In Memoriam: John Gladstones, Pioneer of Margaret River Wine Industry, Passes Away at 92

By | 28 May 2024

Gladstones was widely known as the ‘godfather of Margaret River’ after recognising the region’s vast potential back in 1966.

Two years ago, he was made an Officer in the Order of Australia in recognition of his distinguished service to viticulture and agriculture.

The Australian Wine Encyclopedia described Gladstones as ‘in the view of many, Australia’s foremost viticultural research scientist’.

His family said he ‘passed away peacefully’ and expressed their thanks ‘to the wonderful staff’ of Carine Parkside Care Community for their care and support.

They described him as ‘a proud West Australian and a loving and loyal husband to Pat’, who leaves ‘a remarkable legacy in agricultural and viticultural research’.

Gladstones determined that Margaret River was blessed with similar terioir to Bordeaux after he conducted pioneering research in 1966.

At the time, he wrote: ‘Being virtually frost-free, and having a much lower ripening period, cloudiness, rainfall and hail risk than Manjimup and Mount Barker, it has distinct advantages over both those areas, and indeed over all other Australian wine districts with comparable temperature summations.

‘Not only should excellent quality be obtainable with choice grape varieties, but the district might also be very suitable because of its equable climate for higher-yielding, but still good quality varieties, such as Shiraz and Semillon.’

One year later, Vasse Felix established the first commercial vineyard in Margaret River. This was soon followed by Moss Wood in 1969, and Cullen Wines in 1971.

Presently, there are roughly 200 wine producers in the region, with about 6000 hectares vested in vineyards. This update was as per data from the Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association.

Although it only contributes a meager 2% of Australia’s annual wine crush, Margaret River has gained recognition as one of the premier fine wine regions in the world. It is esteemed for its high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc blends.

Some calculations propose that it accounts for approximately 20% of Australia’s ‘premium’ wine sales.

Gladstones realized that Margaret River possessed immense potential, and was taken aback by the swiftness with which the region realized that potential.

‘The pace at which it all unfolded left me astounded,’ he mentioned during a 2022 interview on 6PR Breakfast. ‘Margaret River is now regarded as one of the top wine-producing territories globally.’

His relatives conveyed: ‘A personal family funeral will take place, which will then be succeeded by a celebration at some future time. Fondly remembered by Helen and Patrick, Rob and Lucie, Hannah and Zoe.’

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