Murray Tyrrell, one of Australia's most prominent winemakers, died this week at the age of 79. Tyrell, chairman of Hunter Valley-based Tyrrell's Wines, had been ill for the past year."It's a great loss for all of us," industry leader Len Evans said. "He was one of the great, colourful characters of the Australian wine industry."Evans said that Tyrrell, widely proclaimed as "the mouth of the Hunter" for his outspoken championing of the region's wines and was one of the last of the "regional barons"."McGuigan (Brian McGuigan of McGuigan Wines) and I are often bracketed with Murray but we both agree that he was 'Mr Hunter Valley'."Tyrrell had been the first winemaker to popularise Chardonnay and Tyrrell's Vat 47 had probably had more show successes than any other Australian Chardonnay.Originally a cattleman, he took over at Tyrrell's Wines in 1959 and led it to national and international prominence.The 142-year-old, family-controlled company, of which son, Bruce, is now managing director, currently exports about one third of its total production of more than 800,000 cases, its Old Winery and Long Flat labels being widely distributed in the UK and the US.Tyrrell was a major sponsor, personally and through the company, of local and national sports, especially Rugby League teams and Tyrrell's is an official sponsor of the Australian cricket team.