Percival McGuigan, or Perc as he is best known, developed an interest in wine as a child through sometimes working with his father Owen, who worked in a vineyard at Rothbury. Though originally planning to become a school teacher, McGuigan worked first at Branxton Butter Factory and then at Hexham whilst studying dairy chemistry. Penfolds had bought the Dalwood Estate (originally established by the Wyndhams), and he became their vineyard manager for nearly thirty years, starting in 1941. He then bought the Estate from Penfolds in 1968 at auction, renaming it Wyndham Estate in honour of its original owners, and replanting to its original configuration – although it was sold fairly soon afterwards. McGuigan was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia Award (AM) in 2003, for service to the development of the Hunter Valley Wine Industry and to the community.
‘I feel privileged to have been associated with the great advances that have developed in the wine industry, particularly during the period from the late 1950s to the turn of the century. This was the time when people’s palates changed noticeably from the heavier fortified and semi-sweet wines to the lighter, flavoursome dry table wines. This, I believe, can be attributed to two important factors.
1) The unprecedented decision by a few winemakers and their staff to give the public the opportunity to taste a full range of wines at the cellar door, and at organised social evenings. This has been very successful because people make their choices guided by the person behind the bar and their own palates.
2) The increase in our overall population, particularly due to the European migrants, a big percentage of whom were very knowledgeable about light wines in their own lands; their acceptance of the quality of our Australian product was almost immediate and it has continued to be very supportive’.
The Hunter Valley vineyards have been through a difficult time over the past year but we would hope that there are brighter times ahead.
Perc McGuigian was inducted as a Legend in 2007.