On Saturday 23rd September 2023, Australia’s ‘father of riesling’ John Vickery passed away.
For more than half a century, John was responsible for some of Australia’s finest rieslings. He started with Leo Buring in the 1950s, bringing riesling into the spotlight as one of South Australia’s greatest white varietals by the 1980s. Over the years he worked for Lindemans, Southcorp and Orlando.
In 2007, John was awarded the Medal of Order of Australia for 'service to the wine industry as an oenologist, particularly through the development of innovative methods for riesling production.' He won more than 50 trophies, 400 gold medals and a Jimmy Watson in his time.
“John Vickery was long regarded as the grand master of riesling,” James Halliday said. “Quietly spoken, he had to put up with decisions of the large companies who were his task masters, such as being sent to Coonawarra for four years.”
In recent years, John enjoyed a more peaceful partnership with winemaker Keeda Zilm at Vickery Wines, owned by the Usual Suspects Collective.
“The launch of the 10th vintage of Vickery Riesling this year now feels even more special, and we hope everyone will stop and think of John’s contribution when enjoying a glass of riesling this summer and celebrate the wonderful and full life he lived,” Keeda said in a statement.
Our editor-in-chief Campbell Mattinson says John was a hero within the wine industry.
“I remember, just over 20 years ago, a day when I felt jaded and tired with wine, because I'd been judging at a wine show, and we'd just finished tasting 75 or more rich, tannic cabernets. And then someone served us an old Vickery riesling, Leonay or Leo Buring. And it was like a cool breeze, and like honey, and like earth, and like lime, and like everything that was good about wine, and about Australia. It really was one of those life-changing moments.
“Instead of going home tired that day, I went home excited. That was John Vickery, winemaker. He had the science of wine, and he also had the art, but even more he had a feel for wine that was unsurpassed.”
John is survived by his wife Mary and children Richard, Robert, Emily, Annabel and William. His family has asked for privacy during this time.
Image credit: Vickery Wines