VIDEO: Peter Lehmann dies, aged 82

Barossa wine legend Peter Lehmann passed away on Friday, June 28, aged 82 at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. 

Lehmann, who would have been 83 in August, was known as the Baron of the Barossa.

The famous winemaker hadn’t been well for several years and had been receiving dialysis treatment for a kidney disease. 

He died peacefully in hospital with his beloved wife Margaret by his side.

His son, Doug Lehmann, who worked with him for more then 20 years remembers his father as “one in a million.”

“Like everything he did in his life, he fought incredibly hard until the end,” Doug said.

Peter and Margaret photographed in Canberra in 2011. Picture: Lyn Mills

Peter and Margaret photographed in Canberra in 2011. Picture: Lyn Mills

“He certainly lived more than nine lives in his 82 years.’

Fellow wine legend Wolf Blass described Lehmann as a "bloody good bloke who will never disappear". 

“He absorbed the grapes that no one wanted. He became the saviour for the Barossa Valley grape growers and they have supported him in good and bad times,” Mr Blass said.

“Margaret, his wife, has been the statue and Eiffel Tower of Peter Lehmann in holding the family and industry in the highest standard and has had a great influence in making Peter Lehmann Wines.

“The world would be a much better place with more people like Peter Lehmann in it.”

Peter Lehmann was an extremely talented, intelligent man who never got ahead of himself.

This was the view of Robert Hill Smith, managing director of Yalumba Wines, the winery where the icon began his legendary career.

“Peter was a unique character, a true Barossa man who was a mentor to so many people,” Mr Hill Smith said.

“During a lifetime there are one of two people who have an amazing impact, he was one, and I can’t see anyone around to take his place.

“Peter was a handshake man, no contracts were necessary and he was not a selfish man.

“He had a wicked wit, was irreverent, but left a lasting impression whether you met him for just five minutes or half an hour.

“I hadn’t seen him for a few weeks and I’m angry with myself. I didn’t see it coming and would have liked to have spent more time with him.”

Lehmann’s passing has left the local community stunned with residents passing their condolences to Lehamnn’s family through Facebook. 

Member for Schubert Ivan Venning said it is a very sad day and he was at a loss of words to describe the Barossa legend.

“His passing leaves a huge gap in the community,” Mr Venning said.

“Peter was an icon and a legend not only of the Barossa Valley, but also the Australian wine industry.

“He had a wonderful presence about him and was always fair to the growers, remembering where he had started from.”

Mr Venning's thoughts were echoed by State Liberal Leader Steven Marshall.

“Today we learned of the passing of a legendary South Australian, Barossa Valley winemaker Peter Lehmann,” Mr Marshall said. 

“Peter was known as “The Baron of the Barossa” – a fitting title for a man who was a great champion for the region and for our State.

“His tireless work and dedication to the wine industry over the years became an inspiration to many and he became a Member of the Order of Australia for his contribution to the industry. 

“His passion, dedication and enthusiasm for the Barossa Valley, South Australia and the Australian wine industry was second to none and he will be greatly missed by many.

“On behalf of the SA Liberal Party I extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends.”

Chief executive of Peter Lehmann Wines, Jeff Bond, said Lehmann was “in reasonably good health, particularly for a man in his eighties”, but had been undergoing dialysis. He had undergone surgery earlier this week but was understood to have recovered well from that.

“Any passing is a shock, especially with someone of Peter's stature and status in our company, as well as the industry and the region here. He was a much loved figure,” Mr Bond said.

“Known for his wit and mischievous charm, Lehmann was a fierce advocate of Barossa grape growers, insisting time and again that “wines are made in the vineyard, not the boardroom”.

Born in Angaston on August 18, 1930, the fifth generation of one of Barossa’s pioneering families was one of Australia’s most respected and innovative winemakers. 

In 1947 he secured a role as apprentice winemaker at Yalumba and in 1959 he was offered the winemaker/manger position at Saltram Wines, where he spent 20 years forging relationships with some of the regions best grape growers before starting his own winery in 1979. 

A member of the Order of Australia Lehmann saw the trend in fruit white wines early during 1975 and introduced the whites to Saltram’s portfolio. 

Saltram did not share his vision and in 1978 the directors of the winery told him to stop buying fruit.

Knowing that livelihoods were at stake Lehmann did not follow the directors orders and in doing so effectively put his own livelihood on the line.

He mounted a rescue operation  for grape growers by raising capital to buy their fruit, processed it at Saltram and then sold it to other wineries.

“Without growers there is no wine,"Lehmann would say. "It’s a circle of life you just can’t cut off because of what the bottom line looks like.”

With more than 60 family growers facing ruin Lehmann took a gamble, that as history shows paid off.

Today Peter Lehmann Wines is a well known brand internationally and the 140-plus growers that Lehamnn supports represent every region from the valley floor to the elevated sites of Eden Valley and beyond. 

Lehmann officially retired from Peter Lehmann Wines in 2002 and the winery was sold in late 2003 to Swiss-based Hess Group for $US103 million.

His contribution to the industry as a whole was acknowledged in 2009 with an International Wine Challenge Lifetime Achievement Award.   

He is survived by his wife Margaret, sons Doug, David and Phillip and daughter Libby. 



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