Margaret and Peter Lehmann, around the time of their 2011 Vancouver

Margaret and Peter Lehmann, around the time of their 2011 Vancouver visit

When the French (and others) talk about “terroir” they’re generally referring to geography, soil type, grapes—but also the human element. Wine, after all—above all—is very much about people. It’s a fact of which we’re constantly reminded, especially when a legend in the business passes on.

On June 28th, Australia and the wine world at large said goodbye to Peter Lehmann, known affectionately but also with good reason as the “Baron of Barossa.”

Lehmann was a giant among men and an owner who had the ability to blend good grape growing with remarkable business acumen.

I met him only once, in Vancouver, in 2011, on what turned out to be a farewell tour. But his clever wit and down-to-earth manner left me with a lasting impression.

At the time I said of Peter and Margaret Lehmann: “They’re salt of the earth people, absolutely charming and engaging, who made a point of talking to every single person who attended the Vancouver dinner…”

Lehmann’s contribution to his community is legendary, particularly in the way in which he always stood up for the little guy. When growers’ livelihoods were being threatened (in the 1970s) in the face of a grape glut, even though he himself could barely afford to stay in business, ‘PL’ took their grapes—always on just a handshake.

The business not only survived but thrived, so much so that it became a target for takeovers. Lehmann fought them off for many years, until successfully negotiating a friendly deal with the Swiss-owned Hess Family Estates that would again protect the growers who depended on him.

In his honour we’re kicking off this week’s “Belly’s Best” picks with a couple of wines that capture the man’s spirit, integrity and penchant for over-delivering.

• Peter Lehmann Weighbridge Unoaked Chardonnay 2011 (South Australia). The name is a nod to those early days, when Lehmann would weigh in his growers’ grapes.  An easy drinking summer sipper for Chardonnay lovers that lets the fruit shine brightly through. Stone fruit and a touch of citrus with just enough mouthfeel to keep it interesting. Good value at BCLS $12.99 / 88 pts.

• Peter Lehmann Portrait Series Shiraz 2010 (Barossa). Lifted plummy and black fruit notes, with a broad, juicy but not extracted palate; nicely structured with firm but balanced tannins, streaks of juicy damson and a definite peppery finish. Crush black peppercorns over some New York Strip or rib-eye, and raise a glass to The Man. BCLS $22.99 / 91 pts.

This article appeared in the North Shore News

If you’d like to read more about Peter Lehmann, Adelaide Now ran an excellent tribute by Piers Akerman.