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Everone loves an award
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There are constant rumblings about its credibility within the wine fraternity, as some believe a one-year-old wine is too young to be properly assessed. There are also claims some producers bring samples of their best barrels to be judged, which therefore aren't truly representative of what eventually appears on the shelves. Another award that isn't as well known carries far greater kudos and yet there is no pot of gold waiting for the winner. What's more, there is none of the controversy. It's the Maurice O'Shea Award and is presented to an individual or group who has made a significant contribution to the wine industry. Now a biennial award, it was set up by McWilliams Wines in 1990 in honour of one of Australia's greatest and most influential winemakers, Maurice O'Shea. Previous winners read like a who's who of the Australian wine industry. Max Schubert of Grange fame won the inaugural award in 1990. Other winners have included Len Evans and Brian Croser, and in 1994 the judges awarded the prize to Jacobs Creek in recognition of its role in creating the runaway success of Australian wines overseas. The 2004 winner was pioneering winemaker Guenter Prass and while most people will be scratching their heads wondering, who, never was an award more deserved. One of the original flying winemakers, Prass came to Australia from Germany in 1955 and quickly helped give Australia the competitive winemaking edge to lift it to today's commercial heights. He achieved all this by introducing better handling techniques. Controlled fermentation, sterile bottling and stainless steel tanks for whites were all innovations introduced by Prass. As simple as they sound, they were a revolution and helped make clean, bright and fruit-driven wines that were instrumental in creating the white wine boom in Australia. Prass is also the man behind Barossa Pearl, that iconic wine of the 1950s and 60s. While it seems dated now, at the time it was credited with helping to change Australian drinking habits from fortified to table wine. In accepting the award, Prass said: "The best indication of how far Australian wine has come is that I was one of the first flying winemakers coming to Australia. Today, winemakers from around the world come to Australia to learn what we are doing rather than to teach us."