This year marks the 16th annual edition of the Young Gun of Wine Awards. Since 2007, we’ve scoured the country for the best emerging talent, winemakers on the rise who are reshaping the wine landscape by creating their own no-compromise projects or reimaging established brands with a new vision. They’re the glitteringly bright future of Australian wine. The annual list has become the go-to guide for drinkers looking for cutting-edge wines. The 2022 finalists have just been announced, and they’re an exciting lot.
“Presenting our top winemakers for 2022, it’s incredible to look back to 2007 and note just how much has changed in the wine landscape since then,” said YGOW founder Rory Kent. “From the grape varieties that winemakers have access to, to the new and reimagined winemaking techniques, to the look of labels and the way people engage with, talk about and experience wine, the culture has dramatically evolved. Those 16 years have flown by, and it’s become a wonderful new world of wine.”
The finalists in this year’s awards were selected from a long list of entrants. Over two days of intensive judging, a panel of leading industry figures from across the country tasted their way through the wines to select who was in the running for the six trophies: Young Gun of Wine, Best New Act, People’s Choice, Winemaker’s Choice, Danger Zone, and the Vigneron.
“Every year, we’re seeing new ideas from the emerging talent, and they’re shaping the environment that we get to enjoy,” said Kent. “It’s also not just about the products – it’s the learnings that peers can take from their adventurous winemaking. It’s also how they’re presenting, labelling and talking about their work – how they’re connecting with wine professionals and consumers. That’s why, uniquely and since day one, the wines for the Young Gun of Wine Awards are not tasted blind. These awards are as much about vision and leadership as they are about the quality of wine in the glass.”
“These awards are as much about vision and leadership as they are about the quality of wine in the glass.”
Rory Kent was joined on the 2022 judging panel by Ravensworth vigneron Bryan Martin; Jeremy Shiell from Winespeake; Kate McIntyre MW, Moorooduc Estate; wine critic Nick Stock; Penny Vine of Marion and Cutler & Co; Rani Parish, Group Sommelier for Agnes, Honto, Bianca and Same Same; and Charlotte Hardy from Charlotte Dalton Wines, the 2021 Young Gun of Wine.
All applicants submitted wines that were all tasted and discussed at length, but their project and its achievements and aspirations, as well as their place in their region and the broader wine landscape were given equal airtime.
“The YGOW judging process is unique,” said Dalton. “I love how a brand is looked at as a whole. Obviously, the wines need to be fantastic, but the conversation about the maker and their place in the Australian industry and the good they are doing is so wonderful. I was most excited by the strong female contenders. I am not a fan of recognising women to merely tick boxes, but the female winemakers who entered YGOW were genuinely amazing, inspiring and thoughtful producers.”
With two days of swirling and spitting and vigorous debate, a consensus was reached.
“Easy drinking, modern styles were definitely at the forefront, but the surprises came from precision and focus from some young winemakers. They are making age-worthy and unique wines fit for the world stage. After the tasting, I am more confident in the direction of Australian wine. We have such a hotbed of talent and enthusiasm in this generation.”
“The diversity of judges also gave depth to the process,” said Parish. “We all seemed to champion different aspects and I think a fair representation in the finalists. Easy drinking, modern styles were definitely at the forefront, but the surprises came from precision and focus from some young winemakers. They are making age-worthy and unique wines fit for the world stage. After the tasting, I am more confident in the direction of Australian wine. We have such a hotbed of talent and enthusiasm in this generation.”
We now have our top winemakers of 2022. And, like every year, the finalists are a diverse lot.
Makers are swimming against the currents of tradition
There are makers shaking up the establishment in this country’s most traditional regions. One is redefining Hunter semillon in subtle but deeply meaningful ways, while another is making more paradigm-shattering bottlings from the grape. One is colouring outside the lines in Rutherglen to give durif a fresh voice, or rather voices, and Coonawarra cabernet’s norms are reimagined by a second-generation vigneron.
They’re mastering singular pursuits
We have makers digging deep across a panoply of varieties, from the traditional to the emerging, while others are digging deep into just one area, with one making wines that explore a single variety in profoundly varied ways, while another is solely dabbling in the sparkling arts.
They’ve travelled diverse paths to get here
We have a slew of makers who have diverted from more profitable trajectories to pursue the grape. There are those who traded corporate and professional careers, fashion design, the visual arts and graphic design for a life on the land. And then there are others that have only ever had working the vines and making wine in their sights. There are trained makers, and those that have learnt solely on the job. There’s a pair of winemakers turned brewers who have come back to wine, couples that split the duties to get the job done, and friends who pool their resources to stretch their limits.
They’re shaping things from the ground up
We have makers that work the land in sustainable ways, some with all-in biodynamic farming, and some working intuitively and sympathetically to grow the best fruit and wines possible while respecting the environment around them. We have some that source all their fruit, but painstakingly work hand in glove with like-minded growers to always improve together.
They’re exploring far and wide
We have finalists that are working solely in one region, focusing on what it does well, while others spread out much further afield in search of ideal matches of variety to site and climate. There are finalists making wine in both the northern and southern hemispheres, while others are determined to explore the possibility of their patch of land that’s been in the family for decades.
People’s Choice voting and prizes
If you want to have your say on who is Australia’s best winemaker, the People’s Choice voting is live online via this link. Everyone that votes will go into a draw to win a Liebherr wine cellar and a year’s supply of wines (52 bottles) from the 2022 finalists.
People’s Choice voting will be open until Monday 6 June. Go to this link.
In 2022, 24 winemakers are new to the list of finalists. Here is the complete list:
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