After a rigorous year long search, the winners of Young Guns of Wine for 2016 were recently announced in Melbourne. This was the competition’s tenth year celebrating Australian wine innovation and boundary-pushing inspiration. The Young Gun of Wine Awards brought together an exciting group of younger Australian winemakers from across Australia’s fine wine regions. They were selected for their leadership, their vision, their talent and their influence on the evolution of the Australian wine community.
“This competition is different from all others and brings a unique energy and vitality to the sector. In the decade of its existence The Young Gun of Wine Awards has become an incubator for emerging talent in the Australian grape and wine community. A casual perusal of the nominees since 2007 reads like a who's who of the contemporary wine scene in Australia.”
Brian Walsh, Chairman, Wine Australia
Riedel Young Guns of Wine 2016: Josephine Perry from Dormilona Wines
While she doesn’t come from a winemaking dynasty, it was Jo’s grandfather who first encouraged her to think about the most essential part of the winemaking process: fermentation. He was head brewer at the Swan Brewery in Perth and passed on his knowledge to Jo through experiments in brewing ginger beer, making sauerkraut and fermenting apricots into wine. Another family member helped organise work experience for Jo at the Cape Mentelle winery in Margaret River and her journey to a life in wine was well and truly underway...
“For me, winemaking is all about the senses. The feeling, the touch, what you see and what you taste. I don’t do any lab analysis on my wines, apart from a pre-bottling check on sulphur levels. If you’re tasting your wines, you’re seeing your wines, you’re listening to your wines… It’s about all of the senses. That’s where the heart and soul of wine comes from.”
After completing her studies Jo travelled the world, gaining experience of old world grape growing and winemaking techniques to compliment her new world knowledge. When the time came to put her family first, Jo put all the things she had learnt into Dormilona’s wines. The result is a relaxed style of winemaking that involves intervening only when necessary, cradling the fruit from the vineyard to the bottle.
“I was stoked to be in the top 12 of the Young Guns of Wine Awards again this year so when my name was read out it was a great surprise and an honor to receive the award. It makes all those sleepless nights thinking of my wine babies worth it, and it gives me great confidence to keep following my instincts.”
Josephine Perry, Dormilona Wines
Wine Australia’s Best New Act 2016: Jasper Button from Commune of Buttons
Jasper wasn’t born into a winemaking dynasty either, but you can definitely say that he’s been involved in the wine community since he was a youngster. He grew up in a beautiful corner of the Basket Range region in the Adelaide Hills and helped to plant twelve acres of vines on the family farm when he was just 10. After several years living away from home, mostly in Byron Bay, Jasper returned to the farm and decided to make wine following their struggles to sell their fruit. Things came full circle when Commune of Buttons was launched by Jasper and his sister Sophie in 2014.
“Our farm is surrounded by beautiful bushland. This, combined with very steep aspects, allows for a particularly interesting microclimate. We have really cool evenings but we can retain humidity even in the height of summer.”
Jasper’s journey into grape growing and winemaking has been assisted and inspired by the community of grape growers and winemakers in the Basket Range area. Winemakers like fellow 2016 Young Gun of Wine Award nominees Brendon Keys and Michael Downer and 2013 Young Gun of Wine, Taras Ochota. Jasper believes in maximum human intervention in the vineyard, farming organically and biodynamically without the use of chemicals. In the winery it’s all about minimal intervention, letting the fruit do the talking.
“Natural wine is finding a place very quickly through many folks because it makes sense It’s about letting the fruit speak for itself, not the winemaker speaking for the fruit. It makes discussion about what’s in the glass more accessible and therefore more interesting to a wider bunch of people, because fruit speaks to anyone!”
Jasper Button, Commune of Buttons
Ocean Eight Winemaker’s Choice: Michael Downer of 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 the unique vineyards in the Adelaide Hills.
“One of the beautiful things about the Adelaide Hills are that we have elevation… that gives us the advantage of having slightly cooler daytime temperature. This elevation also gives many different aspects to work with. From the higher elevations of the Piccadilly Valley to the steep slopes of Lenswood to the gentler slopes of Oakbank where the family vineyard is. Working with these different sites to showcase different varietals is really exciting.”
Michael is no stranger to the Young Guns of Wine Awards: he has been nominated three times in a row and has now won the winemaker’s choice twice. It’s become clear in a few short years that Michael’s regional expressions 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
People’s Choice Award: Ricky Evans of Two Tonne Tasmania
Two Tonne Tasmania began in 2013 when an opportunity arose for Ricky to buy two tonnes of Pinot Noir. His wine journey began much earlier. Ricky was born in Tasmania and grew up on a farm in the stunning Tamar Valley. His first experience of the wine industry came when he worked in a winery for his Year 10 work experience program. He loved it so much he moved to Adelaide in 2005 to complete a winemaking degree. After graduating, he travelled the world gaining experience in some of the world’s wine regions before returning home to explore one of the world’s most exciting wine hot spots.
“Tasmania is a pretty special place to start with. There’s a lot of people looking at Tasmania, there’s such a great food and wine culture developing there. And the Tamar Valley is a very special place. There’s a diverse range of sites that allow me to create wines that are really expressive. Wines that show a sense of place but also show my winemaking style.”
Ricky began leasing and managing his own vineyard in 2015 and he sources fruit from a couple of growers in different spots in the Tamar Valley. Richard’s philosophy is about finding little and interesting parcels of fruit and making the best of them. This ethos is resonating with wine drinkers with Ricky taking the People’s Choice Award in his first time as a Young Guns of Wine finalist.
“Taking out this award affirms that wine buyers are getting what I'm trying to do: making wines that have a sense of place, yet they express style in my own way. It’s also about representing the Tamar Valley sub region, and Tasmania. It's a really exciting time for the Tasmanian wine industry.”
Ricky Evans, Two Tonne Tasmania
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