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2023 Winemaker Awards The 17th Annual Young Gun of Wine Awards

The Young Gun of Wine Awards are a celebration of wine culture for a new era of wine lovers. Each year since 2007, through the awards process, we assemble a collection of the most exciting new projects and winemakers on the rise. In addition to presenting the achievements of an annual group of Top Winemakers, we also present trophies: the Young Gun of Wine, Best New Act, People’s Choice, Winemaker’s Choice, The Vigneron and Danger Zone.

Young at Heart

The ‘young’ in the Young Gun of Wine Awards mostly refers to young wine labels. We don’t focus on date of birth, but the winemakers are under 45 years of age (born after 01/07/1977 for the 17th annual YGOW Awards)… You typically have to have some significant experience before you can successfully launch a meaningful new wine project.

The thing about emerging wine producers is they’re a source of innovation, inspiration and new ideas. They’re not shackled by conventions. They’re free. Wide-eyed; adventurous; eager to travel; to experiment; to remix, they question everything. They create energy. They excite. And this is how they lead.

Whether they’re employed by an established company or running their own show; whether they’re refining traditional styles or getting radical, we want to provide a platform for these people and their ideas.

These awards are about gathering the like-minded and uniquely individual talents together, rallying eclectic and far flung tastes, making noise, getting them noticed and having a ripping time along the way.

Criteria and Process

The Young Gun of Wine Awards are open to young wine labels as well as winemakers on the rise within established wineries.

A winemaker submits two commercially available wines. The two wines submitted by the winemaker are tasted side-by-side. They are not tasted blind. A general assessment of the quality of the wines is first made, before deeper discussion on the appeal and interest of the wine in the glass, and then the bigger picture of the winemaker: their creativity and leadership; the execution of their product in a wholistic sense; and the context of the individual and their work in the wine landscape today.

Established in 2007, the Young Gun of Wine Award is our top trophy. It goes to an emerging producer that is not only making outstanding wine, but also demonstrating vision and leadership, and nailing the entire pitch, packaging and presentation of their product.

Each year we announce a group of finalists – Top winemakers –  in the running, and we present those finalists through events and/or online activities, with the intent of having all wine lovers express their thoughts through the People’s Choice Award.

The Winemaker’s Choice trophy is our peer award, chosen by that year’s finalists. This trophy was introduced from 2013.

The Best New Act goes to a first-time finalist in our winemaker awards that is making a profound impression. This trophy was introduced from 2013.

The Danger Zone is the only trophy in our winemaker awards that goes to a wine product. It recognises a wine that successfully pushes the boundaries. This trophy was introduced from 2017.

The Vigneron – an award which celebrates makers that also lovingly tend to the land and the vines that they make wine from.

17th YGOW Awards Calendar

  • Registrations for 17th annual YGOW: November–December 2022
  • Submissions for the tasting panel: January, 2023
  • Finalists announced: by April 19, 2023
  • People’s Choice voting: April 19 – June 19, 2023
  • Trade events, multiple cities: May–June, 2023
  • Trophy presentation: June 19, 2023

Winners

2023 Partners

2023 Finalists

    • Aaron Mercer
    • Mercer Wines
    • NSW/ACT, Hunter Valley

    • 2023

    2023 Finalist

    Starting in the wine game some 20 years ago on a low rung, cleaning out tanks, Aaron Mercer has since worked broadly in his beloved Hunter valley and around the world. Now in its fourth vintage, Mercer Wines is a blending of two of his greatest passions: wine and the environment. Working from sustainable vineyards across the state, the wines are built with approachable drinkability as a key driver, with varieties both established and adapted – such as chardonnay, semillon and shiraz – and those emerging – including nero d’avola, montepulciano and vermentino – to best fit our changing climate.

    • Alan Varney
    • Varney Wines
    • South Australia, McLaren Vale

    • 2023

    2023 Finalist

    Alan Varney’s journey has taken him from a childhood just outside of New York City around the world, eventually landing in McLaren Vale for a decade before settling down for good on the edge of Adelaide’s southern suburbs with McLaren Vale on his doorstep. His first solo wine was made with a tonne of fruit a decade or so ago, but it was from the 2017 vintage that he started to build a suite that would be released a couple of years later. Varney makes wine across four ranges, with some limited release and experimental wines, a pink gin, and the Entrada wines (bright everyday wines for the table) orbiting around the Essentials range, with classic and emerging varieties featuring. All the wines are pitched to feature variety and site at the fore, with only old oak employed.

