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           Sydney Time



   Copyright © Ric Einstein 2009






‘A True Story’ – Australia’s most Decorated Winemaker (5 September)


December 25 - Christmas day 1948: it would have been a memorable occasion for most Australians, but it was a cause for an extra special celebration for one Whyalla SA couple. It was stinking hot; a typical summer’s day; about 108 degrees in the shade. It’s not easy to give birth to a child in that heat, but for this mother-to-be, things were doubly difficult. Out popped one son, and forty minutes later, an identical brother was born. The couple had no way of knowing, and in their wildest dreams they would never have thought that they had just launched what would become a winemaking dynasty, and that their first-born son would become Australia’s most awarded winemaker. This is his true story.  


Recently I was invited to a dinner at the Journeyman restaurant in Berrima by Shane Redmond, a distributor for small wineries (Lewis Fine Wine). The guest of honour was John Glaetzer, and we were to be shown his wines with the dinner.


When I rocked up, I knew that the food would be good as the Journeyman is one of the two best restaurants in the Southern Highlands (and had just been awarded a hat in the SMH Food guide.) Having consumed many of John Glaetzer’s wines over the years, as well as having tried his current label, I also knew the wines should be enjoyable, but having never met the man, I didn’t know what to expect. Would he be a boring old fart (well he is 4 years older than I am) or would he be staid and conservative? I had no idea. Boy; did I have no idea!


Ten of us sat down for dinner. Only about half the group knew each other, so it took a bit of time for the atmosphere to reach optimal temperature. Over dinner, there was much discussion and Shane did a seamless job of thawing out the participants without dominating proceedings, but our guest of honour rarely said much unless he was asked a question. I was seated on the same side, but at the other end of the table from him, so conversing with John was difficult. When he occasionally did speak, it sounded like he was mumbling underwater; it was damn hard to understand what he was saying. The initial impression was not particularly impressive, although he did manage to make us chuckle a few times.


It's hard to talk about wine today without the subject of computers surfacing, and when it did, John took a pen from his pocket, held it up in the air in one hand and proudly proclaimed, "This is my computer." Later in the conversation, I made some remark about not having brought my digital recorder with me. Once again, out came the pen and John held it up in the air and proudly proclaimed, "This is my recorder.” He then put up his hand in a traffic cop like stop position and said, “Hang on a second it's not turned on." And with that, he took the top off the pen. He is a bit of a wag!


After dinner, as John was returning from having yet another coffin nail, I asked him a question. He put his beer down on the table and plonked his bum onto the chair opposite me. When I offered him a glass of water, his held up his beer and said, “This is 94.7% water, and someone told me that fish fornicate in water; no thanks.”


I lost track of how long we sat there, but John was certainly not boring; he was informative, entertaining, knowledgeable, opinionated, and if there was an Olympic event for talking with a mouth full of marbles underwater, he would represent Australia; and no doubt bring home gold!


Gold: John Glaetzer is pure gold, so I decided to do a formal interview with him the next day, but before we get to that, here are the detail of the food and wine we consumed.


The evening's proceedings kicked off at six o'clock at the Surveyor-General Hotel, but as I wished to make sense of my tasting notes, I skipped the drinks and went straight to the restaurant, arriving last. They were already on to the second Rosé, so I hadn't missed much. I did sample the Gipsie Jack 2007 Rosé, which is Shiraz-based and sealed with a screwcap. It's not due for release until later in the year, which is good, as a little more time in the bottle won't do it any harm. The bouquet shows red cherry, milk chocolate and earthy notes. It's a lean, supple wine that’s smooth, easy drinking and would be perfect on a hot summer's day. The pure-fruit delivers intense dark chocolate, which is surprise, together with a black tarry like flavour, and the fresh acid finishes clean and refreshing.


The appetizer was served in a short black coffee cup and tasted strangely of Tom Yum soup. It was crammed full of flavour, and a perfect palate stimulator.


