Maurice O’Shea was a man whose story and character is as compelling and transformative as the wines he produced. His contributions to Australian wine cannot be understated. As David Wynn, founder of Wynns Coonawarra Estate, once said “He (Maurice O’Shea) established the standards for the Australian wine industry.”
Working in a time before electricity and refrigeration, Maurice O’Shea’s dedication (and genius) established Mount Pleasant as the only top-quality wine in Australia and inspired the likes of Penfold’s Max Schubert, Hunter Valley legend Max Lake and countless others who would go on to make Australian wine what we recognise today.
It is because of this and so much more that Maurice O’Shea is recognised as a true icon of Australian wine and the founding father of Modern Australian winemaking.
Born the eldest son of John Augustus O’Shea and Léontine Francoise Beucher, one could argue that Maurice’s connection to wine was in the blood. His father an Irishman and the owner of New South Wales Wine and Spirit Company, had a formidable palate. Leontine, born and raised in France, knew the sophistication and quality of the ‘old world’. When his father passed away he was just 15 and by 16 Maurice was on a boat to France, carrying with him his mother’s hopes for the family’s future, “Maurice you are our balloon, our hope, we lift with you!”.
Having learned the conditions required to grow the best grapes in France, his ability to identify these sites and nurture them to their full potential, is perhaps his greatest legacy. Although remembering that there was no electricity, no refrigeration and only a horse and cart to work the vineyards, it is a testament to his skill, resilience and, what many have referred to as, his ‘fanatical perfectionism’ that saw him create wines that set the standard for Australian winemaking and came to define Mount Pleasant: wines of elegance, balance and exceptional longevity.
For those who knew him, Maurice was a man of great humour and generosity who never thought of himself as any more than a winemaker. But, as Campbell Mattinson put it, “the art of turning grapes to wine, for Maurice O’Shea, was not a recipe: it was a sea of possibilities, all pitched according to the notes his hands and nose and mouth could tell.”
In 1956, Maurice passed away with his beloved wife and daughter beside him and since that day it has been our proud undertaking to uphold his visionary legacy in everything that we do.