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Gwyn Olsen takes on world

If you saw her CV you would have never guessed that Gwyn Olsen came pretty close to failing viticulture at university. At the top of her game at just 31 years of age, the winemaker and general manager of Hunter Valley’s Briar Ridge Vineyard has a long list of achievements.

Dux of the elite Australian Wine Research Institute’s Advanced Wine Assessment Course, Olsen also won the Marshall-Flannery trophy for ‘best current vintage Semillon’ and was recently crowned Gourmet Traveller’s ‘2014 Young Winemaker of the Year’.

Not to mention she smashes out the odd triathlon in her spare time.

As a child, Olsen grew up in Tembagapura, a small mining town in West Papua, Indonesia. She spent her early years building dams, hiking through rainforests and helping out in local indigenous villages.

Developing a love of science at a young age, Olsen initially enrolled in a biochemistry degree at New Zealand’s Otago University. There, she made the realisation that she could never envision herself as a biochemist, and decided to pursue an interest in oenology.

“We were studying a lot of fermentation kinetics and photosynthesis at the time so I thought I would see if I could make a career out of that,” she said. “I enrolled into winemaking at the University of Adelaide and thankfully was accepted.

“I thought it would be fun and I liked the idea of the varied, physical nature of the work as well as the ability to travel to work vintages in different parts of the world. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but have loved my chosen career path ever since.”

Olsen went on to complete a postgraduate diploma in oenology at the University of Adelaide (following her completion of a bachelor of science in biochemistry) before landing her first job as an entry-level cellarhand; cleaning tanks and water blasting floors.
“My first ever job in a winery was in the south of France. I managed to get offered the job after putting my application letter through an auto-translate website. I arrived and could not speak a word of French. Talk about putting yourself in the deep end,” she said.

Breaking language boundaries, Olsen stayed on to complete her first post-graduate vintage at Domaine Preignes Le Vieux, in France’s Languedoc region.

Since then, she has completed a further two vintages in France including St Emillion and Burgundy, as well as five at Auckland’s Villa Maria, one in Yarra Valley and three in Hunter Valley, where she currently resides.

As the winemaker and general manager of Briar Ridge, Olsen has responsibility for all winemaking, style direction, quality and portfolio…

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AB Mauri



WID 2017