Winemaker Perc McGuigan dies at 100 – five great achievements

Winemaker Perc McGuigan has died aged 100, following a remarkable life in viticulture and leading one of Australia’s most prominent wine businesses.

McGuigan, son of Hunter Valley winemaker Owen McGuigan, worked his way up from tending vines to managing a company.

He worked at Penfold’s Dalwood vineyard in the early 1940s, before buying land for his own winery, Wyndham Estate.

Australian Vintage, parent company of his son Neil’s business, McGuigan Wines, released a statement to SmartCompany, expressing sadness.

“He was a pioneer winemaker for 50 years. Dad was a Hunter man. He loved the land. He loved viticulture; the grapes; and making wine. He pioneered making table wine and making the Hunter Valley world-renowned,” Australian Vintage chief executive Neil McGuigan said.

Here are five of Perc’s key achievements:

1. Passing on his skill and knowledge

From Perc’s father Owen, through to Perc’s sons Neil and Brian, the skill of winemaking has been passed through the family.

“Dad was always very willing to pass on his experience in viticulture and in winemaking,” Neil told The Australian.

Neil and Brian are now on the board of directors of Australian Vintage. Neil launched McGuigan Wines in 1992 with his wife Fay, and Brian is also a winemaker who took over his father’s business for many years.

2. Being the face of the business

Perc became renowned for his affinity with the products he made. He was named a Hunter Valley “Living Legend”, a title which Brian was awarded many years later. Perc was also awarded a Member of the Order of Australia, recognised for his services to the Australian wine industry.

3. Pioneering into new areas

As mentioned, Neil said his father was a “pioneer” at making table wine and making the Hunter Valley “world-renowned”.  

Last year at his 100th birthday, Perc told the Newcastle Herald he was “amazed” at the increase in the consumption of table wines he had witnessed.

‘‘I’m amazed because I never thought it would happen that it [would rival] beer, which is so much easier to make, and the big problems grape growers have,’’ he said.

4. Knowing his core strengths

Perc told the Newcastle Herald that his formula for winemaking success was, ‘‘The grapes we grow and the people who make them”.

Brian was more forthcoming about the complexities, telling the paper: “I suppose it’s true to say it’s about 1% fun and about 99% bloody hard work.”

5. Enjoying success

Neil said that his father taught the family they should celebrate achievements.

“The only joy you get is when you get some success, but that success is such a joyful thing,” he said.

Perc McGuigan’s death follows that of other renowned business pioneers in recent times, including Zara co-founder Rosalia Mera at 69 years of age, and Haribo founder Hans Riegel at 90 years of age.  


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