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Trevor Mast, Australian Wine Pioneer, Dies at 63

Winemaker at Mount Langi Ghiran showed how outstanding cool-climate Aussie Shiraz could be

Tyson Stelzer
Posted: March 14, 2012

Trevor Mast, longtime winemaker at Australia's Mount Langi Ghiran winery and a legend in the Victorian wine industry, died of pneumonia March 8, following a five-year battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. He was 63.

Mast established Mount Langi Ghiran as a benchmark of cool-climate Australian Shiraz over 20 years, nurturing old vines in a dramatic, granitic site in the shadow of the mountain of the same name in Victoria’s Grampians region. The wine is widely recognized as one of Australia’s most distinctive single-vineyard wines.

After studying winemaking at the Geisenheim Grape Breeding Institute in Germany in the early 1970s, Mast gained winemaking experience in Germany, France, Portugal, Hungary and South Africa before settling in the Grampians, first as assistant winemaker at Seppelts Great Western in 1975, then at Bests Great Western from 1976 until 1987. It was while working at Seppelts that he first encountered the distinctive black pepper character of Shiraz grown by the Frantin brothers at Mount Langi Ghiran. He was captivated by the wine and arranged to meet the brothers. He was appointed consultant winemaker in 1978 and purchased the property in 1987. In the mid-1990s he launched the successful Four Sisters brand.

Mast was a visionary decades before “cool climate” became a buzzword in Australian wine. Inspired by the potential of the site, first planted in 1870, he worked fanatically, seven days a week, to fully develop the vineyard, which he called his “fifth child.” He pursued a new stylistic direction for Australian wine, one of spicy, pepper-infused character and fine-boned structure.

When he arrived, he worked in a very basic tin shed with barrels that smelled of garlic—the previous owners had hung homemade salamis there. Before he retired, Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz had been featured on the cover of Wine Spectator alongside Penfolds Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace. The reputation of Grampians Shiraz in the wine world today owes much to his dedication. With his trademark tangle of curly hair and gregarious, passionate personality, Mast was popular in Australian wine circles and is fondly remembered for his generous spirit.

Mount Langi Ghiran remains under the ownership of the Rathbone Group, which purchased the estate in 2002. The Rathbone family recently announced that its wine assets are being offered for sale, including Yering Station in the Yarra Valley, Xanadu in Margaret River and Parker Coonawarra Estate.

Mast remained at Mount Langi Ghiran until his diagnosis with Alzheimer's in 2006. He is survived by his wife, Sandra, four daughters and six grandchildren.

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