    • Andrew Kenny
    • Kenny Wine
    • Clare Valley

    • 2022, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2022 Finalist

    Andrew Kenny launched his Kenny Wine label in 2021, focusing on Clare riesling and Adelaide Hills pinot. With the purchase of a vineyard in the Clare subregion of Auburn, the 2021 vintage saw a home-site shiraz join the portfolio, while an old vine grenache and a sangiovese were added in 2022. 2023 saw the introduction of a collaboration from the Pfalz region of Germany – a ‘Kenny X Gabel’ Riesling, with more riesling and a pinot noir to be released under this label. Kenny’s wines are classic in style, expressions of variety and sites he believes excel for specific grapes, and it is in the Clare Valley that the range of wines offers a particular exploration of sub-regionality.

    • Anita Goode
    • Wangolina
    • Mount Benson

    • 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024

    2024 Finalist
    2023 Finalist
    2022 Finalist
    2021 Finalist

    Mount Benson’s Wangolina is increasingly becoming a canvas for Anita Goode’s fascination with alternative varieties, though the classic French grapes of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, semillon and sauvignon blanc still get plenty of airtime. Aside from grüner veltliner, which is a cherished grape for Goode, the varieties and future plantings are Italian and Spanish, with some red grapes sourced from Mundulla, with the warmer inland climate favouring lagrein, montepulciano, mencia and tempranillo. Goode’s wines champion the less-known varieties through pure expressions, but an increasing interest in experimentation, with more egg-shaped fermenters in a recently completed winery are seeing the boundaries pushed in interesting ways.

    • Ashleigh Seymour
    • Paxton Wines
    • McLaren Vale

    • 2022, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2022 Finalist

    After more than a decade working in Italy, Ashleigh Seymour came to work at McLaren Vale biodynamic pioneer Paxton in 2021. Now with three vintages under her belt, her magnetic attraction to the Vale – with its complex geology, Mediterranean climate, rich community and industry-leading commitment to organics and biodynamics – has seen her make it her long-term home. Seymour is employing large-format oak and amphora, while limiting winery additions to sulphur, and then only what is needed to be protective across the range that includes Vale hero varieties – shiraz, grenache, cabernet sauvignon – as well as those emerging, such as tempranillo and graciano, with more in the pipeline.

    • Belinda Hughes
    • Rieslingfreak
    • Eden Valley

    • 2022, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2022 Finalist

    Belinda Hughes only officially joined her husband, John Hughes, at the helm of Rieslingfreak from the 2021 vintage. In reality, she had been intimately involved in the operation for five years prior. The excellent 2021 vintage, though, was a good time to formalise her role making riesling in a dizzying array of styles – from dry to sweet to sparkling to fortified – across the Clare and Eden Valleys. Now with three vintages under her belt, and beautifully cool ones at that, Hughes and her husband are overseeing the building of a new cellar door in Tanunda, while the range of wines has expanded, including an overdue foray into the Clare subregion of Watervale.

    • Ben Caldwell & Mauricio Ruiz Cantú
    • Somos
    • McLaren Vale

    • 2020, 2021, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2021 Finalist
    2020 Finalist

    Based in McLaren Vale, Somos is the label of Ben Caldwell and Mauricio Ruiz Cantú. The pair work primarily with less-known Italian and Spanish varieties, and they make them in entirely unconventional ways, with a lo-fi and sustainable ethos.

    • Callie Jemmeson
    • Pacha Mama Wines
    • Victoria, Pyrenees, Yarra Valley

    • 2023

    2023 Finalist

    Pacha Mama Wines was started by Callie Jemmeson’s father over a decade ago, but she has taken what was a retirement project and turned it into a brand that works with ten varieties sourced from as many growers across Victoria. Her mission is to make wines that are “delicious and honest without the ego and pretence”. The structure at the winery was also crafted to be flexible, allowing for both her and female colleagues to juggle the demands of a family and a winemaking career. With no absolute rules in the winemaking process, Jemmeson makes both classic and experimental wines, working with established stars, such as pinot noir, shiraz, chardonnay and pinot gris, along with a raft of Italian varieties, including prosecco, sangiovese and fiano.

    • Chad Connolly
    • White Gate Wine Co.
    • Barossa Valley

    • 2021, 2022, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2022 Finalist
    2021 Finalist

    White Gate Wine Co. was founded by Chad and Georgia Connolly, who set out to frame the Barossa in a more elegant light, with earlier picking, plenty of whole bunch for reds and a minimal intervention approach. Working loosely with growers or leasing vineyards, the pair’s aim is to make wines they love to drink, elegant, balanced and light on their feet. They make a changing roster of wines, including varietal syrah, grenache, cabernet sauvignon, petit sirah (durif) and nero d’avola, plus a blend of semillon and riesling, a skinsy amphora semillon and a blend of grenache, mataro and cabernet – and there’s always plenty more in the pipeline.