There was still time before the first course was served, so the (double-blind) mystery wine was poured. The bouquet was very earthy and meaty. The deep, strong fruit delivered meaty flavours with chocolate, toasted oak, vanillin oak, mint and whilst the tannins initially seemed slightly green, as the wine opened, the green dissipated. It was a muscular-weight wine backed by loads of fine, chewy tannins that gave it a firm consistency solid structure and an agreeable complexity. Rated as Recommended, I thought it was a Shiraz Mourvedre blend. We then started playing the options game, and I acquitted myself quite reasonably (for once, but then the questions were very easy,) and only got one wrong. The wine turned out to be the Gipsie Jack 2005 Malbec. A very-drinkable wine and worth buying, if you can find it; production is extremely limited.


The first course was a warm salad of prawns and cherry tomato, with an avocado cream sauce that included hazelnuts, basil, dill, flat leaf parsley, and loads of garlic. A wonderful combination of both flavours and textures that made the taste buds sit up and pay attention. This dish certainly got a big thumbs-up.


A bottle of white wine was served with this course and it did actually go well with food. Readers may find this hard to believe, but I know that it is fact because  John Glaetzer admitted making a white wine, however he did make a comment about doing it but as this is a family programme, it won't be repeated here. Whilst it is confession time, I actually took two sips of the wine and the food was well matched to it. (And that’s a compliment coming from a red bigot.)


We then had two wines presented side by side and surprisingly enough, both are still available for sale.


John's Blend 1999 Margarete’s Shiraz is sealed under cork. The bouquet exudes bright and vibrant fruit that is dominated by coconut oak which leads to a palate that is dominated by coconut oak, mint, dark fruits and chocolate. The fruit is deeply-seated and pure. It has enough oomph to match the oak influence, as well as the load of fine, drying tannins. A full-bodied, firm, harmonious wine that is approaching seamlessness, the acid is still amazingly fresh. A lovely wine, it is rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, it's ready to go now, but will probably still improve in the short term.


John's Blend 2002 Margarete’s Shiraz is sealed under cork. The nose is dominated by abundant coconut oak and very earthy notes. It's an unapologetically big, but perfectly balanced, and not at all flabby. In fact, the fresh acid cuts through the intense, pure fruit and fine, dusty tannins like a hot knife through butter. The palate shows far less oak than the 99 (coconut and vanilla flavours), and the dark fruit flavours together with mint, builds slowly and finishes with hearty flavour. A firm, solid wine and judged the most popular wine of the night by the attendees, it's rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, and the rating should improve as the wine reaches maturity around 2012 and beyond.


During the proceedings, as John was walking back inside after having had yet another cigarette, I bailed him up with a question. "These are big, oaky, ripe wines but there is absolutely no sense of flabbiness about them, in fact the acid, even on the 99 is noticeably very fresh, how do you manage to achieve this?”


His initial response was succinct and to the point. "If you don't get the pH right on day one you are screwed." He then launched into a no holds barred rant about current winemaking techniques, John completely poo-poohed many of the modern techniques that lead to soft, flabby and over-ripe wines. His attitude is the wine should ideally be at the right pH before it hits the crusher, and he starts thinking about adjusting the pH before the grapes have even left the vineyard. If conditions require it, John is happy to adjust with up to 5gm per litre of tartaric acid.


The main course was a block of slowly-braised, oyster blade beef. It was presented with Dutch carrots, eschalots, and confit celeriac. The sauce served with this dish was commanding. The base of the sauce is the chef's master stock, which is then turned into a “poaching liquor” (or reduction sauce) with the addition of much red wine. Tim then added aromatic root vegetables and bay leaves, and then allowed it to cook very slowly for four hours. The meat was as soft as butter and melted in and the mouth. The accompanying sauce whilst rich, balanced the dish, and was judged to perfection.


The next two wines served were both Cabernet Sauvignon from Langhorne Creek.


John's Blend 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon is sealed under cork. It has a well-integrated nose showing earthy notes, oak and mint. Fine, dusty tannins and pure fruit combine to form a muscular-weight wine with a supple consistency, and solid structure. The fruit-weight seems a tad lean for the wine, and whilst it is okay, it is a product of the vintage, and my least favourite wine of the night. Rated as Acceptable with *** for value.


