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2020 Vineyard of the Year Awards

The intent of these awards is to shine a light on our best vineyards and give a voice to our best grape growers. These awards are a national initiative with trophies going to outstanding vineyards across the country.

2020 is the inaugural Vineyard of the year Awards...

As winemakers frequently say, “good wine is made in the vineyard.” Through these awards we will reconnect finished wine to the place and the manner in which the grapes are grown. We want to talk about provenance, and the unsung heroes of wine – the viticulturists, the growers, the custodians of the vines who labour at producing the best fruit they can.

Beyond providing recognition to the people who tend the vineyards, these awards are an opportunity to lead change and innovation in the industry, and grow the consciousness of consumers. Vineyards are finely attuned to their environment and can be seen as the ‘canary in the coalmine’ in a changing climate. Vineyards are also intricately linked to communities, and the first link in the chain of producing wine, so they have social and economic impact too. To that end, we are placing sustainability at the heart of these awards by making it the base criterion for entry.

Criteria

Our definition of a vineyard

  • Our use of the term vineyard is about the vines growing in the land. The vineyards we are acknowledging will include both pure grape growers as well as wine producers, or vineyards with wineries attached.
  • Because these awards are talking to consumers about the place of origin of wine product, we define ‘one vineyard’ as it would be labelled on a bottle, or the name of the fruit source as it is sold as by the grower.

 

The base criteria

  • First and foremost, these awards are about championing the pursuit of grape and wine quality.
  • Vineyards will need to name a viticulturist or grower responsible for the vineyard, as these awards recognise the place and person hand-in-hand.
  • These awards are open to grape growers who sell fruit to winemakers, as well as wine producers who grow their own fruit.
  • Growers will need to be able to name wines that are made from the grapes grown on that vineyard. Wine products which are blends of multiple fruit sources are acceptable.
  • We are looking for viticulturists who are committed to improving vineyard health.
  • To that end, “sustainability” will be a fundamental element of these awards. Sustainability encompassing one or all of the following: environmental, economic and social endeavours.

Calendar

  • Finalists announced: December, 2020
  • Trophy winners announced: March, 2021

Winners

2020 Panellists

  • Dr Irina Santiago-Brown

    Co-owner of Inkwell Wines; Sustainability in Agriculture Consultant; Accredited Lead Auditor for ISO 14001; Viticulturist of the Year (Inaugural, Women in Wine); PhD in Sustainability in Viticulture.

  • Dr Mardi Longbottom

    Manager, Sustainability and Viticulture at AWRI; Director, Australian Grape and Wine; Director, ASVO; PhD in grapevine reproductive biology.

  • Dr Mary Cole

    Director and Principal Scientist, Agpath; PhD in plant pathology; Honorary Senior Fellow at University of Melbourne.

  • Dr Peter Dry AM

    Emeritus Fellow at AWRI and University of Adelaide; PhD in grapevine biology; McWilliam’s Wines Maurice O’Shea Award recipient; Member of the Order of Australia.

  • Mark Walpole

    Vigneron/owner of Fighting Gully Road; viticulture consultant; a pioneer of alternative varieties in Victoria; Gourmet Traveller Wine’s Viticulturist of the Year 2017.

  • Max Allen

    Award-winning journalist and author; honorary fellow in history at the University of Melbourne; wine and drinks columnist for the Australian Financial Review and JancisRobinson.com.

2020 Partners

Top 50 Finalists

    • Adelina, Clare Valley
    • Colin McBryde & Michael Maloney
    • South Australia, Clare Valley

    • 2020, 2021

    2021 Finalist
    2020 Finalist

    The Adelina vineyard, in the Clare Valley, is an old one. The first shiraz vines were planted in the early 1900s and were supplemented with grenache sometime in the ’40s. When Col McBryde and Jennie Gardner took over the management of the site in 2002, their work was cut out for them. With rampant wild olive trees and weeds aplenty, they set about regenerating the landscape, working with organic methods for many years before finally seeking and achieving certification in 2020. Today, those old vines are in fine health, while further plantings have increased the vineyard size a little to now occupy six hectares.

    • Angove – Warboys, McLaren Vale
    • Nick Bakkum
    • South Australia, McLaren Vale

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    With just over 12 hectares of vines, the Warboys Vineyard has become the centrepiece of Angove Family Winemakers. Founded in 1886, the family’s historic vineyards were swallowed up by Adelaide’s urban sprawl in the 1970s, with the rundown Warboys Vineyard (named after a site that Dr Angove started to source from in the 19th century) acquired in 2008. Managed since then with strict organic and biodynamic methods, viticulturist Nick Bakkum has resurrected the old shiraz and grenache vines, as well as extending those plantings along with the inclusion of fiano to insulate against a warming climate.