    • Charlie Mann
    • Charles Oliver Wines
    • Victoria, Pyrenees

    • 2023

    2023 Finalist

    Charlie Mann traded in the recording studio for winemaking after a chance meeting with Owen Latta. An epiphany with one of Latta’s wines saw him ditch his long commute to take up work at Eastern Peake, where he still works. The Charles Oliver label was born in Mann’s second vintage, with 2023 being the fourth for the label. The offering is compact, focused on organic vineyards and earlier picking. Reds and whites both clock in at lower alcohols, with texture and fragrance uncluttered by oak, and are bottled with no fining or filtration and only a small dose of sulphur. The 2022 release saw two grenache cuvées and a syrah grenache blend, all from the Pyrenees.

    • Charlie Seppelt & Skye Salter
    • Paralian
    • McLaren Vale

    • 2020, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2020 Finalist

    Charlie Seppelt and Skye Salter have both had diverse and decorated careers as winemakers, recording stints at notable wineries all around the world, but it is in their beloved McLaren Vale that they have settled down to make their wine, their way. Paralian celebrates distinguished sites in the Vale and the Adelaide Hills, with styles that are fragrant, bright and emphasise both early drinkability and age-ability.

    • Chris Ryan
    • Honky Chateau
    • Victoria, Yarra Valley

    • 2023, 2024

    2024 Finalist
    2023 Finalist

    Chris Ryan’s Honky Chateau is somewhat of a COVID baby, a natural extension of his casual vintage work in wineries, but one sped up by the closures of Melbourne’ restaurants in 2020 and ’21. Working as a head sommelier in Andrew McConnell’s Trader House group, Ryan was well-acquainted with the great wines of the world, but his ambitions for his own label, centred around Yarra Valley shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, were somewhat humbler: “My goal is to make wine that gives pleasure to common people. I think expectations are the enemy of wines, so I hope that people can grab a bottle mid-week, pull a cork, share it with friends, alongside food and be pleasantly surprised. Someone else can be a disrupter and trend maker.” Today, he balances his winemaking with his senior buying role.

    • Chris Strickland
    • Foxeys Hangout
    • Victoria, Mornington Peninsula

    • 2023

    2023 Finalist

    Foxeys Hangout was founded by brothers Tony and Michael Lee in the Mornington Peninsula subregion of Red Hill. They work from their organic and biodynamic vineyard and winery to produce mainly chardonnay and pinot noir, along with pinot gris and shiraz. Chris Strickland has risen over the last decade and a half from a casual worker in the cellar door to now oversee both the viticulture and winemaking. His approach is a vineyard first one, leaning on a family history of horticulture and a whole raft of experimentation to make wines from the ground up, with principles of sustainability underpinning all aspects.

    • Chrissie Smith
    • Intrepidus Wines
    • NSW/ACT, Canberra District

    • 2023, 2024

    2024 Finalist
    2023 Finalist

    Chrissie Smith’s Intrepidus Wines was only born in the 2021 vintage, working from a one-acre vineyard in the Canberra District that she farms herself. And that’s critical for her philosophy, with an abrupt career shift leading her to wine and quickly to a vineyard-first approach, recognising that the work done amongst the vines was just as important, if not more so, than the work in the winery. The label is currently built around sangiovese and shiraz, with tiny amounts of external grapes to allow for experimentation. Blends of the two home grapes make up a rosé and light red, while shiraz is also co-fermented with a splash of viognier, marsanne and roussanne.

    • Dale Wheeler
    • Wheeler & 3P25
    • Victoria, Yarra Valley

    • 2023

    2023 Finalist

    Dale Wheeler left a more certain career path in advertising to go all in with winemaking, moving to Melbourne and enrolling in a winemaking course. That spirit of adventure led him to take on a vineyard lease with a friend while they were both still studying. That was no easy path, but it gave him a firm appreciation of ground-up winemaking and a deep connection to the nuances of the Yarra Valley as well as connections to its best growers. Today, Wheeler Wines focuses on the great Yarra standards of chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet, along with a very de rigueur chillable red, while the 3P25 label sees a portion of the profits donated to a children’s medical charity. Whole bunch for reds, barrel ferments, and no additions apart from sulphur are the general rules, with variety, site and season given primacy.