John's Blend 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon is sealed under cork. The bouquet was brooding, earthy and showed oak characters. A full-bodied, firm wine with a solid consistency and tight structure the wine needs time to build complexity and integrate. Backed by deeply-seated fruit, fresh acid and fine, dusty tannins that finish dry, it's hard to know what will win the battle, the oak, the fruit or the tannins. Flavours are black, with dark oak characters; rated as Recommended with *** for value, by 2012 you should know which way it's going to.


Between courses, a complimentary mouth size portion of the sorbet was served to cleanse the palate. On this occasion it was raspberry, apple and strawberry. It was an instantaneous, cold explosion of contrasting, but complimentary flavours that blitzed the palate clean. I wouldn't mind half a litre of this in the freezer at home, to munch on after dinner.


The dessert was a variation on a Cherry Ripe bar. There was an artfully presented blob of Dutch panna cotta chocolate filled with cherry coulis, and next to it was an equally artfully presented blob of coconut sorbet. One half of the dish was delicious, but as I intensely dislike coconut, I left the other half.


Just in case anyone was hungry, to top off the night, some beautiful Gorgonzola was served with fresh bread and biscuits. An obvious, high-quality cheese, it was soft and ripe, and lip-smackingly good.


It was a top night, and the restaurant did a great job in matching the food to the wine. I couldn't believe it when I looked at my watch and it was already after 11 p.m. The time had flown, and the quickest part of the night was the time I spent talking to John Glaetzer, and that is what inspired the rest of the story, so let's go back to the beginning.


Like most of the immigrants to the Barossa, John’s grandparents were born in Germany, and arrived in South Australia when they were children. Both of John's parents were born in Clare, and lived on vineyard properties, prior to moving to Whyalla in South Australia. Having grown up on vineyard properties, naturally the family was used to drinking wine with meals.


In 1952, when John was four, the family moved to Underdale in Adelaide. Scratching a living was not easy work for John's father, Len even in Adelaide. He owned a truck and used it to cart bricks, and he did it the hard way. Loading and unloading was done by hand. In the mid 1960s, the brick moving business was not looking good, and the family was struggling financially. Time for a drink!


Len drove ten minutes up the road to Normans Wines, where he always bought his "Hock" and “Port”. As luck would have it, Normans was experiencing a staff difficulty, and an agreement was reached that was mutually beneficial to both parties.


The year was 1966 and a young Wolf Blass had already left Kaiser Stuhl and had become a consultant winemaker to amongst others, Normans Wines. (He charged the exorbitant sum of $2.50 per hour. He also operated a selling arm, and his commission was 3 to 5 cents per gallon.) Whilst he was employed at Normans, Len and Wolf Blass became good mates.


In 1966, both John and his identical twin brother Colin "helped out" at Normans during vintage, but it was also their final year at school. Like most lads of that age, they didn't have a defined career path laid out, and the boy's father was discussing their future with Wolf Blass. Len had even less idea of what the boys should be doing than they did! Clearly that must have been the case because he asked Wolf Blass if he should buy them each a truck. Wolf knew the wine business was going to go places and the decision was made that the boys should be part of it. In John's final year at school the boy did well; so well that he was awarded the first Commonwealth Scholarship to attend Roseworthy Agricultural College.


In those days, prior to doing the winemaking course, a two year agriculture course at Roseworthy was mandatory. During this time, as well as attending his studies, John was working part-time at Normans. It was during this time that Wolf Blass decided to see what John was made of, vinously speaking. In a tasting room, he lined up seventeen glasses of wine and told John to wade his way through them, and pick out the top three wines in order. Bear in mind, at this stage John had not started the wine course and was still doing the agricultural section. After an hour of mucking around tasting the wines, Wolf got quite impatient with John and told him to stop stuffing around.


John then picked out the wines he thought should be first, second and third, and proceeded to tell Wolf why he thought they deserved those positions. According to John, "The shit hit the fan. Wolfie accused me of looking at his notes. He was jumping up and down having a German tantrum, but it was impossible for me to have read his notes, because they were folded up in his back pocket. He couldn't believe that I had picked the same three as him, in the same order. On that day he demanded that, as soon as I graduated, I was to work for him.”


