McLaren Vale is mourning the loss of one of its most celebrated grapegrowers, Bernard Smart, who passed away on Sunday morning at the age of 90.
Bernard was known as the godfather of McLaren Vale Grenache, supplying fruit to the likes of Yangarra, S.C. Pannell, Thistledown and Willunga 100.
He planted many top Grenache sites in the region including the famous Yangarra High Sands vineyard at Blewitt Springs in 1946.
Willunga 100 owner David Gleave said, “It was an honour to work with Bernie for over a decade.
“He was dead straight – there was no need for a contract – and invariably friendly.
“But you also knew you were working with someone who had lived through a period when nobody wanted Grenache for over five decades, and yet he had the courage and determination to keep the vineyard going.
“We all beat a path to his door for the quality of the man as much as for the quality of the fruit.”
Thistledown Wine Company named a wine after Bernard – This Charming Man Grenache.
Giles Cooke MW from Thistledown takes up the story on Instagram, “I clearly remember my first meeting with Bernard in his front room, having been sent there to try and convince him to sell me some fruit.
“It would be another year until he agreed but I’m so glad he did.
“Thistledown has been making wine from the Smart vineyard since 2016 but the history of the site goes back over a century and the roller coaster ride of fortunes it encountered very much mirror the fortunes of Grenache itself in McLaren Vale.
“In 2018, I was confident enough that the wine we were making from his fruit was worthy of making our single vineyard selection and we also knew that we wanted to recognise his contribution, immortalising him on the label of Charming Man.
“A humble man, he was probably not at ease with his image on the label, but quietly proud.
“I am proud to have known Bernard, and to have played a very small part in ensuring that Bernard’s important legacy lives on, he was a legend and a truly charming man.
“He will be sorely missed by his family and my condolences go to them.”
In 2020 Willunga 100 said on Facebook, “Meet Bernard and Wayne Smart, the father and son duo who have farmed this land for three generations.
“This is where we source our ‘The Hundred’ Clarendon Grenache (which is all about purity of site) with some vines reaching 99 years.
“During the 80s a lot of old Grenache was pulled for being unprofitable – it was mainly used in fortified wine.
“Thankfully the Smart Vineyard was ineligible for the pull scheme.
“Bernie made it through these tough years by selling grapes out of his boot to people who would make wine in their backyard.”
S.C. Pannell has a wine called Clarendon Smart Grenache.
Bernard and Wayne were finalists in the 2020 Vineyard of the Year Awards hosted by Young Gun of Wine.
Photo: Bernard Smart with his son, Wayne. Willunga 100 Facebook page.