Top Winemakers Those who have appeared as finalists in our annual winemaker awards since 2007.

Winemakers Directory

Awards Key

Young Gun of Wine

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.

People’s Choice

Taste is subjective. Every individual is the best judge of their own palate. Established in 2007, the People’s Choice is decided by the public, choosing from the list of finalists in our annual winemaker awards.

Winemaker’s Choice

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

Best New Act

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.

Danger Zone

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

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


  • Wine label
  • Winemaker
  • Region
  • Award
  • Year
    • Alpha Box & Dice
    • Sam Berketa
    • Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale

    • 2021, 2022, 2024

    2024 Finalist
    2022 Finalist
    2021 People's Choice
    2021 Finalist

    Sam Berketa has been at the helm of McLaren Vale’s Alpha Box & Dice since 2015, making a flotilla of eccentric wines, from deep investigations into skin contact on white grapes, to unusual blends, alternative varieties – and lots of them – to a “reverse ripasso” produced from a perpetual master blend that has seen every variety and every vintage added to it. Those wines are part of the Alphabet of Wine, an ongoing exploration of the possibilities that South Australian vineyards can offer, and Berketa is constantly pushing those possibilities to the extreme.

    • Gilbert
    • Will Gilbert
    • Orange

    • 2020, 2021

    2021 Finalist
    2020 People's Choice
    2020 Finalist

    Will Gilbert is a sixth-generation winemaker, with his great-great-great-grandfather Joseph Gilbert responsible for planting some of the first vines in the Eden Valley in 1842. That legacy is honoured under the Gilbert label today, with a range of Eden Valley rieslings, but the core of the Gilbert operation is in Mudgee and the frosty climes of Orange, New South Wales, with a focus on riesling, pinot noir, chardonnay and shiraz with several bottlings of each, and made in a way that highlights purity and elegance.

    • Head Wines
    • Alex Head
    • Barossa Valley

    • 2011, 2012, 2013, 2018

    2018 Top 50
    2013 People's Choice
    2013 Finalist
    2012 Finalist
    2011 Finalist

    Lured over from the fine wine side of the game, Alex Head left behind roles in an auction house, wine merchant and importer to get his hands dirty in the rugged soils of the Barossa Valley. The first Head wines hit the market in 2006. His wines are Barossa through and through, but there’s a…

    • Hoddles Creek
    • Franco d’Anna
    • Yarra Valley

    • 2009, 2010, 2012

    2012 Finalist
    2010 People's Choice
    2010 Finalist
    2009 Finalist

    Franco D’Anna was born into a family with fair wine credentials, having established and run one of Melbourne’s legendary wine stores since the 1960s. A childhood in wine retail blossomed into a career in winemaking when the family put down some literal roots in the cool of the Upper Yarra Valley in 1997. D’Anna uses…

    • Kalleske
    • Troy Kalleske
    • Barossa Valley

    • 2007, 2008

    2008 Finalist
    2007 People's Choice
    2007 Finalist

    With a Barossan grape-growing heritage as deep as they come, Troy Kalleske was always destined to make his name in wine. But bucking the family history of contract growing, Kalleske made and labelled the first wines under the family name after nearly 150 years of growing, and he did so with organic fruit from their…

    • Meadowbank
    • Peter Dredge
    • Tasmania

    • 2017, 2018

    2018 Top 50
    2017 Top 50
    2017 People's Choice

    After an injury sidelined a young Peter Dredge from his chosen sporting career, winemaking dropped a lifeline. A healthy tenure buried inside the Petaluma and then Bay of Fires machines provided a backbone for a career that became significantly more public when he launched his Dr Edge label and took on the winemaking duties at…

    • Ruggabellus
    • Abel Gibson
    • Barossa Valley

    • 2012

    2012 Young Gun of Wine
    2012 People's Choice

    Although Abel Gibson’s connection to the Barossa and tradition runs deep, his Ruggabellus label has given convention a good hard shake. Working with sites that enable him to preserve freshness by picking earlier, his reds see varying levels of whole bunch inclusion, and the whites undergo extended skin contact. Neither see any new oak. Aside…

    • Scion
    • Rowly Milhinch
    • 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.

