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Sunday 30 October 2022

Meet a wine man who was ahead of his time

It is 40 years since Mornington Peninsula wine industry pioneer Garry Crittenden, along with family and friends, planted two hectares of vines in one weekend at Dromana and doubled the total amount of vines planted on the peninsula.

Today, of course, the Mornington Peninsula is regarded as one of Australia's premier cool-climate vineyard regions, known around the world for the quality of its pinot noir and chardonnay.

Earlier this month the Crittenden family celebrated 40 years of their involvement in wine on the Mornington Peninsula and reflecting on the dedication of founders Garry and and the late Margaret Crittenden, who died a couple of years ago.

"Why 40 years?" asks my old friend Garry. "Well as I’m in my 80th year now its statistically unlikely that I’ll be around to do 50."

To mark the milestone, Crittenden Estate has released a special pinot noir (above).

When I first started writing about wines in the 1980s, Garry Crittenden was waxing lyrical about not only the Mornington Peninsula, but also the huge potential for Italian grape varieties in Australia.

He was right on both counts.

Today, Crittenden Estate, as the business is now known, is still a family affair and is run by winemaking son Rollo and his sister Zoe.

Garry Crittenden was the first winemaker in Australia to commercialise Italian wine varieties, and was also a pioneered of sustainable farming and regenerative practices, eschewing synthetic chemicals and using only biological farming methods to restore and maintain the health of the soil.

If you visit, you will almost certainly be shown, with pride, the giant compost heap.

Nowadays Garry Crittenden is semi-retired but sill emails regularly and acts as an ambassador for the business.

"In commemoration of that historic time in 1972, I have made a batch of 2021 pinot labelled “40 YEARS ON “," he says.

It's a fine wine that appeared on my doorstep recently, along with some other wines marking important milestones.

Beginning from the early 1980s Garry's late wife Margaret diligently collected press clippings about the Mornington Peninsula wine industry.

In recent years Garry resurrected these clippings and collated them into a book. See here.

The Crittendens have always been among the most generous people in the wine industry. Let's raise a glass to them.

# Tasmanians may be interested to know that Garry Crittenden, along with Tony Jordan and Bill Casimaty, was responsible for planting the Tolpuddle vineyard - perhaps the state's most globally famous vineyard - back in 1988, when the modern Tasmanian wine industry was in its infancy.

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