    • Doug Lilburne
    • Mise en Place Wines
    • Victoria, Great Western, Pyrenees

    • 2023, 2024

    2024 Finalist
    2023 Finalist

    Doug Lilburne’s journey into wine started in kitchens in New York as a teenager, progressing through culinary school then to setting up a farm-to-table food program at a winery in Northern California. Winery work eventually drew him away from the stove, and vintages around the world followed. Now settled into his leased winery and vineyard in the Yarra Valley’s Steels Creek, Lilburne’s Mise en Place label focuses on home fruit and organic vineyards in the Pyrenees and Great Western to currently make a syrah, syrah and touriga nacional blend, and a syrah rosé. The winemaking is manual and traditional, with only sulphur added, and not always. The first release was in 2022 with wines from the 2021 vintage.

    • Emily Kinsman
    • ECK Wines
    • Victoria, Heathcote

    • 2023, 2024

    2024 Finalist
    2023 Finalist

    Emily Kinsman’s ECK Wines is based out of her small vineyard and winery in central Heathcote, where she organically farms less than half a hectare of shiraz. That modest holding is supported by fruit – shiraz, chardonnay, pinot noir, marsanne, cabernet and riesling – sourced from across Heathcote and Mount Alexander, in the Bendigo region, with a greenfield site in Macedon recently purchased, which will soon be planted to vines. A lawyer by trade, the pull of making something with her hands and a simpler, more connected life captivated Kinsman, and her wines follow that attraction, with a traditional approach, incorporating old, larger format oak and amphora, along with low sulphur additions and no fining or filtration.

    • Gabe O’Brien
    • Cavedon Wines
    • King Valley

    • 2021, 2022, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2023 Danger Zone
    2022 Finalist
    2021 Finalist

    Cavedon Wines is the third-generation manifestation of a pioneering King Valley vineyard, with Gabe O’Brien making micro-batches of wine to celebrate the hard work of his father-in-law over 40 plus years, who helped pioneer and then revolutionise grape-growing in the region. O’Brien is starting to do the same for winemaking, introducing styles less common in the district, including skin contact on white grapes, sparkling gewürztraminer, nouveau reds and bottle fermenting prosecco to make both col fondo and zero dosage wines.

    • Greg Clack & Kate Horstmann
    • XO Wine Co
    • South Australia

    • 2023, 2024

    2024 Finalist
    2023 Finalist

    Greg Clack and Kate Horstmann founded XO Wine Co. in 2017. They focus on small-batch parcels of fruit, building complexity subtly through fermentation and maturation methods, with bright fruit and sense of place taking the lead. The pair work with the established strengths of both the Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale, with shiraz, grenache, pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling all getting a run, alongside the emerging stars of nebbiolo, barbera and tempranillo. A lightly skinsy pinot gris and a light chillable red that is a collage of red varieties completes the suite.

    • Iain Baxter
    • New Era Vineyards
    • South Australia, Adelaide Hills

    • 2023

    2023 Finalist

    After studying and undergoing on-the-job apprenticeships across all facets of the wine industry, Iain Baxter landed back at his family’s Adelaide Hills vineyard. Originally planted to cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, shiraz, merlot and pinot noir, sangiovese, touriga, nebbiolo and montepulciano were added to better suit the changing climate, but all that changed after the 2019 bushfires. With the vineyard almost totally destroyed, the Baxter family saw an opportunity, and it was replanted to even better suit the climate. In anticipation of those emerging varieties coming online, Baxter has been crafting wines from the Hills and Limestone Coast from emerging varieties, including grüner veltliner and lagrein.

    • Jack Weedon
    • Rollick Wines
    • Barossa Valley, Riverland

    • 2021, 2022, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2022 Finalist
    2021 Finalist

    Jack and Tash Weedon’s Rollick label is built around the bright, drink-now styles of wine they love to drink themselves. Working with grenache, shiraz, cabernet franc and viognier from the Barossa, riesling from the Eden Valley and fiano from both the Clare Valley and the Riverland, the fruit is picked earlier to retain freshness, while less time in oak or tank has much the same impact. The Rollick wines are instantly recognisable wines of variety and place, but with the vibrancy and freshness dials wound to maximum.

    • James & Kimberly Cooter
    • Cooter & Cooter / Hedonist Wines
    • McLaren Vale

    • 2022, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2022 Finalist

    James and Kimberly Cooter are both continuing their family traditions of winemaking under their Cooter & Cooter label, as well as for Kimberley’s family winery, The Hedonist. Both labels are built on McLaren Vale classic varieties, with grenache a particular favourite for the pair, while emerging varieties like fiano, tempranillo and sangiovese also appear on the roster. The wines for both labels lean to the midweight, with organic and biodynamic viticulture, earlier picking and a preference for large-format oak creating food-friendly wines to suit the Mediterranean climate.

