On Saturday December 6, finalists in the 2014 Young Gun of Wine Awards gathered at the Cellar Bar underneath the Newmarket Hotel, a venue infamous for it’s Schnitz n Tits nights.
This year’s 12 finalists hailed from Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia. The judging panel included Nick Stock, Rory Kent, Philip Rich, Josh Elias and last year’s winner, Taras Ochota of Ochota Barrels.
Stock, the chief judge, said of the 12 finalists, “These winemakers are as diverse a group as you could hope for and the level of creativity, talent and courage underpinning them shines an exciting light on the future of great Australian wine. Above all though, it’s the assured confidence that really sets this group apart, reflecting a groundswell of ownership as they stake their rightful claim on the future shape of the Australian wine offering.”
Kent noted, “From 12 finalists, we have four trophy winners, a sign that it was a very even field.” The awards and winners were:
• Best New Act, Adrian Santolin (Santolin, Yarra Valley)
• People’s Choice, Ben Chipman (Tom Foolery, Barossa)
• Winemaker’s Choice, Brendan Keys (BK Wines, Adelaide Hills)
• Young Gun of Wine, Fraser McKinley (Sami-Odi, Barossa)
Kent continued, “Voting was tight for each of the awards. Brendan Keys was one who caught the eye of the judges too, and it was good to see him get the votes of his peers for the Winemaker’s Choice. With BK and Gareth Belton joining last year’s finalists, Taras Ochota and James Erskine, as Young Guns finalists from the Basket Range, there’s certainly something happening in that part of the Adelaide Hills.”
Elias, editor of Alquimie magazine, noted that the Best New Act typified the talent and courage from these winemakers, “Santolin’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are confident and thought provoking – an even more impressive feat when they hold their own amongst the best of the Yarra, a region with so many accomplished pinot and chardonnay producers.”
The People’s Choice award was determined by the wine most popular with consumers at an event hosted by Prince Wine Store earlier that day. Rich, a partner in the store, said of the People’s Choice, “There’s no surprise in Ben Chipman’s win. His Tom Foolery wines are modern interpretations of Baroosa shiraz and blends, and they’re terrific value wines to boot. It’s a brand that ticks all the boxes.” In a nod to the history of the Newmarket Hotel, the People’s Choice award was presented by two wine punters who stripped naked for the occasion.
The Young Gun of Wine was the final trophy presented on the night. Last year’s winner, Taras Ochota, noted of the 2014 recipient, “Everything Fraser does has attention to detail. From the vineyard, right through to the immaculate presentation of his wines, all the way along, he is so original, so creative and such himself. It’s encouraging to see an artist stick to their guns and be themselves. It’s inspiring. And to top it off, he’s a bloody nice guy.”
Reflecting on his win, McKinley enthused about his peers, “It’s been an extremely flattering and humbling experience, given the company of finalists, to be named amongst them let along being named winner of the Young Gun of Wine award.”
Stock offered further thought of McKinley’s success, “No more deserving winner, a winemaker that has interpreted his surrounds very carefully, intelligently and with soul – the humility and sense of respect he exudes is profound.”
Kent concluded, “There’s a lot of exciting talent in this year’s Young Guns that were unlucky not to get a trophy. We look forward to seeing them again in the years ahead.”