Canadian Consulting Engineer

Wine Maker

John Bringas, P.Eng. remembers at age four going to the dirt-floor shed behind his maternal grandfather's Windsor, Ontario, home. There, like so many of his fellow Italian immigrants, John's grandfath...

October 1, 2002   By Nordahl Flakstad

John Bringas, P.Eng. remembers at age four going to the dirt-floor shed behind his maternal grandfather’s Windsor, Ontario, home. There, like so many of his fellow Italian immigrants, John’s grandfather, Luigi “Gigi” Zorzit, made his “vino puro.” At such a tender age, Bringas may not have fallen in love with wine but he certainly became mesmerized by winemaking.

The fascination stayed with him and perhaps it should have matured into pursuit of a chemical engineering degree. Instead, Bringas earned a diploma in metallurgical technology from Ryerson Polytechnic and a degree in engineering materials from the University of Windsor. He then moved to Edmonton in 1978 to join a consulting firm.

Four years later Bringas founded Codes and Standards Training, the firm he still heads and which delivers professional development courses. He also runs a technical publishing house, CASTI Publishing, and has written several metals and materials guide books. They include the CASTI Metals Black Book, which has sold more than 20,000 copies in 80 countries.

Meanwhile, the lessons and attention to detail learned at grandpa’s knee became useful as Bringas joined the thousands of Canadians who make their own wine. When he built a new Edmonton home, he even added a room especially for making and storing his supply. However, it was a business trip to Adelaide, South Australia in 1997 that set him on a path that took him beyond winemaking as a hobby.

Though already aware of the quality of Australia’s wines, once there, Bringas became much more attuned to the range and subtlety of Down Under vintages, particularly those from around Adelaide, the country’s unofficial wine capital.

He made repeated business trips to the country, usually spending several months there each year, and through business contacts and by touring the wine regions, he met many Australian growers and wine producers, including the legendary viticulturist Peter Lehmann.

With a if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em attitude, Bringas decided two years ago to shift beyond being a connoisseur to becoming a producer of Australian wines.

Using meticulously selected, hand-picked grapes from the Adelaide Plains, McLaren Vale and Baroota regions, Bringas is producing full-bodied red wines that have the spicy taste the Canadian engineer was after.

“I love wines that have texture — so that when I taste them, I feel I can chew them.”

“As far as I know, I am the only Canadian making wine in Australia and exporting it exclusively to Canada.”

The first vintage produced in 2001 by Gigi International Wines went on sale in Alberta this fall and was quickly snapped up.

“Next year, we’re looking toward exporting to other provinces,” says Bringas. He has been able to link one of his other hobbies, bird watching, with his wine venture. Gigi bottles are a colourful sight thanks to the four Australian birds, the Kookaburra, Rosella, Cockatiel and Galah, after which the three shiraz wines and one blend are named. Adelaide-area artist Sandra Roe painted the illustrations that grace the labels.

The Gigi brand name, of course, honours the memory of Grandpa Gigi and his dedication to producing a wine worthy of Old World standards.

And would Gigi Zorzit, who died in 1975, approve? His grandson thinks so, suggesting: “I think first he would laugh, and ask ‘Can I taste it?’ Then he would smile from ear to ear. That would be enough approval for me.”


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