    • James Scarcebrook
    • Vino Intrepido
    • Heathcote, Mornington Peninsula

    • 2021, 2022, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2022 Finalist
    2021 Finalist

    Vino Intrepido is a natural continuation for James Scarcebrook’s long-term connection with Italian wine, from fine-wine retail and extensive wine-focused travel to wholesaling some of Italy’s best wines. His range, which was launched in 2016 with two wines, has grown to include a suite of Italian varieties, including sangiovese, nebbiolo, fiano and nero d’avola. The grapes are all sourced from Victorian vineyards, then made in a way that takes inspiration from traditional Italian methods but is carefully tuned to be sympathetic to the natural expression of individual sites and seasons.

    • Jean-Paul Trijsburg
    • Wines by Jean-Paul – The Happy Winemaker
    • Heathcote

    • 2021, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2021 Finalist

    Jean-Paul Trijsburg farms a small pinot noir vineyard in the Ballarat region for his Jean-Paul label, while also sourcing fruit from across central Victorian vineyards, making diverse styles, from vermouth, to red pét-nats, to a carménère and a more classic offering of pinot noir and cool climate syrah. Year on year, the range has expanded, with even more cuvées planned for the 2023 vintage.

    • Jordan Hein
    • Moorak
    • South Australia, Adelaide Hills

    • 2023

    2023 Finalist

    Jordan Hein is a first-generation and largely self-taught winemaker, taking the plunge into his own label and winemaking facility early in his career. Based in McLaren Vale in an environmentally sensitive collaborative facility, he makes a dozen or so wines from across South Australia, partnering with sustainable and organic growers who focus on regenerative agriculture. The wines are built on experimentation, but they don’t often stray into wildly polarising areas, nuanced with alternative methods but still centred on variety and place. The range includes a pét-nat, bright cinsault, pulpy unfiltered white, textural riesling, and a structured and a bright pinot noir, among others.

    • Justin Folloso
    • Cave Wines
    • Tasmania

    • 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2023 Best New Act

    Justin Folloso’s career direction snapped into vivid clarity at a Young Gun tasting in 2018. An epiphany with a Tasmanian pinot noir saw him pack his bags and head back to his home state, taking on winery work and travelling overseas to work in Burgundy and California. Today, while working for an iconic Tasmanian winery in his ‘day’ job, Folloso is crafting his own wines at his modest home facility. The launch of the brand comes in 2023, releasing two Coal River Valley pinot noirs from the 2021 vintage and a textural oak-aged sauvignon blanc from 2022.

    • Keira O’Brien
    • Rivulet Wines
    • Tasmania

    • 2022, 2023

    2023 Winemaker's Choice
    2023 Finalist
    2022 Finalist

    Keira O’Brien started Rivulet Wines in part to attempt to save Tasmania’s oldest commercial riesling planting and in part to express her sense of creativity, which was being stifled in her contract-winemaking day job. Over the vintages released, the portfolio has ebbed and flowed, with availability of the right fruit a key driver in her range. In 2022, she became the winemaker at the iconic east coast vineyard Freycinet, juggling her brand and one of Tasmania’s most vaunted. The Rivulet range consists of cross-regional pinot noir and a pair of single site offerings, with a single site chardonnay, barrel-fermented sauvignon blanc and a sylvaner filling the roster of wines, though a riesling will come back into the range from the 2023 vintage.

    • Kim Tyrer
    • Galafrey Wines
    • Mount Barker

    • 2020, 2022, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2022 Finalist
    2020 Finalist

    Galafrey is a legendary name in Mount Barker, a ground-breaking winery that many thought would drift out of family hands after the untimely death of its founder, Ian Tyrer. But, at only 25, his daughter Kim took up the mantle and is now the CEO and winemaker, producing classic renditions of Mount Barker riesling, shiraz and cabernet, while also taking a particular interest in müller-thurgau and whole-bunch fermentation for shiraz and pinot noir.

    • Koen Janssens
    • Bink Wines
    • Barossa Valley, Clare Valley

    • 2021, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2021 Finalist

    The Bink label is part homage to Koen Janssens’ heritage, with the prominent ‘B’ an echo of the bumper stickers of the late 20th century, denoting Belgium, but it’s also a flag for the type of wine you’re about to drink. Designed by Janssens, the hand-drawn labels steer the drinker down a path suggesting minimal intervention and unconventional styles. Janssens focus is on varieties that excite him, from established stars like riesling and grenache to those less familiar, like alicante bouschet and zinfandel, coaxing out vibrant and fun expressions that speak of place.