    • Best’s – Concongella, Great Western
    • Ben Thomson
    • Great Western

    • 2020

    2020 Old Vineyard of the Year
    2020 Finalist

    Best’s is synonymous with Great Western in Victoria’s Grampians, and its Concongella vineyard is home to one of the world’s most precious resources of pre-phylloxera grapevines, containing some of the oldest vines of their type in the world. With 22 hectares under vine, the vineyard has ancient vines of riesling, pinot meunier, pinot noir, dolcetto, cabernet franc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, plus a mixed planting of some 40 rarities, which produce such iconic wines as the Best’s ‘Thomson Family’ Shiraz and ‘Old Vine’ Pinot Meunier. And while the Thomson family are respectful custodians of the past, they are also progressive ones, with the community always at the heart of their thinking.

    • Bowyer Ridge, Adelaide Hills
    • Charles Rosback
    • South Australia, Adelaide Hills

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Charles Rosback’s Bowyer Ridge Vineyard is the source of fruit for some of the Adelaide Hills’ most lauded wines, supplying grapes to such iconic makers as Shaw + Smith and Wirra Wirra, as well as cutting-edge stars like Murdoch Hill and Paralian. Chardonnay takes the lead in the 15-hectare vineyard, with premium production the focus. Rosback targets enhancing soil biology to build resilience in the vines to minimise chemical inputs, while innovative inhouse technologies are employed to improve and streamline operations, from everything from imposing hydraulic shears that can cut through a vine trunk to a labour management tracking system.

    • Cape Mentelle – Estate Vineyard, Margaret River
    • David Moulton
    • Western Australia, Margaret River

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    One of Margaret River’s founding wineries, Cape Mentelle has grown from humble beginnings to be one of the nation’s most iconic producers. With the nearly 40-hectare Estate Vineyard at the heart of operations, viticulturist David Moulton has ceased the use of any synthetic products as of 2020, with a proud history of sustainable management evolving to organic practices (not certified). The Estate Vineyard is the centre of red wine production, and is responsible for Cape Mentelle’s most iconic bottlings, with their flagship cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and zinfandel all largely coming from the property’s old vines.

    • Chalmers, Heathcote
    • Troy McInnes
    • Victoria, Heathcote

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    The Chalmers family have supplied vines and fruit to countless growers and makers over the years, with a specialisation in Italian varieties that are revered in Italy but less well known here. The Chalmers Heathcote vineyard was first planted in 2009, with 25 different varieties now in the ground that go both to their own label as well as a suite of top makers, including Momento Mori, Jamsheed, Little Reddie and Konpira Maru. The Chalmers approach, with the guidance of viticulturist Troy McInnes, is one of adaption not just through variety, but also via norm-shattering vineyard layouts and a management plan that places soil health front and centre.

    • Cirillo Estate, Barossa Valley
    • Marco Cirillo
    • South Australia, Barossa Valley

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Cirillo Estate’s core vineyard is a museum piece, home to the world’s oldest productive grenache and semillon vines. Those vines, along with a smattering of shiraz and a few random mataro vines, were planted in 1848, with Vincent and Marco Cirillo – father and sun – the sole custodians for the last 50 years. Today, with sensitive viticulture that excludes synthetic herbicides and pesticides, and a blend of old-school practices and modern knowledge, Marco Cirillo is bent on preserving those vines in the best health possible for generations to come.

    • Crawford River, Henty
    • Belinda Thomson
    • Victoria, Henty

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    In the windswept cool of Henty in Victoria’s south-west, Belinda Thomson both tends the vines and makes the wines for Victoria’s preeminent riesling producer, Crawford River. The operation is a family affair, with her parents initially planting the site between 1975 and ’77. The vineyard sits in a gentle amphitheatre on land that has been in the family since 1884, with it predominantly used for grazing both sheep and cattle.

    • Crittenden Estate, Mornington Peninsula
    • Rollo Crittenden & Garry Crittenden
    • Mornington Peninsula

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Crittenden Estate is one of Mornington Peninsula’s oldest vineyards, with Garry Crittenden planting his first couple of hectares in the 80s, which doubled the region’s land under vine at the time. Today, while the regional strengths of chardonnay and pinot noir remain the same, much on the Peninsula has changed. And the Crittendens have changed too, with Garry and his son Rollo steering the viticulture down a sustainable route that has seen vast benefits for biodiversity and soil health, as well as wine quality.

