On Tuesday October 13, the Young Gun of Wine Awards came to Sydney for the first time, in the competition’s ninth year. Finalists and guests gathered at Nomad to see who would win the trophies.

Best New Act was taken out by Luke Growden (Year Wines), People’s Choice went to Laura and Brendan Carter (Unico Zelo), the Young Gun of Wine was announced as Adrian Rodda (A. Rodda Wines), whilst the Winemaker’s Choice unfolded to be a real thriller…

For the first time in the history of the Awards, there was a split decision. In dramatic circumstances, Michael Downer (Murdoch Hill) and Steve Crawford (Frederick Stevenson) tied for first place in the Winemaker’s Choice, twice.

The winemakers had cast their votes prior to the event and the original result was a dead heat tie between Downer and Crawford. When it came to announce the Winemaker’s Choice winner, finalists and guests at the presentation were advised that because “there can be only one”, the other ten winemakers would have to vote again – there and then. Once the votes were in again minutes later, it was found to be an equal split. The title was awarded to both of them.

On the first joint winner decision in history of the awards, competition founder Rory Kent stated, “We tried to split them. It got all Thunderdome at the presentation. Announcing that the other ten finalists would have to vote amongst the two tied for first was the tough decision because narrowly missing out on the trophy would hurt. But, even after a second round of voting, it was a dead heat again. After all that, they both deserve the win.”
Michael Downer Steve Crawford
Jubilant to share the win, Downer gleamed, “I am certainly thrilled to be recognised by the other finalists and even more delighted to share this with good friend Steve from Frederick Stevenson. Steve and I haven’t decided how we will split this trophy, however it seems to currently be in my possession.”

In his presentation, chief judge Nick Stock described the direction of the awards, “The way the competition has evolved, we are finding more and more winemakers who are backing themselves in their own businesses and doing it their way. Those who have become industry leaders with the styles of wine they are making, and how they are reinterpreting and reimagining the traditional styles and regions of Australia.”

Delving more into the wine styles emerging, Stock continued, “In this award we are looking for wines that have a sense of ‘levity’. Wines that are uplifting, energetic, vibrant, refreshing and exciting. It doesn’t limit itself to a particular grape variety or region. It applies equally to something like Simon Killeen’s Rutherglen fortified to something like Brendan Keys’ Adelaide Hills chardonnay. That vibrant and uplifting quality is being applied across so many diverse wine styles.”

Nick Stock Luke Growden Year Wines Best New Act
Taking out the Best New Act, the McLaren Vale based Luke Growden was thrilled. “I’m extremely honoured to have been chosen as the Best New Act, from such a talented group of finalists who are all producing fantastic wine. There was such a great range of wines encompassing a broad range of styles, from awesome textural whites through to fortified wine, so to win the award is a real thrill. The Young Gun of Wine Awards definitely shows that these are exciting times in Australian wine.”

Daniel Jacobson, wine manager of Nomad, announced the winner of the People’s Choice Award.
Daniel Jacobson Nomad Laura Brendan Carter Unico Zelo
On winning the popular vote of the wine buyers, Laura Carter said, “We’re absolutely chuffed to walk away with the People’s Choice award in our first year of being involved. We’re incredibly thankful to those who cast their vote at the public tastings!”

Brendan Carter followed on, “The fact that we entered with a Nebbiolo Rosé, and an unfiltered Fiano from the Riverland speaks volumes of what the contemporary consumer is looking for when they purchase. This reinforces the ‘appropriate’ variety movement and lends credibility to one of our most misunderstood and underrated wine regions. Being the youngest people involved in the competition, it’s certainly given us more confidence to push the boundaries with what we’re doing.”

The final trophy presented was the Young Gun of Wine, to Adrian Rodda. “To be considered worthy of this award by some of the industry’s great wine people is an honour, particularly given the very high quality of all the finalists and the seriously cool wines they are producing.”

Stock reflected on what had caught the judge’s eyes, “Adrian Rodda had demonstrated his ability to make wines that are imaginative and consistent. He manages to make cutting edge versions of mainstream styles, such as his chardonnays and so on. What he did with Cuvee de Chez is the answer to lead people back to a desire for Cabernet based styles of wine.”

The final words go to Rodda: “I wish the Young Gun of Wine Awards a long and distinguished future. It is a champion for all the young and emerging producers that are prepared to go out on a limb and make wines that are edgy, interesting and absolutely delicious to drink. Respect!”
Adrian Rodda Jake Allan

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There were 12 finalists in contention for the four awards. The results:

BEST NEW ACT
Luke Growden, Year Wines

PEOPLE’S CHOICE
Laura & Brendan Carter, Unico Zelo

WINEMAKER’S CHOICE – SPLIT DECISION
Michael Downer, Murdoch Hill
Steve Crawford, Frederick Stevenson

YOUNG GUN OF WINE
Adrian Rodda, A. Rodda Wines

Each winner received a trophy and gifts from Riedel.