    • Lauren Langfield
    • Orbis Wines
    • South Australia, McLaren Vale

    • 2023

    2023 Young Gun of Wine
    2023 Finalist

    After years working in vineyards and consulting on organics, biodynamics and regenerative agriculture, Lauren Langfield first made wine for her eponymous label from the 2021 vintage. It was also the same year that she took on the winemaking role at Orbis Wines. Winemaking is a fraction of what she does there, though, working with consultant viticulturist Richard Leask to grow in a truly sustainable, regenerative way. There’s much more on her to-do list, too, with Orbis founded on principles of sustainability that ripple through every part of the business and beyond. With McLaren Vale classics planted, there is also a slew of Mediterranean varieties coming online to join the already productive trousseau and tempranillo. Langfield has taken the wines in a brighter and more drink-now direction, along with adding new lines that embrace vibrant immediacy.

    • Louis Schofield
    • Worlds Apart Wines
    • Eden Valley, McLaren Vale

    • 2021, 2023, 2024

    2024 Finalist
    2023 Finalist
    2021 Finalist

    With wines that are light to medium in weight, and sensitive making that sticks to minimal sulphur doses as the only additive, Louis Schofield launched Worlds Apart Wines in 2017. He works with syrah, riesling, grenache, nero d’avola, pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, sourced from McLaren Vale, the Eden Valley, and his home in the Adelaide Hills. And while his wines trace a natural arc, Schofield has no interest in dogma, with drinkability and deliciousness taking centre stage.

    • Luke Andree
    • Sonnen
    • Tasmania

    • 2023

    2023 Finalist

    Luke Andree kicked off Sonnen Wine in 2020, releasing a riesling and pinot noir. That came when he was spending most of his time out in the open, tending the vines for Mewstone in Tasmania’s south. Although a side project at the time, the Sonnen label has grown to occupy much of Andree’s time, with a range that meanders through different approaches, with new takes on classic varieties and eccentric blending to achieve modern styles of wine that lean towards bright drinkability with an emphasis on unpretentiousness and good times.

    • Marcus Radny
    • Gonzo Vino
    • South Australia, Riverland

    • 2023

    2023 Finalist

    Marcus Radny jumped from a stellar career as a sommelier into the winemaking game. That’s not much of a strange story, granted, but going from head sommelier at Vue de Monde to making cask wine is not that way the story normally unfolds. Radny’s Gonzo Vino specialises in modern wines of character and effortless drinkability, and all are packaged in electrically colourful and loud casks and cans. The fruit is sourced from Ashley Ratcliff’s Riverland vineyards, with low tannin reds and lightly skinsy whites joined by rosé and a pair of fizzy cans, one white, one rosé.

    • Matt Purbrick & Leigh Ritchie
    • Minimum Wines
    • Victoria, Goulburn Valley

    • 2023

    2023 Finalist

    Minimum Wines started as a natural extension of Matt and Lentil Purbrick’s Grown & Gathered project, which was an exploration of living off the land, growing, foraging, hunting, cooking and making. Wine was always part of the picture – and not just because Matt is a Tahbilk Purbrick – with an organic and ultra-lo-fi approach. Scaled up, the processes aren’t quite so rustic anymore, thorough still decidedly lo-fi, with a foundation of organics, sustainability – along the whole production, supply and consumption chain – and environmental and social responsibility. Wines under the Minimum banner encompass the core range of a chardonnay, blended sangiovese and syrah red, and the same varieties in rosé form, while the Short Runs range allows for more creative expression, with skinsy whites, no filtration, low-sulphur offerings and pét-nats the general theme. Today, Leigh Ritchie has joined Matt Purbrick at the winemaking helm.

    • Nadja Wallington & Steve Mobbs
    • ChaLou
    • Orange

    • 2022, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2022 Finalist

    Nadja Wallington and Steve Mobbs met while studying winemaking in 2008, but then they went their separate ways, touring the world making wine. Both landing in Orange somewhat later, the pair made wine for others, before launching their own brands, then finally settling on a vineyard in 2020 to start their own ground up venture. Specialising in chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir and shiraz, the pair are making classically styled wines that emphasise the cool refinement of the region.

