If you are lucky enough to meet winemaker, John Hughes, chances are it won’t be long until he flashes you a trademark grin. There’s an underlying sense of whimsy and perhaps a touch of wickedness about the man that is utterly endearing.
Don’t let this fool you, though. John is very serious when it comes to one thing in particular. This thing is perhaps an unusual choice for a single-variety winery in Barossa, but one John is, and has always been, utterly besotted by. John gleefully brands himself with this love, he is Rieslingfreak.
Yes, John produces Riesling, and only Riesling. John’s childhood was spent in his parents’ Riesling vineyard in Clare Valley, so you could say it runs in his veins. Today his love of the variety has expanded across South Australia’s iconic regions, sourcing grapes from 3 sites; Eden Valley, Clare Valley and Polish Hill River. Home now is amongst the hills of Barossa’s Eden Valley.
John laughs that he’s the only Barossa man known specifically for drinking Riesling, a habit which earned him the moniker ‘Riesling Freak’ in University. A name so apt it is now boldly emblazoned on every bottle of his wine.
When talking about John, you can’t leave out Belinda Hughes, his wife and true love. John smiles broadly when talking about his new wife and the shared passion which sparked a beautiful story, “it took me a while to find another Riesling Freak, luckily when I did find her, she was single!” Belinda, a fellow white-wine maker has her hand in the business, starting with the production of their ‘wedding wine’ Rieslingfreak No.10 in 2017. Such is the natural symbiosis of the two, their mission of blending the best parcels of Riesling to create a vinous representation of their love took only a single hour. Ask any winemaker about the blending process, especially a collaborative one and you’ll understand just what a feat this is!
Second only to his love for Riesling (and Belinda!) is John’s love of food. Come Friday night there’s always a table spare for John and Belinda at *the* Barossa restaurant to drink Riesling, FermentAsian. If they’re not there, it’s likely you’ll find him at any of the other local restaurants or cooking up a storm for friends and family in his stunning new outdoor kitchen. For John, bringing the bounty of his region’s produce together in everyday celebration is what life is all about. It’s a love which should be shared, and share it does, all with generosity and typical ’Hughesy’ charm.
This month, John celebrates 10 years of Rieslingfreak, a milestone that should be celebrated. Join us in raising a glass to toast to the man, the wine and riesling.
Happy birthday Rieslingfreak!