Loss of a top grapegrower

Kirsten Lawson

Canberra has lost one of its top grapegrowers with the death of Al Lustenberger, pictured, this month.

Lustenberger, 60, died when the plastic roofing he was standing on while cleaning gutters gave way and he fell.

A neighbour of Ken Helm in Murrumbateman, and, says Helm, his closest friend, Lustenberger grew the grapes for Helm’s Premium (the 2012 named by Jeremy Oliver last week as among his top 10 rieslings and top 10 “future classics” of any variety).

Lustenberger is a former chef at the Canberra Club (where he met wife Margot) and in hotels, turning to grapes in 1985. In 1999, he and Helm went to Bordeaux, and Helm recounts that on the plane back, Lustenberger said, “I now know how to grow the perfect grape, and your challenge is don’t stuff it up”.

Lustenberger was born in Switzerland (he holidayed there with his family just weeks before his death) and Helm says he grew his grapes “like a Swiss crop – they were perfect”. The Premium is made from a north-facing hillside that produces riesling of "outstanding quality and balance".

Lustenberger has three children and son Daniel, who lives in Tarcutta, will run the vineyard.