Wine pioneer recognised by peers

Saskia AdystiAlbany Advertiser
82-year-old Tony Smith, pictured here will be awarded with a Mt Barker wine producers association life membership.
Camera Icon82-year-old Tony Smith, pictured here will be awarded with a Mt Barker wine producers association life membership. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Great Southern wine industry pioneer Tony Smith turns 82 years old today — a day before he receives a life membership from the Mt Barker Wine Producers Association.

Mr Smith, who has played a significant role in developing the Great Southern wine industry over the past three decades, said it was an honour to receive recognition from his peers.

“We were farmers with no money and no experience when we first marketed our wine,” Mr Smith said.

“But now we produce some of the best wine the world has ever seen — and I think that’s something that we all should be proud of.”

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Mr Smith started his journey in 1974 when he opened Plantagenet Wines, the first winery in the Great Southern region.

Plantagenet Wines cellar door.
Camera IconPlantagenet Wines cellar door. Credit: Picture: Nic Duncan, Nic Duncan.

He started the business as a means to diversify his crops after a massive drop in wool price, but has since develop the award-winning winery to where it is today.

Mr Smith retired in 2004, not long after he was made an honorary patron of the Australian Wine Industry. He remained a non-executive chairman of the board and has since become the ambassador of the wine body in the region.

Mt Barker Wine Producers Association vice-president Kim Tyrer said the Great Southern wine industry would not be what it was today without Mr Smith’s constant dedication.

Plantagenet wine's the old and the new.
Camera IconPlantagenet wine's the old and the new. Credit: Laurie Benson

“Tony, as GM of Plantagenet Wines, was the first to bring a technically trained winemaker to the region and brought new innovation to the winery as the industry evolved,” she said.

“One of my favourite stories about Tony is when he brought the old stainless-steel tanks from the whaling station when it shut down in 1978. Hosing out all the oil and fat, making it clean and ready for wine — it was very innovative in the winery those days and to come from another local industry that closed down shows the ingenuity and hard work of those pioneering days.”

Mr Smith will receive his life membership tomorrow on National Wine Day. He will be the third person in the region to receive a life membership, after Betty Quick, formerly of Forrest Hill, and Ian Tyrer of Galafrey Wines.

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