Grange winemaker John Duval has resigned to start his own label.

Duval – who has been with Penfolds for 28 years – told decanter.com he would be making wine in the next vintage under his own label. He was unwilling to say where it would be.

‘I live in Barossa so that’s my first love,’ he said, ‘but I have lots of contacts in all the great regions of Australia. I’m not going to broadcast too much at the moment – I want to crawl before I can walk.’

Announcing that Duval’s fellow Penfolds winemaker Peter Gago would be taking over as chief winemaker, the company said in a statement, ‘John Duval…will continue as a consultant to Southcorp Wines.’

Gago (pictured, on left, with Duval) is the fourth person to take on responsibility for Grange, which was established by Max Schubert in the 1950s by Max Schubert.

Duval joined Penfolds – owned by Southcorp – in 1974 and worked on a variety of wines before taking over from Don Ditter as chief winemaker in 1986. As ‘custodian of Grange’ Duval was responsible for a wine that was not only Penfolds’ most celebrated wine, but the most famous wine in Australia.

‘I started at Penfolds twelve years before I took over as chief winemaker,’ Duval told decanter.com in an interview last year. ‘It wasn’t as if I had come in from another company. I’d worked with the wines and the Penfolds philosophy for some time so I guess I eased myself into the job. But by the same token I was well aware of the responsibility – even more so now that Australia is pretty much part of the international wine world.’

Peter Gago has been with Penfolds since 1989. He has been closely involved with John Duval in the making and marketing of Penfolds since the early 1990s.

Calling Duval ‘a winemaker of consummate skill and ability’, Southcorp CEO Keith Lambert said, ‘Under John’s stewardship, the Penfolds wines have grown in standing…I wish him well in his new winemaking activities and I am very pleased that he will maintain his association with Southcorp in a consulting capacity.’

Duval said, ‘I feel very proud to have…helped the development of Penfolds to a position where it is acknowledged as one of the great premium wine brands of the world.’

Written by Adam Lechmere25 July 2002