    • South by South West
    • Liv Maiorana & Mijan Patterson
    • Margaret River

    • 2019, 2022

    2022 Finalist
    2019 Top 50
    2019 People's Choice

    In the quest for knowledge beyond the familiar and that gleaned off the page, partners Liv Maiorana and Mijan Patterson embarked on an experience-gathering world wine trip in 2013, taking in vintages in California’s Napa and Sonoma Valleys, the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, as well as in the South of France and Tuscany and Sicily. That trip crystallised in them a desire to launch their own label based in Margaret River, and one that knit into both the approaches they had seen to viticulture and winemaking, as well as the cultural connection with wine-growing. The idea for South by South West then started to germinate…

    • Story Wines
    • Rory Lane
    • Grampians

    • 2011, 2014, 2017

    2017 Top 50
    2014 Finalist
    2011 People's Choice
    2011 Finalist

    While Rory Lane may have a story for each wine he makes, he freely admits his wine background is far from storied itself, with the history side of his ledger somewhat blank. This has certainly not stood in his way, though, with a keen eye for uncovering remote and forgotten vineyard sites of exceptional pedigree…

    • Sutton Grange Winery
    • Melanie Chester
    • Bendigo

    • 2017, 2018

    2018 Top 50
    2018 People's Choice
    2017 Top 50

    Melanie Chester had squeezed an awful lot into her winemaking career when she took the helm at the highly regarded Sutton Grange Winery in 2015, with a wake of accolades and high-quality experience trailing behind her. She was only 26. Since then she has worked tirelessly to further enhance an already stellar reputation built by…

    • Syrahmi
    • Adam Foster
    • Heathcote

    • 2008, 2009

    2009 People's Choice
    2009 Finalist
    2008 People's Choice
    2008 Finalist

    Chef-turned-sommelier-turned-winemaker Adam Foster has carved out a significant identity for himself, both making Rhône-inspired reds under his Syrahmi imprint and bone-dry, textural rosé and savoury sangiovese under his co-lab Foster e Rocco label. Once somewhat itinerant, Foster has now set down roots in Tooboorac at the southern end of Heathcote, where he has planted a…

    • Tillie J Wines
    • Tillie Johnston
    • 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 Foolery
    • Ben Chipman
    • Barossa

    • 2014, 2015

    2015 Finalist
    2014 People's Choice

    Over his career, Ben Chipman has worked with some of the Barossa’s legendary names, and its biggest characters. With a bright-eyed approach and compelling sense of energy, Chipman has soaked up a lifetime of experience while moving from marketing man to hands-on winemaker. His lithe and vibrant Tomfoolery wines, built on both Barossa stalwarts and…

    • Two Tonne Tasmania
    • Ricky Evans
    • Tasmania

    • 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020

    2020 Finalist
    2018 Finalist
    2017 Finalist
    2016 People's Choice
    2016 Finalist

    A local who sought education and experience on the mainland, it wasn’t long before Ricky Evans returned to Tasmania to take up a role at Bay of Fires (good breeding ground that – Peter Dredge, Fran Austin…) and launch his own micro-project that ended up taking up a macro amount of time. Starting with a…

    • Unico Zelo
    • Laura & Brendan Carter
    • Adelaide Hills, Riverland

    • 2015

    2015 People's Choice
    2015 Finalist

    Brendan and Laura Carter are the duo behind the ground-breaking Unico Zelo winery and Applewood Distillery in Gumeracha, in the Adelaide Hills. Working with both local grapes and those sourced a little farther afield, they have recalibrated the potential for new varieties and even unglamorous sites like few before them. Nero’ d’avola, fiano, barbera, dolcetto,…

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