    • Dallwitz Block, Barossa Valley
    • Adrian Hoffmann
    • South Australia, Barossa Valley

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    The Hoffmann family’s Dallwitz Block is one of the Barossa Valley’s most renowned fruit sources, with the old vines planted between 1888 and 1912. After purchasing the vineyard in the 1950s, hard times almost saw the site lost in the 1980s, but a revival started by Jeff Hoffmann and extensively expanded by his son Adrian now sees the family vineyards – with the Dallwitz Block as the centrepiece – as some of the region’s most distinguished. With shiraz the lead variety and a focus on increasing soil health, the Dallwitz Block supplies fruit to top makers, including Chris Ringland, Torbreck, John Duval and Sami-Odi.

    • Eden Hall, Eden Valley
    • Dan Falkenberg
    • South Australia, Eden Valley

    • 2020, 2021

    2021 Finalist
    2020 Finalist

    David and Mardi Hall bought their Eden Valley property in 1996, planting vines the following year. It was the site of an older vineyard, but the vines were uprooted in the 1970s. That old vineyard was made up of cabernet sauvignon, malbec and riesling, with the Halls planting both the former and latter again, along with shiraz, cabernet franc, merlot and viognier, with grüner veltliner grafted somewhat more recently. All fruit goes to the Eden Hall wines. Dan Falkenberg tends to the viticulture on the 33-hectare site, where he focuses on increasing biodiversity and reducing water use through revegetation and practices like mulching and planting mid-row swards of native grasses. Eden Hall is also independent of external inputs of water and electricity, being off grid since 2019.

    • Frankland Estate – Isolation Ridge, Frankland River
    • Hunter Smith
    • Western Australia, Frankland River

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Frankland Estate’s Isolation Ridge Vineyard has become an enduring symbol of one of the world’s most remote wine regions. The almost 40-hectare property was planted in 1988, with Hunter Smith the second generation to tend the vines, evolving the sustainable farming to achieving organic certification over a decade ago. Riesling leads the charge at Isolation Ridge, but the Bordeaux red varieties, shiraz and chardonnay aren’t too far behind, with newer additions like mourvèdre and grüner veltliner already making striking wines.

    • Garden & Field – Gnadenberg Road, Eden Valley
    • Peter Raymond
    • South Australia, Eden Valley

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Peter and Mel Raymond’s Garden & Field is a young vineyard planted to an old site, once the home to venerable vines that were cruelly plucked from the ground some 40 years ago. In the relative cool of the Barossa’s Eden Valley, the 4-hectare vineyard is a near neighbour to Henschke’s iconic Hill of Grace, with the focus on shiraz, across eight clones. The vines are dry grown and farmed in a sympathetic and regenerative manner, with soil health and biodiversity at the fore. With a little over a decade in vine age, the fruit has already contributed to a string of top Penfolds reds, as well as wines for the Raymonds own label.

    • Gemtree, McLaren Vale
    • Melissa Brown
    • South Australia, McLaren Vale

    • 2020, 2021

    2021 Finalist
    2020 Finalist

    With the vineyard situated in McLaren Flat, the Gemtree mission is very much an ongoing quest to improve wine quality, but their ethos is inseparable from a desire to have a positive environmental impact both locally and globally. With an eye to the future, viticulturist Melissa Brown has planted varieties suited to an ever-warming Mediterranean climate – like nero d’avola and fiano – alongside the Vale classics of shiraz and grenache. The 125-hectare vineyard has been managed using biodynamic methods since 2007 – with it certified for almost a decade – to encourage a ‘living soil’ and build resilience in the vines, while an eco-reserve has been established to restore native flora and fauna, as well as to educate visitors.

    • Gorton Drive, Swan Hill
    • Chris Dent
    • Victoria, Swan Hill

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Gorton Drive Estates’ 85-hectare property sits on the banks of Kangaroo Lake in the arid warmth of Victoria’s Swan Hill region. In a zone that is often characterised by yield over character, second-generation owner and viticulturist Chris Dent is changing the script, focusing on soil health and reduced yields to produce high-quality fruit. He employs biological farming methods to build resilience and reduce or eliminate reliance on inputs and chemical control measures for disease and pests, with technology streamlining operations and eliminating an overdependence on irrigation. The grapes are sold to many well-known names, such as Brown Brothers and McPherson Wines, while also filling the bottles of Dent’s new home range, Countertop.

    • Gralyn Estate, Margaret River
    • Scott Baxter
    • Western Australia, Margaret River

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Founded by Graham and Merilyn Hutton in 1975, Gralyn Estate – on the prime stretch of Caves Road in Wilyabrup – is one of Margaret River’s oldest vineyards. In what was originally a diversification from their cattle farming operation, the pair have never chased the same path as other Margaret River pioneers, instead opting to remain decidedly compact. There are just 3.5 hectares of shiraz and cabernet sauvignon under vine, with wines made in an array of styles, from profound reserve bottlings to unoaked reds and even a late harvest off-dry cabernet. The vineyard is now managed with organic practices (not certified) by Scott Baxter, who is pushing the boundaries even further with the elimination of copper and sulphur in the vineyard in his sights.

