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Jack Mann (1906–1989)

by Clement Mulcahy

This article was published:

Jack Mann (1906-1989), winemaker, was born on 19 March 1906 in Perth, son of South Australian-born parents George Robert Mann, winemaker, and his wife Griselda Maud, née Sobels, formerly Stubbing. The Sobels family, well-known winemakers in South Australia, were connected by marriage and business to Theodor Buring. From 1910 George Mann was the winemaker for C. W. Ferguson, owner of vineyards at Houghton, in the Swan Valley. Apprenticed to his father, Jack worked on his first vintage in 1922, and in 1930 took over as winemaker at Houghton. At the Royal Melbourne Wine Show in 1933, 1937 and 1938 he won the championship for three distinct types of sweet wines; his olorosa sherry won the show’s blue ribbon for thirteen consecutive years. Also in 1937 and 1938, his Houghton white burgundy was awarded first prize in the open class. A distinctive full-flavoured dry white wine made from chenin blanc grapes, it was likened by one judge, W. W. Senior, to the ‘great white burgundies of France’. It was first released for commercial sale in 1938.

An indefatigable worker, Mann shirked no task and expected all around him to be similarly committed. He experimented with new techniques: in 1932, when creating his white burgundy, he gained more flavour by leaving grape skins and juice in contact for a day before pressing and by using a butcher’s mincing machine to fragment the skins; in 1936 he was among the first in Australia to acquire a Seitz filter, which allowed sterile filtration. Later, Mann was to observe that ‘the golden age’ of his winemaking was the 1930s, when Houghton was reputedly the only vineyard in the world producing a complete range of first-class wines. He particularly favoured chenin blanc, verdelho and cabernet sauvignon grape varieties.

Recognising the potential of the south-west of Western Australia as a wine-producing region, Mann encouraged Thomas Cullity and William Pannell to plant commercial vineyards there. Although he did not appreciate undue or shallow attention, he enjoyed sharing Houghton’s cellar with friends, overseas visitors and fellow vintners. In 1964 he was appointed MBE. He did not travel widely but, when he retired in 1972, he was considered the doyen of the Western Australian wine industry.

Mann was passionate about cricket. A fine player in his youth, he was a long-time spectator at the Western Australia Cricket Association ground, well known for his picnic basket, which always included a Swan Valley wine. A cricket ground at Middle Swan was named after him.

On 21 May 1938 at St Mary’s Church of England, Middle Swan, Mann had married Angela Navera Doolette, daughter of Dorham Doolette. Survived by his wife and their three sons and daughter, he died on 26 May 1989 at his Middle Swan home and was cremated. That year the Wine Press Club of Western Australia established the Jack Mann memorial medal, which is awarded annually for outstanding contribution to the State’s wine industry. In 1997 Houghton released the inaugural Jack Mann wine, made from the best red or blend of red grapes. Since 2005 Houghton white burgundy has been registered as ‘white classic’, following the conventions of appellation agreed on by Australia and the European Commission.

Select Bibliography

  • P. J. Bonser, The Houghton Vineyard 1836-1986 (1987)
  • Sunday Times (Perth), 6 July 1997, p 67, 13 June 1999, ‘checkout’, p 12
  • Accommodation, Food & Beverage, Sept 1999, p 17
  • C. Jeffery, interview with J. Mann (typescript, 1986, State Library of Western Australia).

Citation details

Clement Mulcahy, 'Mann, Jack (1906–1989)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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