PHILIP Laffer AM has been named the first ‘life member’ of the Australian wine industry. Administered by the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (WFA), the award recognises outstanding leadership and contribution to the nation’s wine industry, going over and above an individual’s career achievements. The announcement was made at Tuesday evening’s Outlook conference welcome reception.
The grandson of vignerons and the son of an agricultural scientist, some might argue wine is part of Laffer’s DNA. So too, the passion and vision as he has played a significant part in making Australian wines what they are today. Under his direction, Jacob’s Creek excelled. He’s also one of the main names behind the success of the Australian wine industry in export markets.
Working in trade, marketing, winemaking, viticulture and management across his career, Laffer has given a lot to the industry. When his career began, Australia table wine was just finding its feet.
“How much things have changed. But we also must continue inspiring the viticulturists and oenologists of tomorrow to keep industry on its game,” Laffer said. “We need to keep attracting talented and driven people to the wine industry, people who are passionate about their wines, their brands and the future of an important and diverse Australian industry. Receiving this award is an honour and I am humbled and proud to be recognised by my industry in this way.”
Laffer graduated with Agriculture from Roseworthy College and completing studies in both agricultural science and oenology. He joined Lindeman’s in 1963 as winemaker and went on to represent the company across a number of roles, including technical director, head of marketing/sales and executive director.
From 1990–2012 he worked at Orlando Wyndham (later Pernod-Ricard Pacific and Premium Wine Brands) and from 2013, Laffer has continued in the industry as a winemaking and viticulture consultant across Australia, China and Argentina.
Paul Evans, WFA chief executive, said Laffer had spent his entire life promoting the nation’s wine industry, and the industry was richer for his involvement.
“We need champions like Philip and it is important for industry and the wider community to hold our pioneers in high regard because we can both learn from them and encourage the next and future generations to follow in their footsteps,” Evans said.
Chris Shanahan wrote, in great detail, about Laffer at the time he handed over the chief winemaking duties at Jacob’s Creek to Bernard Hickin in 2011. Shanahan described Laffer as an “industry builder and expander”.
“Laffer was also there across the years steering Jacob’s Creek – finessing the style of existing wines and setting the stage for future development. In 2000 the company launched a ‘reserve’ range and then in 2005, with an eye to the regional focus of future marketing, brought the company’s flagship regional varietals under the brand – Steingarten Barossa Riesling, St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon and Centenary Hill Barossa Shiraz,” wrote Shanahan on his blog chrisshanahan.com. “Philip Laffer is one of those great builders and expanders, influenced by those who’ve gone before, and a continuing mentor for new generations coming through.”
He has served on the WFA board, including as vice president, as well as president and vice president of the South Australian Wine Industry Association. Other senior advisory roles include with the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation (Wine Australia’s predecessor), the Australian Wine and Research Institute, the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation, the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society of South Australia, the CRC for Viticulture and the NSW Wine Industry Association.
Other awards presented to Laffer have included:
– 2014 Membership of the Order of Australia;
– 2013 Life Membership of Wine Communicators Australia;
– 2010 Maurice O’Shea Award;
– 2005 Life membership of SA Wine Industry Association;
– 2004 Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering;
– 2003 Roseworthy Award of Merit; and
– 2002 Qantas/Gourmet Traveller Winemakers of the Year.