Peter Lehmann was a member of the Order of Australia, a founding member of the Barons of the Barossa and a legend of Australian wine. His contribution to the industry as a whole was acknowledged in 2009 with an International Wine Challenge Lifetime Achievement Award.
Peter was born in the Barossa village of Angaston in 1930. The fifth generation of one of Barossa’s pioneering families, Peter was only 14 when his father died and the impact was great. He wanted to leave school and begin his career, so with his mother’s support and community connections he secured a role as apprentice winemaker at Yalumba in 1947. Little did he know that during his time there he would evolve into one of Barossa’s most promising red winemakers and gather the skills to set the foundations for Peter Lehmann Wines.
In 1959, Peter was offered the lucrative position of Winemaker/Manager at a Barossa winery called Saltram where he worked for 20 years. A serious grape surplus came with the 1977 vintage, worsening in 1978. Many wine companies turned their backs on local growers and cancelled agreements, including the company Peter worked for. Peter knew this would be detrimental to the growers, many of whom he had been dealing with for nearly two decades, and could not accept the corporate policy.
Saltram’s owners allowed Peter to work with the growers and process their fruit on-site as a “side-project”, which was considered a massive gamble by virtually everyone in the Barossa. He acknowledged the gossip in the best way he could and named the side-project “Masterson” after the most famous gambler of all – the Guys and Dolls character Sky Masterson. Keeping it separate from his Saltram position, Masterson was officially managed by Peter’s wife Margaret.
In 1979, Saltram was sold, and the new owners put a halt to the operation. Peter Lehmann parted ways with Saltram to start Masterson Wines, the company which has since evolved into Peter Lehmann Wines, in a move solely designed to help the growers he had built relationships with over the years. Peter took the surplus grapes and doing business on a handshake sold wine on a “pay now and we’ll deliver in two years” arrangement called ‘The Futures’. This raised enough money to buy the growers’ fruit and process it into what became the first ever vintage of Peter Lehmann wine in 1980.
They were tough times of course but led by Peter, the Barossa community pulled together not just to make great wine but to preserve the future of the land and the Barossa region. ‘The Futures’ wines still exist in tribute to this story and the way we continue to work today.
We work for the long term. We work for the wine, and above all we work for the land - our home, the Barossa.