Thu 04 Jul 2013

Remembering Peter Lehmann and Comte Durieu de Lacarelle


Last week saw the passing of a ‘Baron’ and a Duke: two luminaries of the wine world, both in their 80s, from opposite ends – in every sense – of the world. Both Peter Lehmann in Australia, affectionately known as the ‘Baron of Barossa’, and the Comte de Lacarelle in Beaujolais can justifiably be regarded as having helped to change the face of their respective wine regions, and the habits of the wine-drinking public. Both men were concerned with producing wines of real quality and authenticity in an era when winemaking techniques were often rudimentary. Their legacies will live on, and we should all raise a glass to their memories.

Tim Sykes
Head of Buying

Peter Lehmann

Peter Lehmann (far right) and Barossa growers relaxing in the 1970s.

Peter Lehmann (far right) and Barossa growers in the 1970s.

Winemaker Peter Lehmann passed away peacefully last week at the age of 82. His contribution to Australia’s wine scene is almost impossible to gauge, such was the enormity of his influence, particularly in the Barossa. In fact, many would claim that Peter was one of the saviours of this region, which today is renowned the world over for producing high-quality, distinctive wine.

Over the course of my buying trips to the region, the enormity of Lehmann’s reputation, his contribution to the wine industry and the affection felt for him by those who worked with him was always obvious. His son Doug would visibly light up whenever his father was mentioned. The fierce loyalty he showed towards his growers and colleagues was as formidable as the remarkably consistent quality of his wines.

During Australia’s ‘wine glut’ in the 1970s, when overproduction and economic constraints conspired to put the industry in a perilous position, Peter was one of a handful of winemakers who promised to continue buying from growers against all economic odds. Indeed, even when his previous employer told him to buy fewer grapes from the network of growers he stood by his word (had he not, the likelihood is that the growers would have taken financial security from the government who were encouraging producers to grub up their vineyards).

In 1979 he established Masterton Barossa Vineyards and in 1982 it was renamed Peter Lehmann wines. Over the years, the portfolio of wines has grown and today represents one of the most consistent ranges in Australia. What marks it out is that the wines, at every price level, reflect the high quality and personality typical of Barossa.

Peter Lehmann leaves behind his wife and collaborator Margaret, their sons David and Philip, and Doug and Libby from his first marriage.

Pierre Mansour
Society Buyer for Australia

Comte Durieu de Lacarelle

Comte Durieu de Lacarelle.

Comte Durieu de Lacarelle.

Last week it was announced that the Comte de Lacarelle has died aged 88. He was one of the leading figures in Beaujolais in his day and contributed to its success, particular during the heyday of Beaujolais Nouveau.

This is one of the oldest estates in Beaujolais which in its present form can be traced back to 1750. The Lacarelles had good business sense and at the time had created a Paris based company to sell the wines. The estate is large with about 150ha of vineyard, much of it in the hands of tenants, or in French ‘metayer’.

Durieu de Lacarelle took over the estate in 1969 though he remembers meeting Wine Society buyers long before that. He felt passionately that Beaujolais should be properly made in a way that the wine could be enjoyed young without having to be kept. To this end he applied all his skills as an oenologist at a time when the status of winemaker barely existed. He was in so many ways very much ahead of his time.

The Lacarelles were close to the Dépagneux family and it is that link which provided The Society such an invaluable source of good Beaujolais. The Society often listed Lacarelle wines as such and for many years also shipped in their nouveau. In our opinion, Lacarelle Nouveau was simply the best. And for good reason as the vines here were always among the first to ripen and made a Beaujolais that was by itself always soft and round. Little wonder then that Lacarelle often formed part of the Society Beaujolais Villages blend. The 2012 vintage, his last, was the not the easiest to manage with less than half a crop and was all sold as Nouveau

Comte Durieu de Lacarelle enjoyed meeting Wine Society buyers and never gave too much away in negotiation. He was invariably courteous and hospitable, opening up his immaculate gardens and graceful house to countless visitors. Those from The Wine Society, who sometimes turned up in vintage cars, were especially welcomed.

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society Buyer for Beaujolais


  1. Grant Shepherd says:

    My fondness for Aussie wines began very many years ago when I would buy a bottle a week of Peter Lehmann’s Barossa Shiraz – I think they call this one of the ‘art series’. I’ve had several Stonewell shiraz, and ordered two bottles of his 1885 VSV shiraz as I kind of farewell wave when I heard the sad news a few days ago. He will be missed, but he surely leaves a wealth of good memories.

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