John Charles Brown was the only son of the Brown Brothers founder, John Francis Brown. John Charles passed away in May 2004, age 89, as his 70th vintage at Milawa drew to a close. Having commenced in the business in 1934, John Charles held many positions from winemaker, to Manager, to Managing Director to Chairman and finally Life President.
It is thanks to the vision and hard work of this quietly spoken man that Brown Brothers enjoys the success and popularity that it does today. He built up the business to one of the most visited wineries in the land, and saw his wines grace wine lovers’ tables all over the world. His spirit of gentle country hospitality, generosity and quiet enthusiasm remains evident in his sons and in every corner of the company and remains the guiding principle of all our activities at Milawa.
When he joined his father in Milawa (in North East Victoria) after completing his education in the city, the family had 35 acres under vines and supplemented their income with other farming activities. It was for winemaking that the company established its reputation, and the cereal crops and fat lambs gave way to grapevines.
John Charles initiated experiments in trialling uncommon varieties. These experiments continue today, with over 40 different varieties grown in the diverse micro-climates of the company’s vineyards. It usually takes several years for each ‘new’ variety to be approved for full scale commercial production, but for John, it was a joy to see new varieties make their mark and be accepted by consumers.
In 1934 a softly spoken young man of 19 wiped the rich Milawa dirt from his hands, put aside his pruning tools and began loading an export order onto a truck for transport to the local railway. So began a lifetime’s work for John Charles, the man often hailed as the father of the Victorian Wine Industry.
John Charles was also widely acknowledged as one of Australia’s foremost winemaking innovators. He was the first vigneron to pre-drain white grape juice to retain the delicate grape flavours in white wines; the first to use refrigeration to control wine fermentation temperatures; and the first in 1962, to produce a Noble Rot Riesling using Botrytis affected Riesling grapes from the Milawa Estate.
His efforts were acknowledged in 1989, when his contribution to the wine industry was recognised with the Queen’s Birthday honours awarding him the Membership of the Order of Australia.