The Young Gun of Wine Awards, recently announced in Melbourne, brings together a boundary-pushing group of younger Australian winemakers from Australia’s fine wine regions. Selected by a group of esteemed judges, the Awards recognise their leadership, vision and influence on Australian wine innovation.
Australian wine has a storied history of innovation. From Ray Beckwith and Max Schubert at Penfolds to Peter Dry in the vineyard to John Vickery and Brian Croser with ‘reductive’ winemaking the world of wine owes a great debt to Australian wine innovation.
The nominees for the Young Gun of Wine Award are the next generation furthering the legacy left by these legends of Australian wine. From boundary-pushing blends to innovative packaging and wine styles from classic Australian regions, these winemakers are defining the new Australian wine paradigm.
This competition is relevant; this competition is real. It all makes sense and it all links back to the Australian wine community.
Nick Stock, wine writer
So, without further ado, we present to you the Young Gun of Wine Award Winners for 2017!
Young Gun of Wine 2017 - Michael Downer, Murdoch Hill Wines
Growing up on the family farm in the Adelaide Hills with vines, cattle and sheep, there was a good chance that Michael would end up working the land in some capacity. It was wine that won his heart and after completing his winemaking studies, Michael honed his skills at Shaw + Smith in the Adelaide Hills before touring and working in some of the world’s great wine regions.
In 2012 Michael returned to the family winery, using his experiences to create his own wine styles from unique vineyards in the Adelaide Hills. Michael is no stranger to the Young Guns of Wine Awards: he has been nominated four times in a row and has won the winemaker’s choice twice. It’s become clear in a few short years that Michael’s wines are resonating with his peers, wine writers and consumers.
I was pumped to just be selected in the final twelve of the Young Gun of Wine Awards. Getting the vote of approval from my peers is a huge honour. I have always tried to make drinkable wines with a sense of place, showing finesse and purity so to gain approval with this award really gives integrity to my wines.
Michael Downer, Murdoch Hill Wines
The Young Gun of Wine Award for 2017 is sponsored by Riedel.
Best New Act 2017 – Rob Mack, Aphelion Wines
Rob hasn’t followed a typical journey into the world of wine. While he grew up in one of Australia’s fine wine regions, McLaren Vale, it wasn’t until he was living and working in Sydney that Rob picked up a passion for wine. A life as an accountant was soon jettisoned for a life in wine, with Rob returning to McLaren Vale after working for Lathwaites while studying an oenology degree from Charles Sturt University.
Aphelion is a partnership with wife Louise Rhodes. They passionately hand craft tiny amounts of Grenache, Mataro and Sagrantino from McLaren Vale alongside a Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills. Rob and Louise are particularly passionate about McLaren Vale, a combination of region and variety that continues to rise and rise to global prominence.
It was an amazing experience to be part of this competition and to have our little wine label recognised by the judges as the Best New Act is beyond my wildest dreams. This is phenomenal kick start for our label.
Rob Mack, Aphelion Wines
The Best New Act Award for 2017 is sponsored by Wine Australia.
Winemaker’s Choice 2017 – John Hughes, Rieslingfreak
John Hughes is a winemaker who wears his heart on his sleeve. The name of his winery gives a big clue to just how passionate he is about the noble Riesling grape. John grew up amongst vines in the Clare Valley, a region famed globally for exceptional Riesling.
Since 2009 John has explored Riesling in all its guises with his Rieslingfreak label. From classic dry and off dry styles to innovating with sparkling and fortified Rieslings, John is not afraid to push boundaries while honouring the classics.
This is the first time I have ever won a trophy! Receiving the vote of my peers, and fellow winemakers, means so much to me, and probably the most valued feedback and reward an individual winemaker could ever ask for.
John Hughes, Rieslingfreak
The Winemaker’s Choice Award for 2017 is sponsored by Ocean Eight.
People’s Choice 2017 – Peter Dredge, Meadowbank Wines
Peter Dredge is no stranger to awards and accolades but is getting the greatest acclaim of his winemaking career for his work with the nascent Meadowbank label from Tasmania. Former winemaker for Bay of Fires, Peter has teamed up with the Ellis family for Meadowbank.
The Ellis family have been on their farm in the Derwent Valley since 1976 and have an exceptional reputation amongst Tasmania wineries. This new venture is a revival for wines produced under the Meadowbank label. And what an auspicious new start to life they’ve had, with Meadowbank gaining praise from wine writers, sommeliers and wine lovers across Australia in a very short amount of time.
We couldn’t be happier with the recognition from the people and consider this such an awesome start to Meadowbank’s new journey. Thanks so much to the Young Guns judges, sponsors and those who attended the people’s choice events in Sydney and Melbourne.
Peter Dredge, Meadowbank Wines
The Danger Zone Award 2017 - Andries Mostert and Yoko Luscher-Mostert, Brave New Wine
Brave New Wine is a husband and wife team from Denmark in WA, Andries and Yoko. They aim to allow the quality of Great Southern fruit shine through and express who they are as people and winemakers. Andries started his working life as an architect but moved to Margaret River to gain knowledge in winemaking. It wasn't long before he was hooked on a life in wine so commenced studies in Oenology at University of Adelaide.
Andries and Yoko aren't afraid to push the boundaries with their winemaking, a fact that is clear with thier Danger Zone willing Wonderland Riesling. This is Great Southern Riesling on a completely different level, achieved by the addition of local bush herbs and spices to create an aromatised wine that wowed the judges.
It’s thrilling to be recognised for this wine which was an experiment for us. No other wine show in Australia would enable us to successfully exhibit our style of wines, which are a bit risky in winemaking approach and unconventional in style. It’s great to be recognised through Young Gun of Wine.
Yoko Luscher-Mostert, Brave New Wine
The Danger Zone Award for 2017 is sponsored by First Drop Wines.
How are the Young Guns of Wine selected?
To start the Young Gun of Wine judging process, the judges agree on a short list of innovative winemakers shaping modern Australian wine who are then invited to submit wines. As well as tasting the wines, the judges analyse the contribution of each finalist to the Australian wine community. The wines need to be exciting and utterly delicious, but what each candidate is doing in their community is as important as the wine they are making.
The 2017 judges included Nick Stock (Gourmet Traveller WINE, et al) Mike Bennie (Delicious, et al), Emma Farrelly (State Building), Philip Rich (The Lucas Group), Pip Anderson (MONA), Josh Elias (Alquimie), Rory Kent (Young Gun of Wine Founder and Executive Style writer) and Josephine Perry (Dormilona, 2016 Young Gun of Wine winner).
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