Modern Pioneers: three part series

Mike Bennie, Presenter
Webinar Part 1: Tuesday 27th October, 2:00pm-3:00pm with Dr. Andrew Pirie, Tasmania
Webinar Part 2: Tuesday 3 November, 2:00pm-3:00pm with Ashley Ratcliff, Riverland
Webinar Part 3: Tuesday 10 November, 2:00pm-3:00pm with Tessa Brown, Beechworth
Details &

Join us for an exciting Wine Australia webinar series on Modern Pioneers, featuring three trailblazers in the Australian wine community. Discover what initially drew Dr. Andrew Pirie to Tasmania, Ashley Ratcliff to Riverland and Tessa Brown to Beechworth. Find out what has inspired and excited these passionate Modern Pioneers on their journey, how they have overcome challenges and what wine styles were in mind when they were establishing vineyards in the regions they are based. Well-known Australian Freelancer wine and drinks writer, journalist and presenter Mike Bennie will lead the insightful conversation and discuss modern Australian winemaking and viticulture.

The webinar will feature a tasting of three wines, including a wine from the presenter and two wines from the region by other producers. Limited numbers are available (Australia only). If you miss out on the tasting pack, you are welcome to register with the ‘talk only’ option. These webinars are free.

Webinar Part 1 with Dr. Andrew Pirie (Tasmania)

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Time: 2:00pm to 3:00pm


Webinar Part 2 with Ashley Ratcliff (Riverland)

Tuesday 3 November 2020

Time: 2:00pm to 3:00pm


Webinar Part 3 with Tessa Brown (Beechworth)

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Time: 2:00pm to 3:00pm


Mike Bennie

Freelancer Wine and Drinks Writer, Journalist and Presenter - Moderator

When Mike Bennie isn’t wandering vineyards on the four corners of the globe, he is a freelance wine and drinks writer, journalist and presenter. A lot of his work appears in the highly-regarded publication Australian Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine, he is wine/drinks editor for Australia's leading food magazine, delicious., and he is Editor-At-Large and contributor/writer to Australia’s most interactive wine commentary website, He is proudly a co-founder and co-director of the now retired artisan and sustainability-focused Rootstock Sydney food and wine festival. Mike is also a co-founder and partner in the landmark P&V Wine + Liquor Merchants, a store and education space devoted to artisan fermented, brewed and distilled products.

Mike is also co-founder of the revolutionary wine, beer, spirit and non-alcoholic beverage celebration that is the Drink Easy Awards. He is prolific with his wine work, is a regular presenter at corporate and industry events, and between travels to exotic vineyards around the world, enjoys long walks on the beach with a bottle of wine (or sour beer) in his hand.

Dr. Andrew Pirie

Winemaker, Apogee Tasmania

Pioneer of the Tasmanian wine industry Andrew Pirie is one of Australia's most respected winemakers acknowledged widely for his significant contribution to the success of the Australian wine industry, particularly in the realm of climate impact on viticulture.  

Life-long research led Andrew ultimately to a select a “grand cru” single vineyard site (two hectares) near Lebrina in northeast Tasmania, where he expresses his passion for cool-climate viticulture. Here he crafts traditional cuvée sparkling wines and table wines from Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. The vineyard was established in 2007 and has evolved without fanfare, each vintage a marker of Tasmania’s exceptional capacity for creating prestige sparkling wines to rival those of Champagne, plus Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris table wines rated with the best in Australia. The fact that APOGEE Tasmania was recently chosen as one of Australia’s Top Ten New Wineries by James Halliday (Wine Companion 2021) makes for wry smiles…the new pioneer.

Andrew Pirie is vitally involved in the Tasmanian wine sector and apart from his hands-on role at APOGEE Tasmania consults on vineyard and industry development, conducts climate research as an Honorary Associate at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, and is writing a book on wine terroir. His faithful winery dog, Olli, always near at hand. 


Ashley Ratcliff

Winemaker and viticulturist, Ricca Terra, Riverland

As a viticulturist and winemaker, Ashley is unashamedly authentic and unafraid to fail. He started his career almost three decades ago, working with big names in Australian wine, including Orlando and Yalumba. He completed a degree in viticulture and a master’s in marketing and won major industry awards for his viticulture work in drought-prone regions, including the Riverland. Now he’s helping to reinvent this powerhouse wine region.

In 2003, he and his wife Holly bought a vineyard and planted emerging varieties that would thrive in the Riverland’s warm climate, with a focus on Mediterranean varieties. They produce top-quality fruit and under their label Ricca Terra, Ashley makes premium wines that challenges people’s perceptions of the Riverland.

Tessa Brown

Winemaker and viticulturist, Vignerons Schmölzer & Brown. Beechworth

Tessa Brown, winemaker and viticulturist, has close to twenty years’ experience in the industry. She and her architect partner Jeremy Schmölzer, had been quietly looking for land in Beechworth for several years, when in early 2012, a property came onto the market which was too good to resist. They took the leap and left the security of full-time employment and put everything they had into creating the high-altitude Thorley vineyard.

Under their brand Vignerons Schmölzer & Brown they make a range of wines from Beechworth, the King Valley, and occasionally the Alpine Valleys while waiting for their own property to reach maturity. With most of her time being spent in the field than in the cellar, the winemaking practises are pretty simple. The aim is to produce wines with precision, balance and drinkability while working at reducing synthetic inputs in the vineyard and winemaking processes, also.


For more information about this webinar, please email