Peter Gago, chief winemaker at iconic Australian producer Penfolds, has been announced as the recipient of this year’s Decanter Hall of Fame award, joining a gilded roster of iconic names.
Gago is the 38th recipient of the award, previously called Decanter Man or Woman of the Year, created to recognise the honourees’ outstanding contribution to their specific field and the wine industry at large.
‘Our Hall of Fame award has recognised many of the wine world’s most eminent figures over the years, and there was no doubt in our jury’s minds that Peter is very much deserving of the honour.’ said Chris Maillard, Decanter’s Editor-in-Chief. ‘His stewardship of Penfolds has seen the company and its wines go from strength to strength. A worthy winner.’
Gago began his career as a teacher after graduating in mathematics and science. During his teaching years in Melbourne a growing interest in wine led him to change professional course. He pursued a second degree in oenology and eventually joined Penfolds in 1989 as sparkling winemaker. In 2002 Gago succeeded John Duval as chief winemaker.
But more than a winemaker, Gago became an ambassador for the 177-year-old company, travelling the world to present the wines and capturing audiences with his deep knowledge, unpretentiousness, and endless enthusiasm. His thorough, playful and beautifully written tasting notes became a much anticipated read for wine lovers across the world, and placed the Penfolds range under a new, fresher light.
‘Penfolds is today truly an international wine company, and Gago is its spiritual leader. It’s hard to imagine a man more suited to the task.’ concluded Huon Hooke, who interviewed Gago following the award’s announcement.
This year, and for the first time, Decanter has also granted the Rising Star award, offering a glimpse into the Hall of Fame’s future.
The inaugural recipient is Dr Axel Marchal, professor at Bordeaux University’s Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences (ISVV) and a consultant to 24 estates across France.
‘At Decanter we’re keen to look forward to the future of wine, so we’ve launched the Rising Star award to honour those who are going to make a real difference.’ said Maillard. ‘Our jury felt that Marchal is one of those people, and we very much look forward to watching what will no doubt be a stellar career reach even greater heights.’
A disciple of late French winemaker and professor of oenology Denis Durbordieu, Marchal is already making an indelible mark in the wine industry. His unique skillset combines analytical precision, intuitiveness, educational aptitude and sharp tasting abilities.
‘To me, in the future, Axel will be the top winemaker in the world, because he has the knowledge, plus this extraordinary palate,’ said hilippe Castéja, winemaker, merchant and CEO of the Castéja family business. ‘On top of that he is a very open and approachable man.’
This Rising Star award is a tribute to this future in the making.
More about the laureates
- Peter Gago: profile and interview by Huon Hooke
- Dr Axel Marchal: profile and interview by Georgina Hindle