Leslie Fritz: Wine Connoisseur and Regional Industry Leader

| May 25, 2016

When Leslie Fritz bought property in the Southern Highlands, he used revolutionary wine-making techniques and a passion for excellence to establish the first modern winery in the cool climate. Leslie’s son, Peter Fritz, explains how knowledge, imagination and foresight can transform a whole region.

Innovation has always played a crucial role in the development of our industry and society, and in today’s economy it’s more important than ever. We all know that change is necessary for growth. Many individuals and organisations have contributed to the growth and transformation of Australia.

I have a very personal interest in sharing an example of how innovation, knowledge, imagination and foresight can transform a whole region – in this case the Southern Highlands. It is because my father, Leslie Fritz, and Eling Forest Winery and Vineyards exemplify these very ideas. It was through my father’s work and vision that the Southern Highlands have developed into a well-known, respected and awarded wine region with a growing economy. Revolutionary wine-making techniques and passion for excellence have helped transform the winery and the entire Southern Highland region.

  Eling Forest Winery

My father came from Romania and settled in Australia in 1962. He had made wine in Transylvania. In Australia he first worked as an accountant, but he couldn’t bear to hear stories of local canning companies going bankrupt and fruit left on the ground to rot.

This is why in 1987, at 80-years-old, my father bought property in the Southern Highlands at Sutton Forest. The district’s first producer was Kim Mogine. His vineyard, Joadja, was founded in 1983, but my father’s involvement in 1990 eventually focused the attention of wine aficionados on the area.

The Southern Highlands is known for its cool temperate climate. In the last decade it has become a small yet significantly growing wine and cellar door region in New South Wales. Some of the wineries in the region have won awards nationally and internationally for the quality of their wines. Pinot noir and pinot gris are considered specialties of the region, but wine producers are also cultivating cool-climate chardonnay, merlot, riesling, sauvignon blanc and shiraz, as well as sparkling wines.

So after buying the property, my father obtained a vigneron licence and started a small boutique winery, called Eling Forest Winery and Vineyards. He could see the potential of the Southern Highlands as a grape producing area and planted Hungarian varieties. Initially the vinery crushed up to 10 tons of fruit annually – that’s 8000 bottles.

Eling Forest become the first modern winery to be established in the cool climate area with its first wines produced in 1993.

Eling Forest Winery

My father developed five new products for the fruit of the Peach Orchards. He used latest technology developed by Australian scientists to extract aroma from peaches without heating them. The technique uses a spinning cone which collects aromatic oils in liquid form from the cold fruit.

I took over the running of the business in the early 2000s. The main residence on the property was transformed into a restaurant and wine tasting room, and B&B-style accommodation was set up in the house’s extensions and in the cottage. The old brick barn that had previously housed pigs and served as a dairy was turned into a cellar-door, winery and convention centre.

Eling Forest Winery

My father’s legacy remains and impacts life in the Southern Highlands. His innovations and ideas transformed the art of wine making, and his vision helped the region develop into the dynamic and profitable tourist destination it is today.

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Peter Fritz AM is Chairman of Global Access Partners and Group Managing Director of TCG – a diverse group of companies which has produced breakthroughs in computer and communication technologies for 45 years. He chairs a number of influential government and private enterprise boards and represented Australia on the OECD Small and Medium Size Enterprise Committee.