Jacob’s Creek Farewells Chief Winemaker Bernard Hickin after 40 Years

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Imagine working in the same old joint for 40 years.

Sitting at the same old desk borrowing the same old stapler from the same old colleague in the same old Daisy Duck tie and having the same old global success and putting the same old trophies in the same old trophy cabinet for four decades! Bernard Hickin, a former WBM cover boy, is retiring in a few weeks after 40 vintages with Gramp/Pernod Ricard/Jacob’s Creek. Today I’m with a tug of wine writers breaking bread with the Harrison Ford look-a-like at Heritage Vineyard in the Barossa. The last supper; well, one of them. The invite said Bernard wanted his “favourite writers” to be here. As a JC Riesling and BH fan from way back, I feel honoured, even if deep down I know that invites to local events spike whenever Nick Ryan is overseas and Tony Love can’t make it. Bernard joined G. Gramp & Sons in 1976. That same year, the Eagles sang Hotel California. It’ll never take off – too long. Steve Jobs and Steve Woznik formed the Apple Computer Company. Won’t last. IBM made a laser printer. Fad. U2 was formed. One-hit wonders. Jacob’s Creek was launched. It’ll never catch on.

Also in 1976, Port Pirie celebrated its Centenary. On New Year’s Eve, fireworks exploded above the inlet and scared the shit out of all the shit fish and lit up the slag heaps next to rusty ships filled with lead bound for China and smoke from the smelter’s stacks added to the spectacle. Sydney stole the idea and has never quite nailed it. In those days half the workforce sucked on Camels at their desks and the other half pinched each other on the arse in the corridor on the way to the fax machine. Six trillion bottles of Jacob’s Creek later, the world is a better place. Bernard hands the reins to Ben Bryant, who is here today. Impressive lad. He’s only 35. Three kids. Jacob’s Creek is the world’s most awarded winery. One million glasses a day consumed. No pressure. “It’s humbling,” he says, “but I completely respect the position.” Bernard likes him. “This guy is amazing,” he says. “Jacob’s Creek is in solid hands.” I wouldn’t give Bernard a gold watch, I’d give him the whole bloody clocktower. On that note, Yalumba – whose vinous heart and soul is a virtuous wine called The Signature – took Pernod Ricard to the Federal Court this week over the use of ‘Signature’ on Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz. Raining on a Baron’s victory lap!

Bernard Hickin

The tribute is JC Limited Edition Shiraz Cabernet 2010. Yours for $180 a bottle; fewer than 900 are for sale. Well played, Bernard Hickin. Enjoy retirement including going to the same old work reunions reminiscing about the same old stories including the time you borrowed one another’s staplers and the time you conquered the world with anything but the same old wine.

Has someone worked at your winery for 40 years? Or 50 or 60 or 70? Let us know. Email here.

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