Tony’s Diary | The passing of a Great Wine Man

DSC_1813Sad news: Peter Lehmann died, this morning. I just heard. Now there, truly, was a Great Australian Wine Man. One of those – a leader of those – who first stuck it to those bloody lager-drinkers. Amber ….ing nectar? Forget it!

Peter L, amply, personally, constantly by huge, manly efforts, proved that wine was not a sissy drink; that real men drank strong Shiraz. And plenty of it. Had to be tough to do that in those days in Oz, the land of the ‘Six o’clock Swill’: out of the factory and ten pints in the hour. Beer from hosepipes.

But… Crocodile Dundee v Peter Lehmann? Peter, everytime. Superhuman resilience.

I loved the man. Not only for his having saved the Barossa growers from disaster. Not only for the brilliant wines which still reside in my cellar. Not only for the Peter stories like his forgetting to bolt down the huge new tanks and the gale sending them trashing the neighbourhood, like gigantic, rampaging tin cans … kept those dented old tanks for years; proud of them. Not only for his huge personal cellar, the untidiest on the planet: a great jumbled sea of half empty cartons with a bloody toilet in the middle of it!

But mostly, it was his outstanding skill at rudeness. Such a talent! You had to love it. I remember meeting him first thirty years ago in a bar-full of mates … clearly been there all afternoon. I said “Good Day, thought we had an appointment, Mr Lehmann”. Mr Lehmann then told me, in biological detail what I should do with my appointment, roars of appreciation all round. But then a big black glassful shoved in my mitt and I remember little …  until much later in their little kitchen when an immaculate, spruced-up Peter was politely passing round great plates Margaret’s supper to glassy-eyed me, his son Doug (a right chip off the old block if ever I met one) and my mate David Thomas, my guide and mentor back then.

Great days.

I am just planning another trip to the Barossa. Now, there’s one big reason less to go. But I’ll still go … and pay my respects.

I’m not half the man you were, Peter – as you told me, I think – but I’ll keep trying.

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About Tony Laithwaite

Tony Laithwaite, founder of Laithwaite's, whose passion for wine is still going strong!

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