The work Fred Peacock has done on vineyards around Tasmania, including his own vines at Bream Creek, has seen him awarded 2018’s Viticulturist of the Year thanks to Perpetual.
There are few stronger supporters of the Tasmanian wine industry than Fred Peacock. What he doesn’t know about growing grapes on the island is probably not worth knowing. He’s helped innumerable people establish vineyards and claims to be the longest serving stallholder at the annual Taste of Tasmania, where he’s always behind the counter.
Born into a long-established fruit-growing family, he took a degree in agricultural science, majoring in horticulture, and his career began with the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industry in 1974. He worked for the DPI for 14 years, the last five as State Viticulturist.
Later, he was vineyard manager for the Alcorso family at Moorilla. When they sold their interest in the young Bream Creek vineyard near the Tasman Peninsula, Peacock bought it. He’s owned it ever since, with partners, and has extended it, replacing the cabernet with pinot noir, and now owns or manages five vineyards totalling 30 hectares in the Coal Valley, Derwent Valley and Bream Creek.
He also worked for Stefano Lubiana from 1993 to 2002, helping them establish their vineyards.
“There are few stronger supporters of the Tasmanian wine industry than Fred Peacock. What he doesn’t know about growing grapes on the island is probably not worth knowing.”
Chance meetings with pioneers like Graham Wiltshire, Andrew Pirie and the Alcorsos piqued his interest in wine. A watershed moment was meeting the American oenology professor, Maynard Amerine, in the early 1980s. Amerine was an old man by then but his ability to understand how the wines were produced from tasting them blind astonished Peacock. “I was blown away by what he could tell about the wines from tasting them,” he explains. His advice on how to improve the wines by making adjustments in the vineyard was an epiphany. Peacock then understood that “the quality of wine is driven by its viticultural base. Tasmania had a great reputation for its fruit, and if apples and pears work here, we should be able to produce great cool-climate wines.”
Peacock has remained a ‘dirt man’ and never wanted to be a winemaker or build a winery. Instead, he relies on contract winemakers and the quality of the Bream Creek wines, confirmed by their show success, has never been a concern. They’ve won 22 trophies. He says the Bream Creek site, while beautiful, is too steep to build a winery and lacks an adequate water supply. Besides, he’s happy with Winemaking Tasmania, a relationship that began in 2003. “I’m in and out of the winery a fair bit, and I discuss with them how they might handle the fruit,” he says. “My main role there is to do with wine style and finishing.”
Peacock sells his surplus fruit and Bream Creek riesling – especially that from the old 1974 vines – is in high demand from other winemakers. Pinot noir is the only variety that beats it for show success. “People are still telling me how well the ’05 Reserve Pinot is drinking,” he says. “The 2018 may knock it off, though.” The ’05 won several trophies: one memorable year at the Boutique Wine Awards the ’06 Estate Pinot won the trophy and the ‘05 Reserve was runner-up.
Bream Creek wines are well-priced, especially as they’re held back longer than most. “I believe we don’t see the best from our cool-climate wines until a few years down the track,” he says.
For my money, the most consistent Bream Creek wine is the riesling, although the vintage sparkling wine can be outstanding and pinot can hit the heights. Bream Creek is possibly Australia’s only producer of schönburger, which makes a light, highly aromatic white wine.
Peacock is a big contributor to the local industry, working on various key wine industry bodies. He still consults to other Tasmanian vineyards and wine businesses. His next project is to build a cellar door on the Bream Creek site.
Photography by Nick Osborne