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
    • A. Rodda Wines
    • Adrian Rodda
    • Beechworth, Yarra Valley

    • 2012, 2015

    2015 Young Gun of Wine
    2015 Finalist
    2012 Finalist

    Following a decade-long tenure at Oakridge, Adrian Rodda upped stakes and moved to Beechworth, in Victoria’s north-east, to take up joint stewardship of one of the region’s most significant, and significantly under-utilised vineyard resources, Smiths. It’s no surprise, given his time working with David Bicknell, that chardonnay happened to be front and centre, with Rodda…

    • Adelina/Some Young Punks
    • Colin McBryde
    • Clare Valley

    • 2009

    2009 Young Gun of Wine
    2009 Finalist

    Cue-ball bald, bespectacled and dripping in tatts, Col McBryde is one of the industry’s most-loved characters. Ruthlessly quick witted and thoughtful, McBryde is about as good humoured as it gets when you’re eking out a living in the ancient dusty soils of the Clare Valley, with a sense of irreverent fun never far beneath the…

    • Aphelion Wine Co.
    • Rob Mack
    • McLaren Vale

    • 2017, 2018

    The Vigneron
    2018 Young Gun of Wine
    2018 Top 50
    2017 Top 50
    2017 Best New Act

    Rob Mack, inspired by a bottle of wine on an ocean cruise (true), sidestepped a promising business career to immerse himself in the far less reliably rewarding (financially, that is) world of wine. A shared obsession with food and wine with his wife Louise got the idea over the line, and their McLaren Vale brand,…

    • Charlotte Dalton Wines
    • Charlotte Hardy
    • Adelaide Hills

    • 2017, 2021

    2021 Young Gun of Wine
    2021 Finalist
    2017 Finalist

    Charlotte Hardy’s Charlotte Dalton wines were launched from the 2015 vintage, a semillon and a shiraz made in an unfussed lo-fi way. With a career making wine for some serious labels, these weren’t your classic new wave wines from Basket Range. They were a pivot from the norm, unbound but not wild, essentially personal expressions. Hardy’s wines are like that, made with technical understanding, but intuitively, a reflection of mood and moment.

    • Crittenden/Los Hermanos
    • Rollo Crittenden
    • Port Phillip

    • 2009, 2010

    2010 Young Gun of Wine
    2009 Finalist

    The Crittenden name has chaperoned the winegrowing history of the Mornington Peninsula since the start, with Rollo Crittenden’s father planting some of the first vines and being responsible for countless innovations. Crittenden has taken that baton confidently, redefining new potential for the maturing region. In addition to tiers of both estate and regional chardonnay and…

    • Dilworth & Allain
    • Loique Allain & Chris Dilworth
    • Macedon Ranges

    • 2020

    2020 Young Gun of Wine
    2020 Finalist
    2020 Best New Act

    Dilworth & Allain is the budding label of Loique Allain and Chris Dilworth, launched in 2017. Based in the Macedon Ranges, they currently make a riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir from three vineyards, one of which they help farm organically. The wines reflect a desire to work as naturally as possible, while they convey site…

    • Dormilona
    • Josephine Perry
    • Margaret River

    • 2013, 2014, 2016

    2016 Young Gun of Wine
    2016 Finalist
    2014 Finalist
    2013 Finalist
    2013 Best New Act

    The Margaret River story was somewhat heavily inked before Josephine Perry came along, with a brigade of iconic names holding sway. Emerging out of her Perryscope wine consulting business, Dormilona was given breath to elaborate the fruit that was coming off organic vineyards across the region. Her direction was to pick earlier, and to do…

    • Entropy Wines
    • Ryan Ponsford
    • Gippsland

    • 2021, 2022

    2022 Young Gun of Wine
    2022 Finalist
    2021 Finalist

    Ryan Ponsford’s Entropy label is the result of him being diverted from a successful artistic career to making syrah, pinot noir, semillon and sauvignon blanc in Gippsland’s Baw Baw Shire. With a focus on organic growing and minimal-intervention winemaking, learnt working alongside Bill Downie, Ponsford is also in the process of resurrecting a derelict vineyard, which will form the future core of the Entropy wines.

    • First Drop
    • Matt Gant
    • Barossa Valley

    • 2007

    2007 Young Gun of Wine
    2007 Finalist

    Matt Gant’s geography degree was spun off course when a wine-loving professor “contrived” a study trip to France to taste wine. That minor diversion led to a terminal detour for Gant, axing the maps and globes for vintages around the world, before settling in the Barossa and co-founding First Drop wines in 2005. The First…

    • Koerner Wines
    • Damon & Jono Koerner
    • Clare Valley

    • 2017, 2018, 2019

    2019 Young Gun of Wine
    2019 Top 50
    2019 Finalist
    2018 Top 50
    2018 Finalist
    2017 Top 50

    Damon and Jono Koerner are the second generation to run the family’s Clare Valley vineyard. And they have taken it from an exclusively contract operation to the primary fruit source of one of the most exciting young labels on the market: Koerner Wine. That fruit resource stretches back before Jono and Damon’s parents took possession…

    • Murdoch Hill
    • Michael Downer
    • Adelaide Hills

    • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

    2017 Young Gun of Wine
    2017 Top 50
    2017 Finalist
    2016 Winemaker's Choice
    2016 Finalist
    2015 Winemaker's Choice
    2015 Finalist
    2014 Finalist

    Before taking the reins at the family vineyard, Michael Downer learnt from some of the finest makers, both here and abroad. He now works from the Murdoch Hill home vineyards, near Oakbank, but also sources higher into the Adelaide Hills for cooler expressions, which inform his cutting edge Artisan Series wines. In a nod to…

    • Ocean Eight
    • Mike Aylward
    • Mornington Peninsula

    • 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011

    2011 Young Gun of Wine
    2011 Finalist
    2010 Finalist
    2009 Finalist
    2008 Finalist

    With an adolescence and early adulthood spent working (while not studying) at his family’s game-changing Kooyong estate on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, Mike Aylward was only heading in one direction. A science degree had to get knocked off first, but his first vintage, a lone pinot gris, was released under the Ocean Eight banner a year…

    • Ochota Barrels
    • Taras Ochota
    • Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale

    • 2012, 2013

    2013 Young Gun of Wine
    2012 Finalist

    Working out of the Basket Range, Taras Ochota is one of the pioneers of Australia’s natural wine movement. Dissatisfied with the status quo, he took familiar expectations and smashed them in exciting ways. Leading with Grenache, Ochota dialled back the ripeness to give it a transparency, fragrant detail and savoury edge that was revelatory at…

    • Orbis Wines
    • Lauren Langfield
    • 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.

    • 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…

    • Sami-Odi
    • Fraser McKinley
    • Barossa Valley

    • 2014

    2014 Young Gun of Wine

    • Spinifex
    • Pete Schell
    • Barossa Valley

    • 2008

    2008 Young Gun of Wine
    2008 Finalist

    At a time when the Barossa was very much still set in its ways, with high ripeness, glossy oak and power the order of the day, Pete Schell was quietly but firmly rattling the dominant paradigm with his Spinifex wines. And this was long before some of today’s most recognisable iconoclasts had even thought about…

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