The Australian wine industry adores old stuff: old vines, old tractors, old Bagshaw crushers, old varieties and old ways of doing things.
And old d’Arry Osborn.
The ultimate friend to Grenache aged gracefully and was an industry treasure; everyone wanted to be his friend and hear his stories.
The universal love and respect for him came down to some human qualities from a bygone era: honesty, humility and integrity.
Showcased in a sunny disposition, kindly nature and killer smile.
All these characteristics in one man – in 2022 – stood out and the wine world couldn’t get enough of him.
d’Arry was warm, funny, cheeky, playful, respectful and happy.
He did everything; won everything including the Watson the year mankind kicked the moon.
He built a wildly successful fine wine outfit with a quirky storyline that generated bulk headlines and accolades – but he never got carried away.
Never forgot where he came from.
He had the worst start: his mother Helen died giving birth to him in 1926.
Deep-thinker d’Arry didn’t miss much: sharp; observant.
He loved people and encouraged them.
Just don’t park on the lawn at the cellar door.
Didn’t matter if you were Elvis or how much you loved the red stripe – everyone was equal – move your car.
No one born 95 years ago and who saw Clydesdales do the work of tractors was ever going to waste money.
d’Arry re-used the plastic wrappers from The Advertiser and he scratched his head over Chester’s idea for The Cube.
But he wasn’t into destroying dreams.
It grew on him.
d’Arry was fond of his son and his brilliant mind and creativity.
And eccentricity; he had to be: d’Arry himself wore dinner shirts in the winery during vintage “to give the reds more elegance”.
d’Arry loved the sense of community in McLaren Vale and the screeching yellow-tailed black cockatoos with their random flight paths.
When d’Arry turned 80 they made a big fuss – commemorative poster and 30 dinners around the world with his sidekick, Chester.
“Chester has his funny props: the ‘Dead Arm’ that runs along the ground is pretty funny,” d’Arry said at the time.
The Prince Alfred College boy became famous the world over but he didn’t seem to think about those things much.
He must have thought of his mum every day.
Those names were surely a challenge for a conservative man.
The Biophilic Silurian, The Cenosilicaphobic Cat, The Pickwickian Brobdingnagian… long names but they have nothing on the length of the lunches d’Arry had, the pleasure only surpassed by a Post Office chinwag.
He loved golf and fishing and a drink, but always stayed classy.
“I played golf at Victor Harbor for 35 years,” d’Arry told WBM in 2009, “and Chester used to pull the buggies on weekends when he came home from boarding school.
“My playing partners and I had a bottle of red each before we started and a drink every three holes.
“Not that we ever got drunk.”
Then he said, “I’m proud of Chester, he’s marvellous.
“He’s very innovative but a bit hard to control.
“People always comment on his hair and shirts. That’s just Chester.
“The other day he told me he had a hair cut. I said ‘which one?'”
Chester chipped in: “Being able to make wine is a joy. I say to people I’ve never worked a day in my life and Dad always says he can vouch for that.”
Through all that banter something special emerged – you could see how much d’Arry loved Chester; how much Chester loved d’Arry.
Great wines, a fine business, a beautiful brand and a thousand stories within one of the great stories.
But love and family is the enduring memory.
All you can think about is Chester and family.
And d’Arry’s mum.
What a tragedy.
But what a gift Helen gave to the world.
The gift of life.
And d’Arry squeezed every last drop out of it.
Photograph: Mike Smith.
• First published in our weekly newsletter The Week That Was.