It might be the energy of our brightest young winemakers but it’s hard to imagine that this is already our eighth annual Young Gun of Wine Award. The hunger and skill that has been recognised throughout that time makes an impressive group indeed – imagine if they hunted in packs!

Many of these high achievers have made a career of heading north of the equator to ply their skills and garner inspiration. And each year they bring back to Australia another season of experience, insight and inspiration, applying it to home grown grapes and crafting inspired results. It’s a modern approach to success and we recognise the courage it takes to make that kind of commitment.

So once again, it’s time to show no fear in the face of immense talent, as we present the eighth annual collection of hot young Australian winemaking talent to you via another exciting program of dinners and tastings, all culminating in the night of nights, the presentation of this year’s coveted trophy for the Young Gun of Wine.


The mission of this award is to pull together an inspired group of younger Australian winemakers that are forging ahead at speed within the greater ranks and to inspire them and others to greatness. These guys and girls are singled out for their leadership, their vision, their talent and their influence on the cutting edge of the industry, an influence that has steadily grown each year, along with the challenge of thrashing out the list of finalists and selecting the eventual winner.

Whilst the group is presented under a united banner of emerging talent, this issue of vision and leadership is a big one in the eyes of the judges. The wine industry is a relatively close-knit group and good old fashioned shared inspiration, camaraderie and encouragement are all essential to the industry’s ongoing success. But, as much as these finalists stack up well on paper, the quality has got to be present in the glass. To posses the required talent is one thing but putting it into play and delivering the liquid evidence is an absolute must.

Make no mistake, judging the Young Gun of Wine Award is an absolute pleasure for the judges, yet each year the task of both selecting the finalists and the eventual winner has become more and more challenging. To give you clear insight into the process, the judges agree on a short list of around 25 who are then invited to submit wines.

As well as tasting the wines, the judges analyse the contribution of each finalist in a very broad sense. The wines need to perform, but the broader array of stuff each candidate is doing is as important as the wine they are making. We also look to unravel the question of why these particular wines were singled out and sent forth. It’s an always interesting, sometimes fascinating insight into what this crew thinks is really their most important work – we want to taste what’s closest to their hearts.

Have they chosen something really esoteric, something weird and left field, experimental and edgy to impress the judges? Have they taken the path less traveled to simply dare to be different or are they investigating a deeply considered and thoroughly researched theory? Have they thought long and hard about what should come next and are they laying down the beginnings of an incredible legacy?

Sometimes the allure of innovation can cast an impressive figure but the challenge of tackling what’s tried and tested is always an immense one. The winners to date have each clinched the award on very different grounds:

2007 – the inaugural winner, Matt Gant, chose the path less traveled with his First Drop Minchia Montepulciano. Innovative, confident, impressive and delivered with a wry dose of humour – perfect.

2008 – Pete Schell took the second title on very different grounds with his insight and careful evolution of the Barossa Valley’s red wine tradition via the Spinifex project. Respect!

2009 – Colin McBryde’s intellect and downright coolness saw him sail into first spot last year. The Some Young Punks and Adelina projects move in very different circles, punk versus classic, both are equally compelling.

2010 – Rollo Crittenden’s ability to take the new, emerging and downright interesting tack and make it feel like a favourite piece of furniture is a triumph. His work is a lesson for others to follow.

2011 – Mike Aylward’s wines demonstrated a respect for vineyard typicity and subtle winemaking style that few amass in a lifetime.

2012 – Abel Gibson was the first in this competition’s history to also win the People’s Choice Award. His philiosophy of nature and re-defining Barossa’s local identity of wine in a wine world that is increasingly influenced by global trends inspired all.

2013 – Taras Ochota’s quietly confident expressions of the precocious Grenache and Gewurztraminer were show stopping. Balancing both restraint and adventure, from the way he approaches his winemaking, to his packaging and presentation, Taras represented what this award is all about.

All that remains now is to see what it was that drove this year’s winner across the line, leading this pack of Australia’s most exciting, talented and inspired winemakers on to even grater heights. See you at the festival.

Young Gun of Wine Awards Chief Judge