    • Nick Dugmore
    • The Stoke
    • Kangaroo Island

    • 2020, 2021, 2023

    2023 Vigneron
    2023 Finalist
    2021 Finalist
    2020 Finalist

    The Stoke brand is a tribute to the largely untapped potential of Kangaroo Island as a premium wine-growing region. Nick Dugmore makes wines that are expressive of the relatively cool, wind-swept vineyards of KI, with a focus on lighter to midweight styles with food and conviviality in mind. The leased Cassini Vineyard now provides the bulk of the fruit for the label, with Dugmore farming the site regeneratively side by side with his father.

    • Peta Kotz
    • Sabi Wabi
    • Hunter Valley

    • 2022, 2023, 2024

    2024 Finalist
    2023 Finalist
    2022 Winemaker's Choice
    2022 Finalist

    Peta Kotz’s Sabi Wabi is her homage to reworking the traditions of the Hunter, of searching for “beauty amongst imperfection”. Semillon is the foundation of the brand she launched in 2019 while working for biodynamic Hunter winery Krinklewood, and she steadfastly says it will remain that way, although her lo-fi making, with no subtractions and no adds, bar a fraction of sulphur, and employment of a raft of alternative vessels is also applied to other whites, red wine and rosé.

    • Raquel Jones
    • Weathercraft
    • Beechworth

    • 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2022 Finalist
    2021 Finalist
    2020 Finalist

    Weathercraft is the realisation of Raquel Jones’ long-held dream to make wine from her own fruit. A project where the growing takes precedence, and the making simply follows. Eventually landing in Beechworth on an established vineyard, she makes elegant takes on local stars – chardonnay, shiraz, cabernet – but has replanted to map a future that is occupied substantially by Spanish varieties, principally tempranillo and albariño.

    • Richard Burch & Nic Bowen
    • Mon Tout
    • Western Australia

    • 2023, 2024

    2024 Finalist
    2023 Finalist

    Mon Tout (‘my everything’) is a collaboration between Richard Burch and Nic Bowen, with fruit sourced across Western Australia. Coming from a notable winemaking family (well, they both do), Burch had the enviable resources of his family’s Howard Park Wines – which has vineyards and growers in regions celebrated, emerging and re-emerging – when he founded the brand a decade ago. That label has evolved considerably and will continue to, with Bowen coming on board in 2021. The key drivers are a spirit of adventure coupled with eschewing winemaking inputs, aside from sulphur for stability, with natural balance achieved in the vineyard. A pinot gris, gewürztraminer and riesling blend, a chardonnay, a rosé, a light and two red blends with varying combinations of pinot noir, syrah and grenache make up the offerings.

    • Riley Harrison
    • Harrison
    • Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale

    • 2021, 2022, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2022 Finalist
    2021 Finalist

    Riley Harrison’s own wine project started very small and stayed very small for quite some time, allowing him to focus on the detail. That patience has paid off, with the Harrison fruit now coming from some of the finest vineyards in the Barossa, McLaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills. Harrison makes a syrah, a grenache, a cabernet franc, a cabernet shiraz blend, a grenache mataro and a blend of grenache blanc and noir, while his lone white is a roussanne and grenache blanc blend that sees a judicious amount of skin contact before being raised in neutral oak, building detail and mouthfeel. His wines are approachable, bright and textural, with endless layers of refined detail.

    • Rowly Milhinch
    • Scion
    • Rutherglen

    • 2022, 2023, 2024

    2024 Finalist
    2023 Finalist
    2022 People's Choice
    2022 Finalist

    Some 20 years ago, Rowly Milhinch left a career in visual communication to set up a vineyard and a family life in Rutherglen. It’s territory that his family have lived in for generations, and he was intent on honouring the traditions of the region but recasting them through his own lens. Under his Scion label, he makes fortifieds, a staple of Rutherglen, but they are twists on the classics, including a ‘Muscat Nouveau’ and dry orange muscat, ‘Blonde’, as well as making dry red from syrah, grenache and durif, with the latter also getting the light red treatment, built to chill.

    • Samuel Renzaglia
    • di Renzo
    • NSW/ACT, Central Ranges

    • 2023

    2023 Finalist

    Samuel Renzaglia developed the di Renzo range under his family’s eponymous wine label. That label is based out of their Bathurst vineyard in the O’Connell Valley, while the di Renzo wines are made from fruit sourced from prime growers across the Central Ranges. With an emphasis on early drinkability, Renzaglia picks earlier, aims for less extraction in reds and turns up the skin contact on whites, while neutral vessels are used for maturation. The wines see no additions bar a little sulphur, and they also have nothing taken away, being bottled un-fined and unfiltered.

