ASVO announces Viticulturist and Winemaker of the year winners of 2021

Alex Cassegrain. Image courtesy ASVO

The Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology (ASVO) last night announced the Awards for Excellence winners for 2021.

  • 2021 ASVO Viticulturist of the year – Ben Harris, Wynns Coonawarra Estate
  • 2021 ASVO Winemaker of the year – Alex Cassegrain, Cassegrain Wines

2021 ASVO Viticulturist of the Year

Ben is the Viticulture Manager at Wynns Coonawarra Estate. This role includes the management of the technical viticulture team and vineyard operations for Australia and New Zealand.

Throughout his career, Ben has worked in several roles in New Zealand, Bordeaux and Australia including technical and management roles in McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek, managing the Penfolds vineyard at Robe and managing the Wynns Coonawarra Estate vineyards.

Ben’s vision is to continuously improve vineyard performance and sustainability while protecting the vineyards from biosecurity risks. He said he wants to leverage the latest R&D, innovation, and technology to create real step change, while also applying the key learnings from the past.

Ben is focused on removing one of the biggest challenges in industry: bridging the gap between R&D and the practical application of the latest knowledge and technology.

One of Ben’s innovations has involved partnering with The Yield in 2018 to leverage Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) data, along with climatic data to improve yield estimation and vineyard management decisions.

Since then, this partnership has been rolled out to all TWE vineyards across Australia and New Zealand in 2020, with harvest quantity and timing predictions being generated for every block (over 9,000 hectares).

Growth stage predictions, long-range weather forecasts and notifications have been established for each site to assist with management decisions and risk mitigation. Based on the success of this partnership, The Yield have now partnered with other wine companies using predictive models and data analytics to improve their businesses.

“The ASVO plays an important role within the Australian wine community, promoting the best R&D, innovation and assisting the extension of research into practice. Many exceptional viticulturists have won this award in the past and it’s an honour to be nominated as a finalist for the ASVO viticulturist of the year,” said Ben.

2021 ASVO Winemaker of the year

Alex is the Head Winemaker at Cassegrain Wines in the Hastings River, New South Wales. Alex grew up in the vineyard and worked in the Cassegrain family winery, with a hands-on learning approach to the time-honoured winemaking practices that have been passed down through the generations.

When damage from bush fires threatened the livelihoods of many growers in 2020 Alex stepped up looking for a solution to salvage smoke affected fruit. This involved working with practitioners and researchers to better understand the organoleptic and chemical effects of smoke taint, and how it can best be treated during and after ferment.

Alex trialled various techniques through bucket ferments in an effort to reduce the impact of smoke taint on the final wine, the results of which he shared at the National Bushfire Conference in May this year.

Following this, Cassegrain Wines has recently secured a million-dollar grant from the Cooperative Research Centres Projects. Using these funds, together with industry partners in Australia and NZ, longer term projects using innovative methods will be implemented and managed, which Alex hopes will add much to the future understanding of the impact of fires in viticultural regions.

Alex said he was confident in the coming years, through trial and error, innovations and experimentation, the industry will be in a much better position to navigate through the challenges associated with smoke taint as a result of bush fires.

“I strongly believe that this award is one for everyone involved in particular, to the growers who went through such an ordeal,” he said.

“The idea of leaving grapes on the vine due to something quite unknown wasn’t a solution and that’s where we decided to try anything to see if we could turn a negative into a positive, and in some cases we did.

“I am so proud to be the recipient of this award and it has given me the confidence to always push the boundaries and to continue to be innovative and a big thankyou to the ASVO committee for everything you do for the industry.”

“There was a very high standard of nominees for the Viticulturist and Winemaker of the Year awards who have all demonstrated excellence in their field. It was very pleasing to see Ben and Alex recognised as very worthy winners this year, for their significant contribution and ability to inspire others around them,” ASVO president Brooke Howell said.

The full list of ASVO Award categories and winners are as follows:

  • ASVO Viticulturist of the year Ben Harris, Wynns Coonawarra Estate
  • ASVO Winemaker of the Year Alex Cassegrain, Cassegrain Wines
  • ASVO Viticulture Paper of the Year Dr Marcos Bonada, PIRSA-SARDI
  • ASVO Oenology Paper of the Year Dr Martin Moran, Mordrelle Wines
  • ASVO Dr Peter May Award Dr Meg Whitener, Bell’s Brewery, Michigan

ASVO Award recipients are nominated by ASVO-appointed selection committees comprised of individuals who themselves are distinguished in the fields of viticulture and oenology and who demonstrate exceptional leadership ability and vision.

For a list of previous ASVO Awards winners, please visit


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