    • Hayes Family – Stone Well, Barossa Valley
    • Brett Hayes
    • South Australia, Barossa Valley

    • 2020, 2021

    2021 Finalist
    2020 Finalist

    Brett Hayes bought his Stone Well Vineyard to form the basis of Hayes Family Wines, launching the label in 2014. The Stone Well Vineyard is a modest site of 4.5 hectares populated mostly by vines planted over 70 years ago, with the farming now certified organic, along with the onsite winery. The Stone Well Vineyard is the lone source of the organic Hayes Family Wines Estate Range, with varietal shiraz, grenache and mataro bottlings, as well as a blend of the three. Hayes oversees the management of the site, with the grapes now all going to his wines, though the shiraz was previously sold to Grant Burge to make Meshach, their flagship wine.

    • Hither & Yon – Sand Road, McLaren Vale
    • Richard Leask
    • South Australia, McLaren Vale

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Brothers Malcolm and Richard Leask were born in the Hunter Valley, but grew up in McLaren Vale, with their parents buying a vineyard there in 1980. Those holdings expanded across many sites over the years, with the brothers taking the step from growers to vignerons with their Hither & Yon label in 2012. Their project works out of their Sand Road Vineyard – supplying 80 per cent of their needs – with nearly 20 hectares of vines that have been tweaked over the years to favour Mediterranean and Iberian varieties that perform well in warm conditions, producing mid-weight wines with food in mind. The site is managed with a focus on regenerative agriculture.

    • Hochkirch, Henty
    • Christian Nagorcka
    • Victoria, Henty

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    John and Christian Nagorcka – father and son – farm the family’s property, Hochkirch, in the cool zone of Henty in Victoria’s sparsely populated south-west. The 8-hectare vineyard – along with farmland for the traditional grazing of sheep and cattle and growing mixed crops of vegetables and grains, many for their own use – is certified biodynamic (Demeter). Pinot noir is the leading variety, with shiraz increasingly important as the seasons become warmer, while riesling leads the whites, with semillon, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay made in smaller quantities. Increasingly, the wines are bottled with little and often no sulphur, and skin contact is now common for the whites.

    • Invercarron, Tasmania
    • Andrew Jones & Marty Smith
    • Tasmania

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    The Invercarron Vineyard is a bit of a trailblazer, a young vineyard in an area of Tasmania that has never had grapevines planted to it – the Jordan River Valley. In its brief history, the grapes from the 6 hectares of vines on the Jones family’s historic grazing property have both gone to make their own lauded wines and been in demand as contract fruit. Pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris and a rosé are currently produced under the Invercarron label. Vigneron Andrew Jones manages the property with viticulturist Marty Smith.

    • Koonara – Ambriel’s Gift, Coonawarra
    • Dru Reschke
    • South Australia, Coonawarra

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    The Reschke family have been based in Coonawarra since 1906, running a cattle property that stretches over 1,200 hectares. In 1988, Trevor Reschke decided to indulge something of a hobby, planting vines on the family land. The wines were initially made just for family and friends, until 1999, when the first commercial release hit the shelves. Today, though they work out of Mount Gambier for pinot noir and sauvignon blanc, Koonara is centred on Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. A block of those original vines is responsible for their marquee cabernet, ‘Ambriel’s Gift’. That site is a 3-hectare block – which also includes five rows each of merlot and cabernet franc – planted by Trevor Reschke, which is now managed, along with the rest of the vineyards, by his son Dru who farms organically (certified by ACO), but with his own unique take that sees the vineyards flushed with flowers.

    • Lake George, Canberra District
    • Anthony McDougall
    • NSW/ACT, Canberra District

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Anthony and Sarah McDougall are the current stewards of Lake George Winery, one of the Canberra Districts first vineyards. Founded by the legendary Dr Edgar Riek, the site was planted with chardonnay, semillon, riesling, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and merlot, though that composition has been tweaked over the years, with varieties such as tempranillo, viognier and pinot gris joining the roster. Today, the McDougalls have moved away from synthetic herbicides and are busy employing innovative options to reduce their imprint on the environment, as well as ensure long-term economic viability.

    • Malakoff Vineyard, Pyrenees
    • Cameron John & Robert John
    • Victoria, Pyrenees

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    In Victoria’s Pyrenees, near Landsborough, the Malakoff Vineyard has become one of the state’s most celebrated grower sites, supplying fruit to a shimmering galaxy of winemaking stars. Owned and managed by father and son viticultural team Robert and Cameron John, the site was first celebrated by Northern Rhône superstar Michel Chapoutier when he saw the potential for greatness in Victorian gold country, but it is now perhaps better known for supplying nebbiolo and shiraz to more recognisably local makers.

