It’s Tuesday night in the City of Churches and d’Arry Osborn is off to the Brighton Beefsteak & Burgundy Club at The Robin Hood Hotel. A life member, he’s been going for 36 years. We have a pint in the beer garden beforehand. Several patrons spot him and come over for a chat. He’s wearing the official club bow-tie. “It’s a bugger of a thing to put on,” d’Arry says. There’s a d’Arenberg badge on his lapel, an Order of Australia one, too. “I’m proud of that,” he says. There are “various things” wrong with him, but he’s still smiling. “Golden staph almost killed me a few years ago,” he says. d’Arry still likes a wine, but lost his palate long ago. “I can tell the difference between red and white, but that’s about it,” he says. d’Arry has met the rich and famous including four PMs that he can remember: Menzies, Howard, Abbott, Turnbull. d’Arry was friends with Max Schubert; had lunch with him at Magill Estate just before he died. “A lovely bloke,” says d’Arry. “He gave me a case of Minchinbury champagne for my wedding. He once gave me a bottle of the first Grange he ever made: tasted like crushed ants, full of oak. I think that bottle sells for $70,000 now. I suppose I shouldn’t have drunk it.” What does d’Arry get up to now? “I read the paper from start to finish,” he says. He also still collects the mail from the post office and approves every payment. Yesterday he signed off on $1 million “in one sitting”. “I’ve always been conscientious about saving money,” he says.
What does d’Arry think of the $13m Cube? “We had to do something,” he says. “Our cellar door is so busy – we had 181 through last weekend. We need something bigger.” He adds, “I’ll be relieved when it’s finished.” So far, what’s been the career highlight? “I’ve always loved work; never get sick of it,” he says. “It was tough early on with no electricity. I used to milk the cows but I got rid of them when Dad died – no money in ’em.” He loved the golfing years with Cud Kay and Dick Trott; Chester used to pull d’Arry’s buggy. “We’d have a bottle of red before we hit off,” says d’Arry, “and on the third hole, out came the brandy and dry. Then one day Chester said, ‘Dad, let’s go fishing’ and we did – and I haven’t played golf since. It’s been good for my health!” Another well-wisher sees d’Arry and says hello. “I should know that bloke,” says d’Arry. “I’m a bugger with names.” d’Arry’s sister Toni, who lives in London, is 95. d’Arry will turn 90 on 27 December. Is he having a 90th? “I’ve told them I don’t want a fuss,” he says. “Just something with family.” Does he feel (almost) 90? “I’ve slowed down,” he says. d’Arry lost his mum when he was born; lost his wife Pauline 14 years ago. He loves talking about his granddaughters: Alicia, Ruby and Mia. “They’re lovely kids,” he smiles. d’Arry finishes his pint, checks his watch and leans on his walking stick to get up. Burgundy beckons. He shuffles off, but then turns back and asks, “Are you doing a story, are you?” Maybe, Legend, maybe.
- On Friday d’Arry Osborn was named 2016 South Australian Legend of the Vine by Wine Communicators of Australia at the annual lunch for the Royal Adelaide Wine Show. For full show results visit www.rahs.com.au.
This appeared in the Friday September 30 edition of ‘The Week That Was’. If you haven’t yet, sign up to the weekly newsletter here.