John Charles Brown, the ‘father of the Australian wine industry’ and second generation of the Brown Brothers dynasty, has died aged 89.
Widely regarded as one of Australia’s foremost winemaking innovators, in 1962 Brown produced Australia’s first noble rot Riesling – at a time when botrytis was universally considered a fungal pest. Patricia Noble Riesling is now one of the great wines of Brown Brothers.
Among other innovations, he introduced the method of pre-draining white grape juice and was the first to use refrigeration to control fermentation temperatures.
At the age of 18 Brown joined his father, John Francis Brown, in the Milawa Vineyard. Brown senior, a wheat farmer, first planted grapes at Milawa in 1885 as a side interest and the winery survived both the depression and the Antipodean taste for beer, whisky and rum.
Brown was a pioneer of regionality and terroir. He was resolute in believing that only grapes suitable for Australian conditions should be used and so experimented with grapes as yet unheard of: tarrango, pinot grigio, nebbiolo, barbera and tempranillo. He was also one of the first to oppose the use of French terms like Burgundy and claret for Australian wines.
He quickly understood what the public wanted and showed unerring skill in predicting forthcoming trends. Brown Brothers were ready for the boom of the 1960s and had the right plantings when the red boom switched to white in the 1970s. He won several awards, including the Order of Australia in 1989.
Brown Brothers vineyards now stretch across Northern Victoria and produce the largest range of varietal wines in Australia.
Written by Lalage Snow