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Phil Laffer bows out in style

Philip Laffer, one of the architects of Jacob’s Creek and an icon of Australian wine, bowed out last night at a raucous dinner in a London club.

The Jacob’s Creek chief winemaker has been one of the most senior figures in the Pernod Ricard hierarchy since 1994.

Although he has long been as comfortable in the boardroom as the vineyard, his down-to-earth nature ensures he is held in great affection by the international wine world.

Among many tributes at the Eight members club in the City of London, Oz Clarke gave an impromptu and virtuoso speech in which he expressed his love and admiration for the lanky Australian.

Laffer himself gave a speech which encompassed his reasons for joining Lindemans in 1963 – ‘I didn’t have a job’ – and an anecdote with the punchline, ‘if you want to use a horse-drawn dunny, for God’s sake hold the reins.’

He now takes on the job title of Group Chief Winemaker and hands over the reins of Jacob’s Creek to Bernard Hickin, who joined Orlando in 1976, the year the brand was launched.

Laffer, who is 70 next year, seems to be in two minds as to whether he is retiring or not.

‘I’m not retiring – I’m slowing down,’ he told decanter.com.

He will consult for Pernod Ricard’s businesses around the world, which include vineyards in the Chinese province of Nignixia, below Mongolia, ‘possible involvement in Spain’ and mentoring winemakers at home.

As to retirement, ‘I’ll spend more time fishing, doing carpentry, and mucking about on boats.’

One thing he won’t be doing is planting a vineyard or making his own wine. ‘Australia doesn’t need any more vineyards,’ he said.

At the dinner guests were served oysters, sea bass and steak with wines that were chosen, as Laffer said, not always because they were great wines ‘but because they were interesting wines.’

All Jacob’s Creek wines, they included four Rieslings – the Steingarten Barossa 2009 and 2002, the Orlando 2003 and Heritage Vineyard 2001, and four Cabernets and Shiraz blends – the Shiraz Cabernet 1994, the Orlando St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet 1986 and 1999 and the Johann Shiraz Cabernet 2002.

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Written by Adam Lechmere

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