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Riesling lover: John Hughes standing proud in his Clare Valley vineyard.

MOST MASTERCHEF CONTESTANTS leave the competition with a goal to open a restaurant or launch a TV show of their own as a celebrity chef wannabe.

But not John Hughes. His dream had always been to become a winemaker.

Growing up on a small family vineyard at Penwortham in the Clare Valley, Hughes was brought up around vines and wines and a passion for the industry was strongly imprinted in his DNA.

“When I finished school I got a job at the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) and I worked there for about 10 years,” Hughes said.

“I studied a diploma in wine marketing at the University of Adelaide and once I left the AWRI I completed a couple of vintages before employment at Vinpac International.”

Hughes was later approached by Chris Ringland to work as a production winemaker for R Wines and it was while still on the job there that he launched his own label – Rieslingfreak.

The brand was established in 2009 and the debut commercial release was the 2010 vintage.

“I have always had ambitions to have my own wine label and be my own boss,” Hughes said.

“Growing up on a premium Riesling vineyard I was inspired by this grape variety – it is such a diverse grape, it can be grown in a number of regions throughout the world and be made in so many different styles.

“With all this inspiration, I came up with the label Rieslingfreak.”

Hughes’ philosophy is to produce classic Rieslings representing those different regions and styles.

While he has had plenty of success – including a reality TV celebrity status – in the past few years, he said starting the Rieslingfreak label has been the biggest highlight of his career.

“The label sells the first bottle and the wine sells the following bottles and I have had some great feedback on the name and the concept,” he added.

“The best part of my job is having people come up to me and say they enjoyed a bottle of Rieslingfreak and having feedback from consumers and the market saying how they enjoy and embrace the Rieslingfreak label.

“That is what makes all the hard work that much more rewarding.”

Like any winemaker, learning about the industry and how it operates comes with the job – and is ongoing.

Hughes said the biggest thing he has learnt about operating a winery is to always open the lid of a tank before performing any winery operation.

While competing on a national and global scale to be one of the best Riesling producers, Hughes said living in the food and wine state has many advantages.

“South Australia has some great recognition for its Riesling coming from two classic regions – Clare Valley and Eden Valley – and we are very lucky to be producers of wine with such quality.”

As for his number one dream – the next stage is to go global but in particular to Germany and France.

Contact: John Hughes. Phone: 61 8 8563 3963. Email: john@rieslingfreak.com.