    • Meadowbank, Tasmania
    • Gerald Ellis
    • Tasmania

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Meadowbank’s Ellis family are pioneers of the modern Tasmanian wine scene, planting their vineyard in the 1970s against the best available advice. That site in the Upper Derwent Valley has validated their conviction, becoming one of the island’s most enduring and respected fruit sources. The 50-hectare vineyard supplies names like Arras, Bay of Fires and Glaetzer-Dixon (including for their 2011 Jimmy Watson win) with grapes, primarily pinot noir, shiraz and riesling. Today, the Meadowbank brand has also been reinvigorated, with the wines fine-tuned by the glittering talents of Peter Dredge, along with his own Dr Edge label, which largely centres around Meadowbank fruit.

    • Mewstone, Tasmania
    • Luke Andree
    • Tasmania

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Mewstone has appeared comet-like in its success. The wines – hailing from the banks of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel in Tasmania’s viticultural deep south – have been accorded a rapid series of accolades, but though that ascension may seem quick, it was laboriously built from the ground up. Although the vineyard is just over a decade old, an intensely thoughtful process has underpinned the processes of owners Jonathan and Matthew Hughes, with the site meticulously tended and progressively planted to optimise its potential. Today, viticulturist Luke Andree works with Jonathan Hughes to manage the 3.6-hectare vineyard, farming pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling and shiraz vines, with the formal process of organic certification having begun this year.

    • Mickan Block, Barossa Valley
    • Adrian Hoffmann
    • South Australia, Barossa Valley

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    The Hoffmann family are some of the Barossa Valley’s most celebrated growers, with a precious resource of old vines ideally situated in the subregion of Ebenezer. But Adrian Hoffmann farms many young vines, too, with the 20-hectare Mickan Block already showing promise as a source of top-shelf shiraz. Although it’s only three seasons in, the fruit has already been in high demand, going to such makers as Travis Earth, Glaetzer, Soulgrowers and Torbreck, as well as filling bottles for Hoffman’s collaboration with Chris Ringland, North Barossa Vintners.

    • Oakridge – Estate, Yarra Valley
    • Steve Faulkner
    • Victoria, Yarra Valley

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    While Oakridge has three Yarra Valley sites under its management, their Estate Vineyard, surrounding their winery and celebrated restaurant, is the centre of the operation. Planted in 1996, the vineyard consists of pinot noir, chardonnay, shiraz, cabernet, merlot and semillon across 9.8 hectares of vines. Viticulturist Steven Faulkner has been managing the Oakridge farming for the last two years, while he also runs a viticulture consultancy business that operates across three states.

    • Oxford Landing, Riverland
    • Glynn Muster
    • South Australia, Riverland

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Oxford Landing has expanded from humble beginnings in the late 1950s to now occupy 300 hectares of vineyard land in the sun-drenched soils of South Australia’s Riverland. A powerhouse of budget grapes and economical wine, the Riverland is also home to some of the most progressive growers in the country, with Oxford Landing arguably leading the charge. With a mix of sustainable and certified organic vineyards under his management, viticulturist Glynn Muster applies a small-scale mindset to a large-scale vineyard, treating each small block individually, while also prioritising the reduction of water use, increasing local biodiversity and offsetting their carbon footprint.

    • Penley Estate, Coonawarra
    • Hans Loder
    • South Australia, Coonawarra

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Founded in 1988, Penley Estate is not Coonawarra’s oldest name, but it is one of its most celebrated. Focusing on the classic offerings of cabernet blends and shiraz, Penley is a traditional icon of the region, but Ang and Bec Tolley were determined to take their estate in a different direction, which has been visibly led in the winery but firmly anchored in the vineyard. Under the viticultural direction of Hans Loder, the estate has embraced technology to target the deployment of resources and better assess fruit ripeness and health, resulting in wines with brighter profiles, while more experimental offerings have also been possible through the enhanced ability to select small parcels from the 80-hectare vineyard.

    • Place of Changing Winds, Macedon Ranges
    • Remi Jacquemain & Robert Walters
    • Victoria, Macedon Ranges

    • 2020

    2020 New Vineyard of the Year
    2020 Finalist

    Robert Walters is no stranger to great wine, being an importer and distributor of some of the most revered wines of the world. Walters’ passion for Burgundy runs particularly deep, with an exhaustive search for an ideal home site for pinot noir and chardonnay leading him to the Macedon ranges in 2012. There he planted a genuinely unique vineyard for this country, with some of the highest density plantings anywhere in the world. Organically certified and requiring exhaustive manual work – coordinated by manager Remi Jacquemain – the site is testing the possibilities of perfection while paying respect to the land and its bushland surrounds.