In 1967, Wolf Blass started making wine for himself at Normans.  When John finished his course in 1969, he immediately went to work for Wolf Blass. At that stage, Wolf Blass was the managing winemaker at Tolley, Scott and Tolley (known as TST). The company distilled brandy in a big way and was owned by United Distillers. Wolf’s mission was to turn it into a brandy and wine company. (Tollana was the result.)


As one would expect, Wolf was also making his own wine there but TST were unhappy with Wolfie doing his own thing on the side. The writing was on the wall, and in 1968, Wolf Blass bought some land and started to build a shed. Today that shed is a huge winery, but that's another story.


Anyone who has ever met Wolf Blass, or knows anything about the man, will know he is a perfectionist and demands perfection from his staff before they gain his respect. At TST, there was a lady (Margarete) who handled the pay and the brandy sales, as well as finding time to be Wolfie's secretary. According to John, she was capable of keeping Wolfie happy, and that's no mean feat. Not long after John started at TST, both John and Margarete ask for the same morning off. The boss was not happy, and although he let them both go, he didn't talk to either of them for four days. When Wolf received the engagement party invitation from Margarete, he picked John up and hugged him and kissed him. All was forgiven once he understood they had been to Adelaide to buy an engagement ring. In February 1971, John and Margarete tied the knot.


During his time at TST, John was both heavily involved with Margarete and in making Wolf Blass's own label wines, (and probably on the boss’s time too). In 1973 Wolf Blass severed ties with TST and went out on his own full time. In 1975, John Glaetzer joined him, in what would be an incredible partnership.


In those early days, the life of the winemaker was certainly not easy. In 1975 they crushed all their grapes at Jim Barry in the Clare Valley. John said, "In 1976 it was at ‘a little joint in Tanunda’. The next few years after that, we crushed at Basedow with Doug Lehmann, and then we went to Peter Lehmann. By 1989, when all the fruit came in at once, I was crushing in 19 locations simultaneously.” When I said “wow, that would have kept you busy” John responded, "I gotta tell you, there were plenty of notes on the back of plenty of packets of Benson & Hedges.”


At this point, I should state that there is no truth in the rumour that the makers of Benson & Hedges have taken out a “loss of profit” insurance policy in case John gives up smoking.


When I asked John, "In your formative winemaking years, who had the greatest influence on your career?" I never expected the answer I received. He said, "George Fairbrother! He was a wine industry supply guy, but he was also a senior judge in both Adelaide and Sydney. He was Wolfie's mentor and mine too. George had a magnificent, stylistic palate and every time we had Wolfie's wines out to look at, George would be there too.


Whilst he was at TST, John was not at all happy with the quality of the oak barrels being delivered. They were green and sappy, so in 1973, John ordered a container of French oak from a new local supplier, to be delivered prior to the 74 vintage. The fifty-seven barrels were to be made up by a local cooper. To quote John, "The assholes at TST reneged on the order, so without telling my wife Margarete, I bought the oak myself. I made a promise to buy it, so I bought it. At that stage, I had just borrowed $10,000 to build a house and the oak bill was $23,000."


The decision was made to leave TST and join Wolf Blass full time, but there was also a small matter of $23,000 worth of barrels that needed a home. Whilst he was employed by TST, John was moonlighting on the side for Wolf Blass, who he officially joined full time in May 1975. Naturally Wolf was aware of John's predicament with the barrels, and as a result, John purchased grapes from some of Wolfie's growers in Langhorne Creek and made the first of his own wines. Those barrels were to last him six vintages, but their legacy lives on today in John's Blend.


As we already know, Wolfie is smarter than the average bear, and restricted John to 250 dozen bottles of wine a year. That was just as well. One of the first people that John sold to went broke, owing him $3000, which was a lot of money in those days; it represented almost a third of the cost of building his house. It taught him a very important lesson, the need to be paid.


