Friday, February 6, 2015

A tribute to Phillip John

The news of Phillip John’s death saddened me greatly. He and I were involved in wine show judging over several decades and numerous intersections with winemaking/consulting over a period of four years at Lindemans.  A handsome testimonial was released on behalf of James Kirby of Hungerford Hill Wines, and that follows. - JH
Vale Phillip John
One of the greats in the Australian wine fraternity passed away this week.

Born into a famous Barossa Valley cooperage family, Phillip John was destined to be in the wine industry. He started his winemaking career with Seppelt’s straight out of school, and stayed with them until 1980 when he joined Lindeman’s. This role took him to Sydney where he oversaw winemaking in the Hunter Valley as well as their growing Sunraysia operations. Phillip ‘fathered’ one of Australia’s first successes in the US and UK, Lindeman’s Bin 65 Chardonnay, but was reluctant to carry this mantle, wanting to earn a reputation for fine wine!

Lindeman’s was acquired by Southcorp in the late 1980s, and Phillip rose to chief white winemaker for the group. This included responsibility for Hungerford Hill, which came into the group in 1990.

Phillip was a casualty of the Southcorp take-over of Rosemount in 2001. When James Kirby acquired the well-known (but by then somewhat neglected) Hungerford Hill brand, he approached Phillip to become Chief Winemaker. Phillip took this on with a passion, travelling the country sourcing quality grapes to create Hungerford Hill’s portfolio of elegant cool climate wines. He was particularly passionate about Tumbarumba, developing a close rapport with the local growers with whom he had worked since joining Southcorp.

Sadly, Phillip retired from Hungerford Hill in 2008 due to ill health, but remained a consultant until quite recently, visiting Tumbarumba and advising winemaker Adrian Lockhart on progress of the grape crop.

Tumbarumba’s growing recognition as a premium Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sparkling wine region and Hungerford Hill’s outstanding success with these wines are a testament to Phillip John’s vision and persistence. He will be sorely missed by all his friends in the Australian wine industry.

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