    • Printhie – Wattleview, Orange
    • Charles Simons
    • NSW/ACT, Orange

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Charles Simons manages the viticulture across the four Printhie vineyard sites in the Orange region of New South Wales. All are at high altitude, but the Wattleview Vineyard tops out as their highest, and is one of the country’s few viable plantings over 1,000 metres. Chardonnay, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc excel there, with the site responsible for Printhie’s flagship chardonnay – aptly named ‘Super Duper’ – as well as adding to wines in their Mountain and Topography ranges. Simons utilises technology to help guide his approach, which helps in the targeted direction of irrigation and disease management strategies, significantly reducing chemical, water and diesel use.

    • Quealy, Mornington Peninsula
    • Lucas Blanck
    • Victoria, Mornington Peninsula

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Before selling to a major player, Kathleen Quealy and Kevin McCarthy made their mark at T’Gallant in the 1990s, and in the process generated a flurry of interest around pinot grigio/gris that has not abated. With a move to one of the Mornington Peninsula’s oldest Vineyards in Balnarring, the pair have continued with their exploration of that grape, along with the Peninsula standards of pinot noir and chardonnay, as well as delving into some key white grapes of north-eastern Italy. Today, the vineyard is managed by Lucas Blanck under organic certification to produce fruit for the overwhelmingly lo-fi Quealy wines.

    • Ravensworth, Canberra District
    • Bryan Martin
    • NSW/ACT, Canberra District

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    For over 15 years, Bryan Martin was Tim Kirk’s right-hand man at the towering icon of the Canberra District that is Clonakilla. That was while establishing his own Ravensworth label, which now twinkles just as brightly in the region’s firmament of stars. Martin now devotes all his time to tending the vines and making wine from his own site, just down the road from the Kirk’s property, as well as from selected vineyards in the Canberra district. That home site has 13 varieties across 3 hectares, with the regional leaders – shiraz and riesling – sharing the spotlight with sangiovese, along with Rhône whites, as well as newer plantings of gamay and nebbiolo. Martin hasn’t used synthetic chemicals for nearly a decade, and his focus is built around unwinding the damage done by conventional agriculture to let the signature of site speak.

    • Rayner Vineyard, McLaren Vale
    • Andre Bondar & Ben Lacey
    • South Australia, McLaren Vale

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Situated on McLaren Vale’s Chalk Hill Road and straddling the Blewitt Springs and Seaview subregions, Andre Bondar and Selina Kelly’s Rayner Vineyard is a significant site, suppling fruit to many great makers over the years. With the chance to buy the vineyard in 2014, the couple dived in and have been focused on evolving the viticulture towards their ideal best-practice methods. The 14-hectare site produces the key Bondar label wines, from shiraz and grenache bearing the ‘Rayner Vineyard’ designate, to the ‘Violet Hour’, which was Bondar’s first cuvée, to the continuation of supplying fruit to Brokenwood’s established Rayner single-vineyard shiraz bottling. The viticulture is managed by Bondar and Ben Lacey.

    • Ricca Terra – Caravel, Riverland
    • Ashley Ratcliff
    • South Australia, Riverland

    • 2020

    2020 Innovative Vineyard of the Year
    2020 Finalist

    Ashley and Holly’s Ratcliff’s Ricca Terra Farms set out to shake up perceptions of the Riverland as a region that only grew grapes for generic bulk wine. They believed that by implementing quality-minded practices and focusing on climate-apt varieties, they would be able to unlock the region’s potential. By any measure, they have succeeded, elevating the profiles of grapes like nero d’avola, fiano, aglianico and arinto in the process. But that wasn’t all, with the Caravel Vineyard planted relatively recently to largely celebrate Portuguese varieties, like touriga nacional, tinta cão and tinta barroca, along with some more Italians. The fruit goes to their own Ricca Terra and Terra do Rio labels, as well as being sold to top makers, such as Bellwether, Unico Zelo, Shaw + Smith, Alpha Box & Dice, Jumpin’ Juice and Gatch Wine.

    • Shaw & Smith – Lenswood, Lenswood
    • Murray Leake & Ben Jonas
    • South Australia, Lenswood

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Michael Hill Smith and Martin Shaw are Adelaide Hills pioneers, championing the vinous virtues of the hills long before many of the region’s celebrated makers were of drinking age. With two sites in the region, their loftiest and coolest is the Lenswood Vineyard, a 20-hectare site planted to chardonnay, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc. Currently in organic conversion, the site is managed by Murray Leake, who is also overseeing an ambitious project to double the vine density without removing any of the mature vines.