From its humble beginnings, Wolf Blass wines grew exponentially and through mergers and acquisitions, became the corner stone of what is the largest wine company in the world today. In June 2004, John decided to retire from the Beringer Blass wine division and became a consultant so that he could concentrate on John's blend and take life a bit easier. In his capacity as a consultant, he is currently employed by approximately seven organisations, both large and small.


The consulting jobs and John's Blend are only part of John's workload. At the beginning of May, John left home to judge the Brisbane Festival, returned home for a couple of days and then went off to Switzerland for a week. Next up was Singapore for four days, and then home to do some washing. Once the washing dried, it was back to Hong Kong, Anchorage, Toronto, New York, Austin, Cape Cod, Chicago, L.A., San Francisco, and then to New Zealand to put the Gipsie Jack sauvignon blanc blend together, and then home for a home-cooked meal. Not long after dinner had been digested, he was back in Brisbane for the Brisbane Wine Fair, home for a few days so the dog didn’t forget who he was, and then to Cowra for some wine judging. As that wasn't quite enough, there were a few wine dinners to attend in various cities around the country. The day after the final dinner in the tour, it was back home for another few days. There were some consulting jobs lined up in the Barossa that needed his attention, then a week of consulting in Clare, and finally he is going to the Perth show. I get tired just thinking about a schedule like that.


So much for leaving Fosters for a quieter lifestyle.


Over the years, he has judged virtually every wine show in the country at one time or another. According to John, "In one year I judged at seven shows, because it was a great way of keeping away from the corporate bullshit."


Surprisingly enough for a packet-a-day smoker, John doesn't start the day off with a cigarette. He always has something to eat first, as well as coffee with milk and sugar, to give him energy. After lunch, the coffee is black. When I asked John what his favourite food was, the answer was, "somewhere between a T bone steak and a lamb chop.” He is a red meat and red wine man.


In his career to date, John has amassed approximately 3,600 trophies, medals, and awards for the wines he has made. At least 5% of that number are trophies, and over 10% are gold medals. That's an incredible achievement in anyone's language and makes John Glaetzer Australia's most awarded winemaker.


During our conversation, I asked John to look back at the achievement for which he was most proud, and asked him to tell me about it. Bear in mind, John has won a few awards in his day, but award did not figure in his answer.


He said, "1983! It was a disastrous vintage everywhere, first there was drought everywhere, and then the flooding rains came at exactly the wrong time. I would be down at Lehmann's at four o'clock in the morning doing the crushing, and I got to do all the shit work too, including all the shovelling. I knew this vintage was going to be a big challenge. Normally at about 5 a.m., I would dip into Peter Lehmann's press tank. Ideally it would have been a Barossa Shiraz that I had crushed the day before. I would then throw in 20% of Lehmann's pressings into Blass's wine and would then do my paperwork.


At around six in the morning, Peter Lehmann would start work at the weighbridge. By the time I arrived there, Lehmann would have the electric jug going. We would throw in a couple of eggs, and have a fag whilst the eggs were boiling, and then eat the boiled eggs out of wine tasting glasses, whilst discussing how much he was going to charge me for the pressings which I had flogged two hours before. Whilst all this was going on, the growers would be arriving to sell their fruit and whilst they were waiting to be weighed, they would be chewing on Mettwurst and drinking a glass of port.


By grabbing those pressings, all the Wolf Blass wines had structure in them as they started to ferment. As all good winemakers know, you have to have everything spot on at the beginning, and those pressings meant that I won more gold medals and trophies than any other red wine maker in the country that year. I had no competition, all because I got the structure right first.”


During our dinner, we struck a couple of bottles of corked wine, so when I had the opportunity, I asked John about his attitude towards, one of the hottest winemaking issues, closures on red wine. His answer was rather along one that is certainly worth sharing with you.


Last year, John was attending a luncheon put on by Jim Murphy in Canberra. Jim was doing the food, and John was doing the wine. A hundred guests had accepted invitations, including the then nation's Commissioner of Taxation, Michael Carmody. Jim had warned John that he was to be on his best behaviour, and was certainly not to mention anything like contra or barter deals between winemakers.


