2019 Winemaker of the Year: Julian Langworthy

James Halliday by James Halliday for Qantas Wine

26 Jul, 2018

Julian Langworthy of Deep Woods Estate in Margaret River has won a tonne of awards for his wines, particularly for his cabernet and rosé, and this award is yet another feather in his cap. 

My selection of Julian Langworthy as Winemaker of the Year caused me to ponder on the three greatest winemakers of the 20th century: Maurice O’Shea of Mount Pleasant Wines, Colin Preece of Seppelt’s Great Western and Max Schubert of Penfolds (Schubert’s masterwork, Grange). They plied their trade in a market where fortified wines, largely sold in saloons and hotels, reigned supreme. The one thing they had in common was the balance of their wines underlying their longevity.

Each had a substantial winery that provided support, although that support had its limits. Schubert was able to make the epic voyage to Spain and France in 1950 to study first-hand the making of sherry – it was from that journey that Grange, a Penfolds-banned wine during ’51–’61, saw its almost accidental birth; Preece had personal issues with some of the numerous members of the Seppelt family, with relations souring to the point where he felt compelled to resign; O’Shea was rescued by a number of members of the McWilliam clan – the McWilliams first buying half the shares in Mount Pleasant, and ultimately the other half in the aftermath of the Great Depression. If you take a broad view, these hugely talented winemakers were incidental to their employers’ financial needs, but left in limbo for much of their careers (Schubert was brought out of retirement when the marketing gurus belatedly realised his value). There was no expectation that any one of these winemakers would have any knowledge of, let alone responsibility for, the commercial value or the financial cost of their wines. How different to the wine world of today.

Julian Langworthy is chief winemaker for the Fogarty Wine Group (FWG), the fastest growing wine business in Western Australia. He reports to the Group General Manager, and is responsible for the stylistic direction of all of the FWG wineries and their individual brands. He mentors and manages a team of 12 winemakers and, in conjunction with the Group Chief Viticulturist, is responsible for all fruit purchases – this is in addition to more than 300ha of estate vineyards spread from Hunter Valley in New South Wales to Margaret River in Western Australia.

Julian has particular responsibilities for Deep Woods, with an extensive promotional role for its profile interstate and internationally. He plays a lead role in brand planning, providing wine business acumen and support for the marketing team. He has broad-based human resources responsibilities, including coordination for all site compliance issues, and others too many to mention.

Are his winemaking skills and palate on par with the greats of the 20th century? It’s a question without an answer. But if he is to be compared with the best of today, the answer is an emphatic yes. His wine show successes (and the team he has led) have gold medals flying around the room like confetti, with trophies (including the biggest of all, the Jimmy Watson) equally plentiful. And most of all, he is universally admired and liked by all who have had contact with him and/or the great wines he makes.

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