    • Smallfry – Vine Vale, Barossa Valley
    • Wayne Ahrens & Suzi Hilder
    • South Australia, Barossa Valley

    • 2020, 2021

    2021 Finalist
    2020 Finalist

    Suzi Hilder and Wayne Ahrens’ Smallfry Wines is centred around their Barossa vineyard in Vine Vale. With a slew of vines over 100 years old, as well as climate-apt newer plantings, the pair grow grenache, shiraz, semillon, riesling, mataro, tempranillo, trousseau, marsanne, roussanne, cabernet sauvignon, cinsault, pedro ximènez and bonvedro. Their 18 hectares under vine has been certified organic/biodynamic since 2014, and they practice regenerative agricultural practices, encouraging species diversity of plants, animals and microfauna/flora. As well as making their own natural wines, the pair sell grapes to some leading makers, including Ochota Barrels, Shobbrook and Frederick Stevenson.

    • Smart, McLaren Vale
    • Bernard Smart & Wayne Smart
    • South Australia, McLaren Vale

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Bernard Smart and his son Wayne are the current custodians of a bush vine grenache vineyard first planted by Bernard’s father in 1922. The site is one of the highest and coolest in McLaren Vale, returning fruit that produces wines of distinctive fragrance and detail. Bernard still works the land, tending the vines in the low-impact way he has evolved over his more than 70 years there. Today, that fruit goes to the likes of S.C. Pannell, Thistledown and Willunga 100, making expressions that are helping to redefine the possibilities for Australian grenache.

    • Somerset, Pokolbin
    • Angus Vinden
    • NSW/ACT, Pokolbin

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    The Hunter Valley’s Somerset Vineyard has been responsible for some landmark wines, from back in the days of Maurice O’Shea in the first half of the 20th century, then later for Lindeman’s at its peak in the 60s, 70s and 80s, as well as supplying fruit to Len Evans as he reshaped the Australian wine landscape. Today, Angus Vinden tends nearly 20 hectares of vines dedicated to his family’s eponymous label, with the Hunter stalwarts of shiraz and semillon leading the way, though he also makes some more left-field offerings under the Headcase imprint from varieties like tempranillo and gewürztraminer. Vinden has recently begun the conversion to organic practices.

    • Sorrenberg, Beechworth
    • Barry Morey
    • Victoria, Beechworth

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Barry and Jan Morey’s Sorrenberg, in an elevated cool site in Beechworth, is somewhat of a Victorian legend, a family enterprise with a low-key attitude that has steadily seen their wines attain cult-like status, rubbing shoulders with some of their more ostensibly glamorous neighbours. It may be the quality of the wines that has built their reputation – one of the region’s finest chardonnays, arguably Australia’s best gamay, an equally esteemed sauvignon blanc and semillon blend, and an exemplary cabernet blend – but behind the label, the impeccable biodynamic farming and focus on addressing local and global environmental issues deserves just as much attention.

    • Swinney, Frankland River
    • Lee Haselgrove
    • Western Australia, Frankland River

    • 2020

    2020 Vineyard of the Year
    2020 Finalist

    With the viticulture managed by Lee Haselgrove, the Swinney Vineyard is one of Frankland River’s prime sources of quality grapes, supplying producers as game changing as Brave New Wine to those as established as Penfolds, as well as filling the bottles of the Swinney family’s eponymous label. With about 160 hectares under vine, the site is managed sustainably, with a specialisation in the regional stars – cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and riesling – but they have also planted varieties to balance increasingly erratic weather patterns, including a significant investment in bush vine grenache, a variety and a growing method that is rare in the Great Southern.

    • Tamar Ridge – Kayena, Tasmania
    • Ben Pietsch
    • Tasmania

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    A short drive from Launceston, Tamar Ridge’s Kayena Vineyard has over 130 hectares of vines, with a strong focus on pinot noir across almost two dozen clones. Viticulturist Ben Pietsch employs technology to optimise operations, from compost applications, to irrigation, to identifying underperforming blocks, but many of the solutions are far from technical, such as roaming poultry and insectary plantings to control pests. Fruit from the vineyard goes to making aromatic whites and pinot noir for the Tamar Ridge label, as well as sparkling wine under the Pirie brand.

    • Tellurian, Heathcote
    • Tobias Ansted
    • Victoria, Heathcote

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Ian Hopkins was drawn to Heathcote by a love for the style of shiraz that was being wrought there from the ancient Cambrian soils. A piece of red dirt on the Mount Camel Range was acquired, and the first vines – shiraz, of course – for his own venture were planted in 2002. That vineyard has now expanded to around 30 hectares, with drought-tolerant varieties like nero d’avola, fiano and carignan, and Rhône stars like grenache and mourvèdre, joining the roster, with some planted at high density and others as bush vines. Tobias Ansted holds both the winemaking and viticulture reins, with the farming certified organic but forever being pushed to exceed those standards.