To quote John, he started off by saying “This is a ‘true story’. There I was concentrating on my one-liners, being on my best behaviour, and making sure nothing I said was going to get me in the shit. I was thinking about what I was about to say next when a woman put up her hand and asked me if I preferred corks or screwcaps. Not wanting to get side tracked I said I will get back to you. I managed to deliver my next two one-liners without upsetting the Commissioner for Taxation and a woman put up her hand again and asked me the same question; do you prefer corks or screwcaps?


I still didn't want to be sidetracked, so I said to her, it's a bit of a personal question, and moved on with my talk. A little bit later on, her hand went up again, and she asked me why it was a personal question. With a roomful of over a hundred people, and without thinking, I flippantly replied ‘It depends if you prefer screwing or pulling.’


As soon as I had said it, I thought you bloody idiot Glaetzer. I faced the wall and tried to worm my way out to the exit and after about five seconds, turned around, and Carmody was pissing himself laughing, as was the rest of the room.”


When I asked the original question, probably much like the lady who put her hand up, I never expected that answer. John did go on to say that from a quality perspective, he prefers screwcaps for red wine but unfortunately the US market, and Switzerland, which are his two biggest customers are not ready for them yet.


The first vintage of John's Blend was made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that he purchased from Langhorne Creek in 1974. In 1995 Margarete’s Shiraz was added to the portfolio. It too came from Langhorne Creek. John obviously has an affinity for the area, and recently launched another brand in partnership with Bill Potts.


In 2004, when the oversupply of grapes problem was hurting growers badly, many of long-time growers had a great deal of difficulty selling their grapes, and not to put too fine a point on it, were being royally screwed by some of the larger producers, and the prediction was that things were only going to get worse in the short term. Bill Potts was one such grower; in fact his family have been growing grapes in Langhorne Creek for five generations. Bill and John were good mates. The Gipsie Jack label was born out of that association and the longer term need to sell grapes


When John told me the brand had been named after his Jack Russell, naturally the subject turned to dogs. How they came to get a Jack Russell is quite interesting. Margarete's brother had some Jacks, and they really liked their intelligence, feisty nature and loyalty. When their old "thoroughbred mongrel” passed away at the age of 16, they decided to get their first Jack Russell. She was called Whisky and died at the age of 14, and that was when Gipsie came upon the scene. And now, Gipsie Jack has a wine label venture named after him. To putting things in their true perspective, John and Margarete's children gave them a sign for their house which reads, "The dog and its housekeepers live here."


Not wishing to compete with either the Potts or John's Blend portfolios, the wines are priced in the $16-$18 price range. There is Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, as well as a Shiraz -based Rosé, a Shiraz and the Malbec.


When I asked John about some of the most important changes that had taken place in the wine industry during his time in it, he touched on a few of the highlights. Cold fermentation was the first. John also feels that both the diversity of fruit available and the improvements in viticulture allow winemakers to produce much better wines than in days gone by. The oak has also improved substantially.


The answer to the reverse question, "what are the greatest challenges facing the wine industry in Australia today" was blunt and to the point. John said, "There are a lot of ****wits in the industry today that think wine is just another beverage; it's not! If these people have their way, the Australian wine business will all be under one banner; a (wine) beverage that sells for under $10, and if you have a close look, it all tastes pretty similar. This whole thing really annoys me. The guys in the vineyard are not being reasonably rewarded for their efforts and if we are not careful, Australia will become recognized as an $8.99 a bottle, single wine region. This really concerns me.”


Amongst those 3,600 awards, trophies and medals John Glaetzer has won, he has the unique distinction of having won what for many years was regarded as the most prestige wine trophy in Australia, the Jimmy Watson, not once, not twice, not three times, but four times.


If you haven't already guessed, John is a down-to-earth, no BS sort of guy who enjoys a smoke and a beer, and whilst the last two items may not be everyone's cup of tea (bad pun intended), most people would enjoy his sense of humour. Here is another example.


George Samios was a PR guy who worked at Wolf Blass with John in days gone by. They were doing a launch of a wine together in Adelaide some years ago. After George introduced John, he decided to throw him a curve-ball question by asking him, "Why did it take you so long to win the fourth Jimmy Watson?" (He won the first three in 74, 75 and 76 and the fourth, twenty three years later in 1999.)


