Dorham Mann was born in the Swan Valley on 10 May 1939. His grandfather, George Mann, made wine in the Barossa Valley at Château Tanunda; he became a winemaker at Santa Rosa in WA in 1906 , at Glen Hardy in 1908 and then at Houghton’s in 1910. Dorham's father, Jack Mann, began work at Houghton as an apprentice in 1922 and took over from his father in 1930, ultimately completing 51 vintages at Houghton Winery.
Dorham grew up on the Houghton 600 acres property in the Swan Valley with a childhood heavily involved in wine. He went to the University of Western Australia on a government agricultural science cadetship; he decided to become involved in viticulture due to the influence of Bill Jamieson.
One of the key recommendations of the Olmo Report in 1956 was that the Department of Agriculture should appoint an extension oenologist. Dorham was sent to Roseworthy College in 1963 to subsequently fill this role. He helped establish the experimental vineyard at Mt Barker (another Olmo Report recommendation) in 1966 to demonstrate the potential for the production of cool-climate table wines. Whilst at the Department of Agriculture, Dorham went above and beyond his role to help the early pioneers in Margaret River. He helped many with their site selections and early plantings; Sandalford and Cape Mentelle being two examples.
At the end of 1972, Dorham left the Department of Agriculture to become the Sandalford winemaker. Having seen the potential of the Margaret River region first-hand, he was motivated by a desire to help set a standard for Margaret River wines. At Sandalford from 1972 to 1987, Dorham identified and helped establish Sandalford’s Margaret River vineyard and made high-quality table wines from a range of varieties including Riesling, Verdelho, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. By the early 1980’s Sandalford was selling in excess of 20,000 cases of Margaret River Riesling per year, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, mainly to east coast markets, providing to many their first taste of Margaret River wine. At Sandalford, Dorham produced wines that won numerous gold medals and awards, including the 1978 Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon, which was the highest-pointed young Cabernet at the Melbourne Show. The volume of quality wine produced and the show successes helped establish the market for and success of Margaret River-branded wine, as well as raise the profile of the region across Australia and overseas.
Dorham’s vast experience ensured that he could always be considered a reliable source of information across all segments of the production process which was particularly important at the very beginnings of vine planting and winemaking in the Margaret River region. This contribution continued after he left Sandalford with his work as a private consultant, for example at Lenton Brae, where he guided the production of the 1992 Chardonnay, awarded the best White wine of the Perth Royal Show.
Dorham Mann’s contribution to the Margaret River region is twofold; firstly, that as a Consultant, both with the Department of Agriculture and in a private capacity, and as the Senior Winemaker for Sandalford Wines.
6 decades after returning from Roseworthy in 1963, Dorham continues to make wine from his home vineyard in the Swan Valley, specialising in Méthode Champenoise.
Dorham Mann OAM Additional Information
- Served as a Royal Australian Show Judge for 30 years
- President of the Wine and Brandy Producers Association of Western Australia
- Western Australia Technical Representative for the Federal Wine and Brandy Producers Council
- Foundation President of the Swan Valley and regional Winemakers Association
- Former President of the Swan Valley Vintners Club
- Awarded an Order of Australia Medal for service to the Wine Industry in 1994
- Named as one of the inaugural “Swan Valley Icons” by the Swan Valley Regional Winemakers Association in 2010.
- Awarded the “Jack Mann Memorial Medal” in 2012, an award named in honour of his father and presented to an individual who has made a significant/major contribution to the WA Wine Industry.
- Awarded Life Member of Wines of Western Australia in 2019