One of Australia’s greatest winemakers… John Duval : By Nick Adams, MW

Nick Adams, MW

In the modern history of Australian winemaking a number of individuals became standard bearers – people such as Max Schubert, Don Ditter, Michael Hill Smith OA, Brian Croser OA, Stephen & Pru Henschke to name a few. One name that needs to be included in that list is John Duval.

He was at the helm of Penfolds from 1986 to 2002 – Australia’s leading wine company in that period – and in charge of their whole production, and especially the revered Grange. This was a significant responsibility to say the least, as this wine – right up to Governmental level – had become recognised as “Australia’s First Growth”. John’s skill was formally recognised twice as International Wine Challenge Red Winemaker of the Year – in 1991 and 2000.
A graduate in Agriculture and Winemaking from Adelaide University, he decided in 2003 to start his own wine label and business, which had been a long cherished ambition. True to his roots he has focused on a small and exclusively Barossa range of wines – one white and three reds.
A couple of months ago I got a call to meet up with John in Cambridgeshire and we tasted through these four wines – they were amazing. Frankly the issue was not which one of the four to take, but which I would have to leave out as we only had two slots available at the time in the Winetrust100 portfolio. What John achieves in his wines is a remarkable balance between power and finesse – aptly fitting the description of “an iron fist in a velvet glove”.
There is a luxuriant richness to these wines, almost hedonistic qualities, but without any clumsiness or sense of them being overworked. Bold sumptuous fruit flavours dominate and there is an attractive undercurrent of spiciness.
We don’t feature too many producers with more than one wine, but this is testament to these wines’ qualities and styles. We are delighted at Winetrust 100 to be listing The Plexus Syrah|Grenache| Mourvèdre blend, and The Entity old vine Barossa Shiraz – and I recommend them unreservedly!
Nick Adams MW