Margaret River wine industry pioneer John Gladstones dies aged 92

Vineayard scene in Margaret RiverVineyard scene in Margaret River.

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 terroir 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 planted the first commercial vineyard in Margaret River, followed by Moss Wood in 1969 and Cullen Wines in 1971.

There are now 200 producers in the region, with approximately 6,000ha under vine, according to the Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association.

While it only accounts for around 2% of Australia’s annual crush, Margaret River is now widely regarded as one of the world’s leading fine wine regions, with a reputation for producing high-end Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc blends.

Some estimates have suggested that it accounts for around 20% of Australia’s ‘premium’ wine sales.

Gladstones knew Margaret River had the potential for greatness, but he was surprised by how rapidly the region delivered upon that potential.

‘I was quite amazed how quickly it happened,’ he said in a radio interview on 6PR Breakfast in 2022. ‘Now Margaret River is one of the world’s great wine producing areas.’

His family said: ‘A private family funeral will be held, to be followed by a celebration at a later date. Remembered with love, Helen and Patrick, Rob and Lucie, Hannah and Zoe.’

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