John Hughes of Rieslingfreak, the Barons of Barossa Winemaker of the Year, says joining the wine community almost twenty years ago changed his life.
“As many of you know, I have a slight disability and, growing up, this was difficult to deal with,” John said on Sunday at the Declaration of Vintage in Tanunda, where Will Holmes was named Viticulturist of the Year.
“My brothers used to play sport and I was always on the sidelines.
“In my younger years it was always difficult to achieve the same accolades as my peers.
“Joining the wine industry professionally has changed my life in so many ways.
“Starting up Rieslingfreak 12 years ago, I made myself a pledge and that was never to sell a bottle of my Riesling based on my disability.
“The wine industry has allowed me to compete on an even playing field and to be named Barossa Winemaker of the Year today means more to me than words would ever express.”
John founded the Kicking Goals Scholarship program, providing mentorship and educational funding for young people living with a disability.
He said that to say he was honoured to accept the reward was an “understatement”.
“This is certainly my highest accolade to date and something I am truly humbled by,” he said.
“Who would have guessed a Riesling-only winemaker would be here accepting this award today.
“When I look at the honour roll of past recipients, I never thought I’d ever see my name against winemakers such as Andrew Wigan, Louisa Rose, Nigel Dolan and all the other past recipients.
“I moved to the Barossa nearly 20 years ago and immediately found myself immersed in the local community.
“The wine community in the Barossa is very unique and something I am so very proud to be part of.
“I have always found Barossa grapegrowers, winemakers and all those in the industry to be very welcoming and generous.
“Generous in terms of knowledge, expertise and friendship.
“I love how we all band together and sell Barossa first.
“This makes me so proud to be a Barossan.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge all the staff at the BGWA of whom I can not speak highly enough of.
“They are always so friendly and very supportive of the local industry and steadfast in their dedication to Brand Barossa.”
Will Holmes and family. Photos: John Kruger.
Louisa Rose, Grand Master of the Barons of Barossa said, “John and Will are both highly respected by their peers. They were nominated for their dedication to maintaining the quality and regionality of Barossa wine as well as their commitment to their community.
“Will Holmes is incredibly active in the grapegrowing community. With an extensive knowledge of the region’s complex water issues, he freely shares his time and knowledge with fellow growers. Will also coordinates ‘Fat Farmer’ activities within the region.
“John is widely admired for his commitment to the wine community through his behind the scenes work with the Barossa Wine Show and Riesling Eden Valley and his Rieslingfreak label is a fantastic homage to the Riesling grape. He founded the successful Kicking Goals Scholarship program, providing mentorship and educational funding for young people living with a disability.”
As part of the event, viticulturist Adrian Hoffmann, the Barons’ Honourary Vigneron, delivered the 2021 vintage forecast.
Then, John and Will used an historic hand-cranked crusher for the ceremonial crushing of Shiraz grapes, giving Grand Master Louisa the opportunity to taste the fresh juice and ‘Declare the 2021 Barossa Vintage’.