Three wine teachers

“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

An unkind saying, I’ve always thought.

But there are plenty of examples of teachers and academics who decided to practise what they preached, to do what they’d been teaching students for years – make wine.

Here are three prime examples.

Brian Freeman (Photo: Elio Loccisano)

Brian Freeman – Freeman Vineyards

Brian’s academic career peaked with a 10-year tenure as professor of wine science at Charles Sturt University, where he trained many of our winemakers and viticulturists. In 1999, he bought land at Prunevale, near Young in central NSW, and five years later bought the long-established adjoining vineyard, which had a wide range of grape varieties. Freeman now has a large area of vines totalling 175 hectares, having bought two more vineyards in the Hilltops region. The specialty is Italian varieties.

There is a superb range of wines under the Freeman Vineyards label, the most notable is the Secco rondinella corvina, the only wine in Australia made from these Italian varieties. Some of the grapes are dried in a prune dehydrator before fermentation, with the intention of producing something similar to Italy’s Amarone. Brian’s latest brainwave is Freeman Robusta Corvina 2012, which has 16.6% alcohol – but you wouldn’t guess it when you taste it. A spectacular red wine.

John Griffiths (Photo: Faber Vineyard)

John Griffiths – Faber Vineyard

John made wine for Houghton in Western Australia for six years before becoming a wine science lecturer at Perth’s Curtin University, which he did for another six years while developing Faber Vineyard, at Baskerville, in the Swan Valley. Faber is a Latin word meaning craft because John believes winemaking is a craft that can be learnt and practised but never really perfected.

His flagship wine? It’s a toss-up between the liqueur muscat, which would be right at home alongside the best of Rutherglen, or his Reserve Shiraz (AUD $71), which is made with the pressings from his AUD $27 Riche Shiraz. I recently tasted the 2014 Reserve, a big, dense, dark wine loaded with raisin, licorice, fruitcake, chocolate and char-oak flavours (and promising to be long lived), alongside the semi-mature 2005. Both were superb.

David Bruer (Photo: Temple bruer Wines)

David Bruer – Temple Bruer

David Bruer was the chemistry lecturer in the wine department at Roseworthy Agricultural College while he and his wife Barbara were establishing Temple Bruer vineyard and winery on the Angas Plains in the Langhorne Creek region. (Indeed, he was my chemistry lecturer in 1980-81. A highly inspirational and rather excitable teacher: I remember him chalking long chemical reactions on the lecture-room wall when he ran out of blackboard space.)

His intention from the start was to grow grapes organically and manage his business in a non-polluting, recycling, low-energy, sustainable way, long before such ideals became mainstream. Today, Temple Bruer is one of the few Australian wineries to be 100% carbon-neutral and 100% organic. For the last decade, all of its wines have been preservative-free. In recent years, Temple Bruer has bought more vineyards in Eden Valley and Riverland and is continuing to develop its wine range. I haven’t tasted the wines recently but have in the past found them good, honest, if sometimes unpolished wines selling at very affordable prices. They fly under the radar.

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