According to John, “George put me on the spot and I thought, you bastard, I’ll fix you.” John then proceeded to tell ‘a true story.’


“When I won the third Jimmy Watson, in those days, the society told you about a week before. Back then, we didn't have a lot of money so Wolf Blass and I booked into a twin bedded room in a very old fashioned (and inexpensive) pub in Melbourne. We went out that night on the turps celebrating in a big way. The award was going to be officially announced the next morning. We drank far too much and hit the sack about three o'clock in the morning. I woke up at about five and there was someone else in bed with me. I didn't move a muscle. I lay there too scared to roll over and thinking, I’m married and I am going to be in deep shit. At six o'clock, I was still lying there too scared to roll over, panicking more as each minute went passed. Finally I plucked up enough courage to roll over, and there was Wolf Blass on the other side of my bed. He had got up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet, and was so drunk that he got back into the wrong bed.


So I turned to George in front of the 300 assembled guests and said: Is that a good enough reason not to win another Jimmy Watson?”


At the end of the interview I told John I would like to send him an advance copy of the text so he could have a look at it. I asked him if he wanted me to fax a copy to him, and his response was, “No you can use that other thing, what's it called?” Naturally he was referring to e-mail. Whilst he doesn't use it personally, Margarete prints out the interesting ones and give them to him to read. Old-fashioned? Absolutely! Unashamedly so. John Glaetzer is his own man and does things his way. Some of his winemaking techniques, like adding four to five grams of tartaric acid per litre if required, may be regarded as old-fashioned too, but there is one thing you can't take away from the guy, he must be doing something right to have become Australia's most decorated winemaker.


For the money, the Gipsie Jack wines that I have tried certainly represent value and his Margarete’s Shiraz is consistently a good-quality wine and above average value. Who knows what the future holds, but one thing is for sure, John Glaetzer will continue to be involved in the wine industry as long as he can still draw breath (through his beloved Benson and Hedges.)


Postscript:  The other twin is no slouch as a winemaker either; Colin Glaetzer made wine at Tyrrells, Seppelts and Barossa Valley Estates where he created the E&E Black Pepper Shiraz, before starting his own Glaetzer Wines in 1995.  His son Ben is probably already even more famous and is seen as one of the best new-generation winemakers.  He is already known for the Amon Ra, Godolphin/Anaperenna, Mitolo wines, Heartland and a few other brands he makes wine for or consults too.


Feel free to submit your comments!

From: Max

09/03/2007 19:52:45 Ripper story mate - you've done bloody well!

From: Monkeyboy

09/03/2007 21:15:57 Torb, great interview and fantastic read. You've managed to capture John's character in a succinct article. Sounds like a bloke that would be great to have a beer with.

Screwing or pulling, the response makes me chuckle just thinking about it.

I look forward to reading about the current and next generation of winemakers as they too become the characters of the industry in their own time.



From: Steve Knight

09/04/2007 05:36:36 Thanks for a good read.

Next time you chat to J.G tell him I said he has to think up some new stories!! At least he didn't tell you the one about his long suffering wife!!!

I have had the pleasure of knowing the rogue for some considerable years. I think it may be because we enjoy the odd "NAIL" together, and get to have lots of one-on-ones away from the madding crowd. By-the-way, despite all those ciggys he has an impeccable palate.

He has been, is, and will be as long as he lives, a mentor to those who want to approach wine in a "no bullshit" manner, and you have described that for your readers to a "T".

I am pleased that you had the opportunity to meet "Johno". Most of us are the better for it.



TORB Responds:

Steve, He did tell me all about his wife, but I knew she would read the pre release copy, so I could not mention Box Head! :)

From: smithy

09/08/2007 01:54:15 John (ugly as he is) is the red winemakers pinup boy for all decent red winemakers.
Open with his vast knowledge,not shy with his opinions, enthusiastic, and at all times,an Aussie larrikin. He is an inspiration to all....and bloody good fun to share a bottle with!

Copyright © Ric Einstein 2007