Glen McWilliam, one of the four sons of J.J. McWilliam, was a driving force behind McWilliam’s for over fifty years. His vision and tenacity in transforming the Riverina into a well-known winemaking region are strong parts of the legacy Glen has left for future generations.
Born 3rd February 1914 in Sydney, Glen was the youngest son of John James and Elizabeth McWilliam. At the age of 17, Glen started his career at McWilliam’s operating the and becoming a grape tester during the 1931 Vintage. In the years to follow he gained further experience in the Sydney Head office located in Pyrmont, helping his brother Keith in the bottling and marketing of the company’s wines.
In 1943, he was appointed Company Director and accepted the major responsibility of overseeing the Hanwood winery and vineyards. In the years that followed, Glen also assumed the role of Production Director.
During Glen McWilliam’s time at the helm of the Hanwood winery, he travelled overseas to sharpen his winemaking skills and broaden his knowledge of the winemaking industry. After returning from a trip to France in 1958, Glen noticed the Pedro Ximenez grapes were rotting on the vines due to a very wet summer the Riverina region had experienced that year. In the past, he would have picked them quickly and put them through the still to use in the company’s traditional fortified wines. However, because of what he had recently observed in Sauterne, Glen recognised that it was worth letting them go and picking them later. The result was the 1958 Pedro Sauterne, the first Botrytis wine made commercially in Australia.
Throughout the 1960s, Glen continued to work with his family to grow the McWilliam’s name. He introduced a number of new grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay and Traminer to the Riverina. In 1961, Glen oversaw the planning and building of the families Robinvale winery in Victoria. Robinvale had its first vintage in 1963 and it was Glen’s son Max, who later took over the running of this winery, which became responsible for the making of McWilliam’s famous Cream Sherry.
Glen McWilliam retired as Production Director and Manager of Hanwood Winery on the 30th September 1981 after completing his fifty-first Vintage at Hanwood, as pictured above in colour. On 31st May 1996, Glen McWilliam, a legend of the Australian wine industry, passed away aged 82 years old.