Colin Campbell’s shock passing

By Robert Muir

Rutherglen and district is in shock following the passing away last Friday of wine legend Colin Campbell OAM of Campbell Wines Rutherglen.

One of the most well-known, respected and popular figures in the region, Mr Campbell, 73, died peacefully at home in Rutherglen.

In January 2018 he was recognised for his outstanding service to the winemaking industry with the award of the Order of Australia Medal (OAM).

“I felt deeply humbled to be awarded this honour,” Mr Campbell told the Free Press at the time. 

Mr Campbell was a founding member of the Rotary Club of Rutherglen, President in 2000 and in 2011 was named a Paul Harris Fellow - Rotary’s highest honour. 

Among some other accolades include Mr Campbell and his brother Malcom (OAM in 2001) being honoured in 1995 with the Victorian Wine Industry Association Distinguished Services Award for services to viticulture and the wine industry.

In 2014, Colin was named the inaugural ‘Victorian Legend of the Vine’ by the Wine Communicators of Australia for his outstanding and lasting contribution to the wine industry and the industry at large.

In 2016 he was awarded life membership of the Australian Wine Industry by the Winemakers Federation of Australia, College of Patrons, which is the highest award in the wine industry.

Mr Campbell’s lifelong passion was to see Rutherglen Muscat recognised worldwide as the unique wine of Australia.

“By achieving this it will result in more people coming to the wine region,” he reasoned.

“We really want to promote Rutherglen as the muscat centre of the world, which would be a really valuable drawcard.”

Mr Campbell led the formation of the ‘Muscat of Rutherglen Network’, a group of the Rutherglen Muscat producers, which in 1998 developed a classification system for these wines to ensure quality and reliability.

“It is most likely that this bold move has prevented these Australian treasures and unique wines of Rutherglen from becoming extinct,” he said.

Mr Campbell chaired the group which also encompasses Rutherglen Topaque (formerly Tokay).

The classification system put in place by this tiny group was adopted in the Australian fortified wine code of practice.

Mr Campbell also led the revitalization of Rutherglen Durif. He formed the ‘Durif of Rutherglen Network’ which is a small group of the durif producers in Rutherglen. It gained recognition for the uniqueness of the Durif variety to Rutherglen.

This move aided the Rutherglen producers to lift the quality of its Durif to a premium status.

Mr Campbell was chairman of the Fortified Sustainability Project which involved the most comprehensive research ever to be undertaken on the Australian Fortified wine industry.

The project was responsible for developing new names for Sherry and Tokay as well as a relaunch strategy for Australian fortified wines. 

He and his brother Malcolm (OAM in 2001), the viticulturist, had a proud tradition of family winemaking specialising in wines reflecting the distinctive character of the Rutherglen region.

Mr Campbell was a tireless committee member and vice chairman of the Rutherglen Wine Festival Committee.

He said the Rutherglen Wine Festival, established as a result of the committee, put Rutherglen on the map and is widely credited with the birth of wine tourism.
He was a long standing board member of North East Tourism. Throughout the 1980s Mr Campbell was chairman of the North East Winemakers Committee.

In Rutherglen, the vital Winemakers of Rutherglen group was formed. Mr Campbell seized this as an opportunity to help revitalize this important sector of the Australian wine industry and at the same time demonstrate to the world the depth of commitment and history of the Australian wine industry.

For many years Mr Campbell was been a member of the Small Winemakers Committee and a board member of the Winemakers Federation of Australia which is the peak body for the Australian wine industry.

Campbells is a founding member of Australia’s First Families of Wine, a group of 12 wineries combining 1200 years of family and intergenerational winemaking; whose mission is to show to the world the heart and soul of the Australian Wine Industry.

Mr Campbell and his wife Prue were a great team over numerous years and, much to their delight, their three adult daughters Jane, Susie and Jules all contributed their skills at Campbells.

The funeral service for Mr Campbell will be at Campbell Wines this Friday, May 17 at 11.00am.