    • The Wine Farm, Gippsland
    • Neil Hawkins
    • Victoria, Gippsland

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    It’s all in the name really. The Wine Farm in Koonwarra, South Gippsland, is a vineyard-centric operation, where Neil and Anna Hawkins lovingly tend their 3 hectares of vines according to Demeter biodynamic methods (in conversion). Making varietal wines from pinot noir, shiraz, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and gewürztraminer, as well as a rosé and pét-nat, the style is lithe and mineral forward, with a mission to reflect the land and how it’s farmed in the glass – a feature that is becoming ever clearer as the years pass.

    • Thousand Candles, Yarra Valley
    • Stuart Proud & David Ammerlaan
    • Victoria, Yarra Valley

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    The Yarra Valley’s Thousand Candles – which was launched to much fanfare in the 2011 vintage – has settled into a long stride, with the benefits of a decade under the biological farming methods of Stuart Proud returning big dividends. The business is built on making their own wines as much as it is selling ultra-premium fruit to renowned local makers, including Levantine Hill, Coldstream Hills and Santolin. While the wine on launch was firmly pitched at the top end of the market, the focus for Proud, who both grows – alongside vineyard manager David Ammerlaan – and now makes, is to reflect fruit and vines in an unadorned, hype-free way, a reflection of place and the season.

    • Torbreck – Hillside Vineyard, Barossa Valley
    • Nigel Blieschke
    • South Australia, Barossa Valley

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Torbreck’s Hillside Vineyard is a piece of Barossa history. With the first plantings dating back to 1850, it lays claim to some of the region’s oldest shiraz vines. But the significance of the site is as much about the future as it is the living museum of old and ancient vines. A restoration and replanting program run by chief viticulturist Nigel Blieschke has seen the 15 hectares of shiraz and grenache vines expanded to almost 40 hectares, with Rhône varieties like carignan, counoise, grenache blanc and roussanne joining the Barossa standards. Key to Blieschke’s approach has been an emphasis on building resilience in the soil and vines, with a broader view to every aspect of the 100-hectare property, from caring for historic buildings to preserving and enhancing remnant native vegetation.

    • Voyager Estate, Margaret River
    • Steve James
    • Western Australia, Margaret River

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    In the Stevens Valley in the subregion of Wallcliffe, Voyager Estate is one of Margaret River’s oldest vineyards, first planted in the late 1970s (though it was called Freycinet Estate until 1991). Today, under the watchful eye of viticulturist Steve James, the vineyard occupies over 100 hectares, with the regional stars chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon taking the lead, though there are another 12 varieties planted, including tempranillo and grenache. Recent organic certification now applies to the winery and over a third of the vines, with the remainder not far behind.

    • Wilimee, Macedon Ranges
    • Ben Ranken
    • Victoria, Macedon Ranges

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Wilimee is one of the oldest vineyards in the Macedon Ranges, originally planted in the early 1980s to pinot noir and chardonnay. A cool site at around 600 metres, sparkling wine production was a cornerstone for over two decades, before hard times stopped operations. In 2013, Ben Ranken and Sally Richardson bought the ramshackle vineyard and set about resurrecting it through regenerative agricultural practices. While the Wilimee brand has expanded, Ranken still cultivates much of the site to sell grapes to some of the region’s most respected makers, including Matt Harrop and Joshua Cooper.

    • Wirra Wirra, McLaren Vale
    • Anton Groffen
    • South Australia, McLaren Vale

    • 2020

    2020 Finalist

    Reborn from 19th century ruins by Greg Trott, Wirra Wirra is one of McLaren Vale’s most treasured wineries. The home vineyard has grown from a humble plot of shiraz to occupy over 20 hectares, with cabernet sauvignon, grenache, tempranillo and touriga nacional joining the roster, and all carefully planted across geological nuances that are best suited to each variety. Anton Groffen runs the viticultural operations under biodynamic certification, with the vines supplying the fruit for the flagship shiraz bottlings, the ‘Chook Block’ and ‘RSW’, as well as their iconic ‘Church Block’ red blend, amongst other key lines.

    • Yangarra Estate, McLaren Vale
    • Michael Lane
    • South Australia, McLaren Vale

    • 2020, 2021

    2021 Finalist
    2020 Finalist

    Viticulturist Michael Lane and winemaker Peter Fraser have worked hand in glove at McLaren Vale’s Yangarra Estate for 20 years, steering the wines to ever-greater heights through a program that puts vineyard front and centre. Fraser is one of this country’s most skilled makers – no argument – but the long-term quality goals the pair had for the estate were always built on reinvigorating their soil and returning a natural harmony to the site. Today, Lane meticulously manages nearly 90 hectares of vines to A-grade biodynamic standards, working across a suite of Southern Rhône varieties, with grenache taking the lead.

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