    • Steffi Snook
    • Yayoi Wines
    • South Australia, Victoria, McLaren Vale, Murray Darling

    • 2023

    2023 Finalist

    Yayoi means ‘new life’ and is the traditional Japanese name for the month of March. For Steffi Snook, it symbolises the start of a wine label and a new direction in her life. A New Zealander who came to Australia to study and was so entranced by Melbourne’s rich food and wine culture, Snook worked her way through fine dining and wine distribution to land in Geelong. It was there that a passion for making wine really took hold, launching her label in 2022. Chenin blanc takes the lead – her key obsession – along with a textural vermentino, while a blend of the two grapes find their way into a pét-nat.

    • Sudeep Parial
    • Pipers Brook Vineyard & Kreglinger Wine Estates
    • Tasmania

    • 2023

    2023 Finalist

    Pipers Brook Vineyard is nearing its fiftieth anniversary, having long ago confirmed its icon status in Tasmania. Playing to the island’s strengths, pinot noir and chardonnay for still and sparkling wines are a key thread, with aromatic whites arguably playing just as important a role. Today, Sudeep Parial manages the winery under the direction of Luke Whittle, shaping the classically styled wines across four ranges.

    • Sven Joschke
    • Sven Joschke Wine
    • Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley

    • 2021, 2022, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2022 Finalist
    2021 Finalist

    Sven Joschke’s wines are lo-fi, and with no adds except a particularly small dose of sulphur when they go to bottle, but that’s not to say they aren’t purposeful with clear directions in mind, as he says, “minimal intervention, made with intent”. With only a few years of winemaking under his belt – after fleeing a corporate career as an accountant – Joschke hit the ground running, now making wines from the Adelaide Hills, Langhorne Creek and the Barossa, as well as in the Jura, France.

    • Tillie Johnston
    • Tillie J Wines
    • Yarra Valley

    • 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024

    2024 Finalist
    2023 People's Choice
    2023 Finalist
    2022 Finalist
    2021 Finalist

    Tillie Johnston’s path to making wine started in the Yarra Valley, then widened into a busy global arc, but was always tracking back to where she started. With experience at some of the finest wineries across Australia and overseas – focused on regions that echoed the Yarra’s climate – Johnston now tends her own block of pinot noir vines in Gruyere, launching her eponymous label from the 2020 vintage with a lone pinot noir, crafted from the ground up to be bright, fruit forward and handled lightly in the winery. In 2021, a chardonnay entered the portfolio, which was unsurprising given it is arguably the region’s star variety. Vintage ’22 saw a rosé added, plus a Langhorne Creek Project grenache, while a 2023 Aligoté from King Valley is the newest addition to the lineup as Tillie J searches for more delicious sources of Burgundian varieties.

    • Tom Daniel
    • Chouette
    • Swan Valley

    • 2021, 2023

    2023 Finalist
    2021 Finalist

    Tom Daniel’s Chouette is a tribute to the Swan Valley – past, present and future. Working primarily with grenache and chenin blanc – the local heroes – he is seeking to preserve the heritage and the precious resource of old vines, while making styles that are distinctly modern. Bright and light to midweight, and with no additions, excepting a little sulphur, Daniel is busily sketching out a new future for the Swan with wines that are more suited to drinking in the hot local climate, and which are being eagerly taken up by Perth wine bars and restaurants that have historically shunned the region’s wines.

    • Tony Zafirakos & Maddison Park-Neilson
    • Aristotelis Ke Anthoula
    • NSW/ACT, South Australia

    • 2023

    2023 Finalist

    Aristotelis Ke Anthoula is Tony Zafirakos’s homage to genuine garage winemaking, as his parents taught him growing up in Sydney. While not all backyard wine passes muster, theirs was one that was much loved by friends and family, which is all the more remarkable given that they never used sulphur. Today, the production has increased somewhat, and the fruit source is no longer the produce market, but the philosophy of his parents continues to this day, with the aim to make high-quality wines with no additions that are not “too polished”. Sourcing fruit from across New South Wales and the Riverland, the wines range from skinsy, pulpy whites, pét-nats and juicy light reds, along with a take on Retsina and a vermouth flavoured with calendula and citrus.

    • Turon White
    • Turon Wines
    • Adelaide Hills

    • 2021, 2023, 2024

    2024 Finalist
    2023 Finalist
    2021 Finalist

    Turon White has not strayed far from his beloved Adelaide Hills, excepting experience-gathering vintages interstate and abroad, with the rich diversity of the region and the pristine fruit quality ideal for the elegant yet intense wines he makes under his Turon Wines label. With chardonnay, pinot noir and gamay to the fore, White takes a minimal-intervention approach, but his wines are in a classic mould, expressing variety, site and season with bell-clear clarity.

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