Trailblazers of Australian Wine- Final

By Fergal Gleeson

Rollo and Garry Crittenden

Garry Crittenden along with wife Margaret established Crittenden Estate in the Mornington Peninsula in 1982. The Crittendens were one of the region’s pioneers. The Mornington Peninsula now boasts over 50 cellar doors. Many of the wineries have fine dining restaurants and art galleries.

Crittenden was one of the earliest experimenters with Italian grapes, planting piedmontese varietals nebbiolo, dolcetto, barbera and arneis. In 1999, he co-authored a book ‘Australian Winegrape Varieties in Australia’. Crittenden Estate now also offers a range of Iberian wines under the Los Hermanos label.

This was far ahead of it’s time when you consider that Italian and Spanish varietals have only become mainstream in the last 5 years. Crittenden Estate, like the Mornington generally, is best known for it’s pinot noir and chardonnay.

We could, of course, give a nod to the likes of Charlie Melton for his work with Grenache and Shiraz, Tim Kirk with Shiraz Viognier, Quealy/McCarthy with Pinot Grigio and Chester Osborn for his sheer ‘out of the square’ thoughts on wine, winemaking and promotion of wine in McLaren Vale and Australia which is currently told through the d’Arenberg Cube, the list goes on….


Trailblazing Promoters

There are others who have played an important part, not just through their winemaking, but through the written word and promotion.

Len Evans, Hunter Valley legend

Len Evans, was Australia’s first regular wine columnist.  He recalled ordering a white wine with dinner in Mount Isa in the early 1960’s, only for the innkeeper to reply “What are you some kind of poof?” Thankfully times have changed and Evans helped drive it.

Evan’s was a larger than life character, who played a huge role in educating Australia about wine in the following decades. He was a promoter, taster, wine show judge, wine educator, winemaker at Rothbury and later Tower Estate in the Hunter Valley.

Evans was blessed, as Nicholas Faith said in his book, Australia’s Liquid Gold, with “a golden tongue and a great palate” and as a doctor said, with “a genius of a liver”! He was a mentor for James Halliday. 

James Halliday put aside his career as a partner in one of Australia’s leading law firms to become a winemaker. He founded Brokenwood in the Hunter and later Coldstream Hills in the Yarra. Today Halliday is Australia’s leading wine writer and critic.

He has written or contributed to nearly 80 books since he began wine writing in 1970. Winemakers wait anxiously every year on the points their wines will receive in the annual ‘The Halliday Wine Companion’, such is his influence.

Mention must also go to Wolf Blass, Brian & Faye McGuigan, Robert Oatley & Chris Hancock of Rosemount and the Casella family of Yellow Tail have all played massive roles in the Australia wine industry.

They broke Australian wine into new markets and democratised wine consumption at home and abroad. Wine is no longer just the play thing of connoisseurs and the upper classes. Through producing well-made and affordable wines they have made wine accessible to all.


Australia continues to produce trailblazing winemakers. Surfer punk Taras Ochota, lo-fi natural winemaker Jo Perry, Gippsland pinot guru William Downie, West Australian serial award winner Larry Cherubino, sparkling wine specialist Fran Austin and Barossan young gun Fraser McKinley would all be featured in a trailblazers of the future article.

These and other innovators will continue to raise standards and disrupt norms, sometimes even challenging our ideas about how wine should taste! The future of Australian wine is very exciting indeed!

The conclusion of a three part series

From Selector Magazine





Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s