In a statement, Young Gun of Wine announced, “For too long, winemakers have received all the adulation for the quality of the wines we drink”.
“They deserve much of that acclaim, of course: some of our best friends are winemakers* and we love what they do. But let’s face it: it’s in the vineyard, out there, in the hands of the viticulturist/grower, among the canes and tendrils and sun and mud that the real magic happens. It’s time we celebrated that.”
Welcome, then, to the Vineyard of the Year Awards.
Over the last few years, it’s been encouraging to see the introduction of various accolades for viticulturist of the year, and individual vineyard gongs given out by regional wine associations.
The awards aim to go one step further by placing vineyards across the nation at the heart of the Australian wine story – and the heart of the Australian wine community.
YGOW says it wants to reconnect the whole idea of wine to the place it comes from and the manner in which the grapes are grown.
A vineyard is finely attuned to its environment and can be seen as a ‘canary in the coalmine’ in a changing climate. Vineyards are also intimately linked to the people who farm them, and they are the first link in the long chain of wine production, so they have social and economic impact too. To that end, sustainability is placed at the heart of these awards by making it the base criterion for entry.
As well as celebrating the best vineyards and the people who tend them, these awards are an opportunity to lead change and innovation in the industry, and grow the consciousness of consumers.
There are four awards: one for vineyard innovation, highlighting novel approaches to farming grapes; new vineyard of the year, recognising a young vineyard (less than ten years old); old vineyard of the year, given to an established site (more than 35 years old); and vineyard of the year, for the most outstanding entry.
Young Gun of Wine has assembled a panel of leading experts to advise on and adjudicate the awards:
Dr Irina Santiago-Brown is co-owner of Inkwell Wines in McLaren Vale, sustainability expert and the Australian Women in Wine Awards’ inaugural Viticulturist of the Year.
Dr Mardi Longbottom is Manager of Sustainability and Vticulture at the Australian Wine Research Institute and a director of both Australian Grape and Wine and the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology.
Dr Mary Cole is Director and Principal Scientist, Agpath biological farming consultants and Honorary Senior Fellow at University of Melbourne.
Dr Peter Dry AM is Emeritus Fellow at the AWRI and University of Adelaide, McWilliam’s Wines Maurice O’Shea Award winner and Member of the Order of Australia.
Mark Walpole is a vigneron, owner of Fighting Gully Road vineyard, viticulture consultant; a pioneer of alternative varieties in Australia and Gourmet Traveller Wine’s Viticulturist of the Year 2017.
Max Allen is an award-winning journalist and author, Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne and wine and drinks columnist for the Australian Financial Review.
From the second year of the awards onwards, the viticulturist who receives the Vineyard of the Year award will also be invited to join the panel.
Entries for the awards now open and close October 22, 2020. The panel will agree on a shortlist of vineyards that will then be inspected by at least one of two independent viticultural consultants in each state, who will report back to the panel. The panel will then decide a list of finalists that will be promoted through a media and communications campaign, culminating in the announcement of the four award winners by early 2021 (date TBC).
“These awards will help draw consumer attention to the critical role vineyards play in producing great Australian wines,” said Mark Walpole.
“They will also support growers challenging accepted thinking about how grapes are produced. I’d encourage anyone who feels their contribution to the sustainable production of great wine is worthy of recognition to enter.”
“True sustainability is about supporting like-minded people in our community to encourage new levels of achievement,” said Dr Irina Santiago-Brown.
“This award celebrates, through its entries, spontaneous bottom-up approaches to sustainability in our wine industry. Bottom up changes are much more likely to promote meaningful change, so these awards will inspire others to become better growers. If you believe in what you’re doing in the vineyard, you have the obligation to share it and showcase the benefits promoted by what you’re doing.”
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