Meet John Fogarty, Our Chief Viticulturist

Meet John Fogarty, Our Chief Viticulturist

We speak to John Fogarty, our Chief Viticulturist, sustainability champion and son of Fogarty Wine Group founder and owner, Peter Fogarty. 

As a kid John helped to plant the very first vines on the Millbrook property and now, over 25 years later, he is leading our viticultural program Australia-wide. From the Dalwhinnie estate in the Pyrenees, Victoria to our Strelley Farm and Gilling Brook vineyards in Tasmania and all the way across the country to South West WA where John calls home, his passion and knowledge about winegrowing has helped to shape Fogarty Wine Group into what it is today.

What does your day to day look like?

As the head viticulturist my main role is to lead and support the viticultural team with operational management and development. The key to this (I guess!) is the link between winemaking and viticulture. I work closely with the FWG winemaking team who let me know their goals for our wines and I then decide how we extend that to the vineyards as best as possible.

I spend a large amount of my time on the road between our sites across WA, and then in the air to our sites in the eastern states, in particular Tasmania which has been a pretty big project to date.

When did you realise you wanted to work within the family business?

I first started working within the business during my school holidays, planting vines and looking after them at Millbrook Winery back in the day!

I caught the bug of wanting to grow grapes and make amazing wines and this pushed me to head off to Charles Sturt University to study a Bachelor of Applied Science in Viticulture.

Here we are now, 25+ years later and I am developing vineyards on a large scale in Tasmania (with much better knowledge however!)

Has there been a moment in your FWG journey that has been the most worthwhile?

There have been so many milestones along the way to be honest! 

The Jimmy Watson was a pretty huge one. To win an award of this calibre, for fruit you have put so much time and effort into growing is pretty special (even when the winemaker gets the recognition for it!)

The development of our projects in Tasmania has been a really special one for me. Getting to work closely with Dad for a number of years to find the right sites and then to be able to work with so many great people to develop these vineyards has been awesome. It has been so cool to be able to develop our program off of the learnings from previous projects. We have utilised soil mapping, irrigation and block designs based on soils not just functionality, to create some pretty amazing vineyards.

But I think most importantly, the people I have been lucky to work with for so many years in our Group. The viticultural team has been a long-standing group of really great people who I respect and love to work with on a day-to-day basis. I wouldn’t be able to do my job without them!

What do you love about wine and working with the vines?

Being outside to be honest! And to be able to nurture a plant to produce a product for people to enjoy all over the world, that is pretty special.

I love the science behind it all, a huge part of my role is soil biology and chemistry in particular, getting soils to optimum health and to have healthy balanced plants. You should hear some of the conversations over a beer with some viticultural friends!

What do you enjoy doing outside of wine?

There is not much of my life which is outside of wine to be honest and that is purely around my enjoyment for what I do - our two boys even love getting out amongst the vineyards with me all the time. 

Plus, when your whole family is involved, it is pretty hard not to too, family lunches are like a board meeting!

If I had to choose, getting to a beautiful beach along the South West coast with my wife Juanita and boys Ben and Dan for a swim and snorkel whenever we can. I love fishing and mountain biking when I get a spare minute with the family also. I am lucky to have two energetic young boys who want me to be out with them hitting the trails or fishing whenever we can.

What is your favourite FWG wine?

The Deep Woods Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - I have spent so much of my time with the vines that make this wine, it is pretty special to me, and I really believe it's one of the best straight Cabernets in the world. 

I have also really enjoyed working with alternate varietals in recent years which really push you to understand them and their different growing requirements.

What is your favourite non-FWG wine?

Gosh, Barolo is pretty epic and I collect quite a bit of it to be honest, an amazing cellaring wine. 

Or, more recently Beaujolais. I am pretty interested in Gamay (Beaujolais) and have planted some in Tasmania now. I am also looking at where we can fit this amongst the Western Australian vineyards too.

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