By James Atkinson

Barossa Valley legend Peter Lehmann has been remembered as a larrikin, a shrewd businessman and a winemaker who put the interests of grapegrowers above his own.

Lehmann suffered from kidney disease and died on Friday in hospital in Adelaide, according to reports. He was aged 82.

Lehmann started his winemaking career in 1947 at Yalumba, before joining Saltram Wines in 1960, and founding Peter Lehmann Wines in 1979.

Peter Lehmann Wines CEO Jeff Bond told TheShout the company was saddened by the loss. 

"He's a legend of the industry and it's a bit of a shock for us," he said.

"We're sad for his family, he leaves behind Margaret, his beloved wife and collaborator and their two boys David and Phil and of course Doug and Libby from Peter's first marriage as well," said Bond.

Wine writer Huon Hooke told TheShout that Lehmann was often underestimated in business. [continued below]

L-R: Margaret, Doug and Peter Lehmann

"One of the great things about Lehmann to me is he was such a larrikin, such a loveable bugger, but underneath that he was incredibly smart," he said.

"People took him for someone less intelligent, less insightful, but he was actually a very good businessman." 

Hooke said Lehmann would be remembered for sticking up for the grapegrowers, "even when his own livelihood was on the line".

"I think he was looked upon as a hero, the kind of person that we just don't see many of – people of such incredible integrity," he said.

Richard Mattner, senior winemaker for Saltram's Pepperjack label, told TheShout that Lehmann was a huge part of Saltram's history.

"Peter was probably one of three names that really stand out as part of Saltram's history – him alongside the Dolan family and the Salters really set the tone for what Saltram's was all about. He was a true legend of the Barossa," Mattner said.

"He was a good friend of my grandfather, so I've known him from that perspective as well. He was such a down to earth bloke that could make friends with growers quite comfortably and he really showed loyalty to a lot of growers."

Wine Australia chief executive Andrew Cheesman said Peter Lehmann was "one of the leading legends of Australian wine and the original 'Baron of the Barossa'". 

"He helped shaped the industry over several decades and his contribution will continue to live on along with the brand he created," Cheesman said.

"His foresight, passion and great respect for grapegrowers led him to create one of the world's most respected wine brands. He will be remembered for his gift for winemaking, extraordinary passion and sharp wit. Our thoughts are with Margaret and his family. The industry is much richer for his incredible contribution."

Australian Liquor Stores Association (ALSA) president Giuseppe Minissale said the passing of Lehmann was a loss to the entire liquor industry.

“We lost a legend and great man today. The retail liquor industry owes so much to him and his legacy, from education and just all round great fun. He epitomises what this industry is all about – great food, great wine and plenty of enjoyment. It is a very sad day indeed.”

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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