine market collapsed in 1982.
Peter’s solution to this new crisis was to join what he called the “glass jungle”: bottling wines, and taking them to market under their own brand. Masterson was not a commercial option, so a new brand had to be created. To the family of investors and growers, “Peter Lehmann” was the logical name. Peter dismissed the idea as a conflict to his winemaking ethos of teamwork. After a great deal of convincing, in 1982 he agreed to put his name to his promise to the growers and so Peter Lehmann Wines was born.
In 2002, the Hess family of Switzerland bought a controlling share of the business with the strong support of Peter and Margaret Lehmann. In partnership with Hess, Peter Lehmann Wines is afforded the freedom to continue growth in line with Peter’s original vision, and allow the people who helped start the business remain part of the extended family.
Doug Lehmann was Managing Director of the business from 1990 to 2010, and grew the business with new international markets. In 2011, he passed the baton to a new generation in Jeff Bond.
Peter, Margaret and Doug Lehmann, while officially “retired”, remain active participants in the future of Peter Lehmann Wines.
The Barossa has a winemaking heritage dating back to 1842 and has become Australia’s most famous wine region.
The region is located a little over an hour north of Adelaide, South Australia’s capital city. Settled by British and German farmers, landowners and craftsmen, the Barossa’s first vines were planted in the 1840s . Some of the oldest, gnarly vines are used to make some special wines under the Peter Lehmann label – such as the Schrapel family’s vineyard which was planted in 1885 and provides the fruit for its namesake 1885 Shiraz which is sold as a single vineyard wine under the VSV - Very Special Vineyard - range in the best years.
The Barossa is comprised of two distinct regions, the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley and 14 sub-districts which include, but are not limited to: Gomersal, Rowland Flat, Vine Vale, Light Pass, Ebenezer, Greenock, Marananga. Our District wines offer a great insight into the Barossa sub-districts.
A Shiraz grown on the fertile red-brown earth soils of the valley floor, will have a very different flavour profile to a Shiraz grown just a few kilometers away on the rocky soils of the high Eden Valley where it’s cooler and there is higher rainfall. The slower ripening Shiraz from Eden Valley may exhibit more aromatic, spicy and elegant characters than that of a Shiraz from the lower lying areas where it may develop into a more robust and full flavoured wine.
The Barossa and Eden Valley boast over 750 grape growers, many of whom are fifth and sixth generation Barossans.Peter Lehmann Wines has over 140 growers across the lregion, with access to over 750 individual vineyard sites.
H&V Shiraz 2010
The "Hill and Valley Shiraz" is a great example of a Barossan Shiraz.
After a short burst or heat in late January and early February, it was warm and stable for the remainder ofthe vintage producing richly flavoured red wines of exceptional quality.
The wine was fermented on skins for seven days to maximise colour and flavour and then aged for 12 months in French oak hogsheads.
This shiraz is deep purple coloured. The nose is plummy, with mukberry and blackberry with a hint of spice and vanilla. On the palate the H&V is full bodied as you would expect from the Barossa, but fruitiness is well balanced by acidity producing a long finish. Not the best Barossa Shiraz I've ever had, but very drinkable at the price point, I think this will benefit from a few years in the cellar to bring out the best. But Peter Lehmann what a guy!