Lowestoft Estate Wines takes out the Jimmy Watson Trophy at Melbourne Royal Wine Awards

Winners of the Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy, Lowestoft Estate. Image courtesy Melbourne Royal Wine Awards

The 2023 trophy winners for the Melbourne Royal Wine Awards were announced on Friday at a luncheon at the Victoria Pavilion at Melbourne Showgrounds.

The Melbourne Royal Wine Awards is one of Australia’s oldest and most respected wine shows recognising and rewarding excellence in Australian winemaking. The awards provide a platform for wineries to benchmark their wines against industry standards and receive valuable feedback from an independent panel of industry experts.

Established in 1884 with just 13 entries, the Melbourne Royal Wine Awards have evolved into a premier celebration for the Australian wine industry, attracting over 2,425 entries from more than 420 wineries across the nation.

The trophy that winemakers around Australia want to win is the Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy for Best Young Red. Celebrating the 60th year of awarding the trophy, the Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy was awarded to Tasmania’s Lowestoft Estate Wines for their Lowestoft La Maison Pinot Noir, 2022. This is the first time Lowestoft Estate has won the award and just the third time a Pinot Noir has claimed the prestigious trophy, following the Pinot Noir wins of Home Hill Winery in 2015 and Yabby Lake Winery in 2013.

Lowestoft’s chief winemaker and general manager, Liam McElhinney, expressed his pride at the win.

“It is a great honour for me and our winemaking and viticulture teams to be able to produce such amazing wines from the Lowestoft vineyard. This is a small 3-hectare site, densely planted in 1986 to 8,300 vines per hectare. The Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy and the ‘three-peat’ James Halliday Trophy win shows the immense quality this vineyard produces year after year.

“We are immensely proud that the consistency of style we are capturing in the La Maison is setting a new benchmark for Australian Pinot Noir. Our success is Tasmania’s success, and we hope wine consumers will continue to appreciate how fantastic Tasmanian Pinot Noir is.”

Executive chairman of Fogarty wine group, Peter Fogarty also commented on the result.

“We are incredibly proud to win the James Halliday Trophy for Best Pinot Noir at Royal Melbourne

Wine Awards for the third year in a row and to top that off with Australia’s major wine award,

The Jimmy Watson. Our team in Tasmania, led by chief winemaker Liam McElhinney and chief

viticulturist John Fogarty, have achieved unbelievable success in just three short years,” said Fogarty.

The prestige of winning a trophy at the Melbourne Royal Wine Awards continues to grow, particularly the Francois De Castella trophy for Best Young White Wine, the Trevor Mast Trophy for Best Shiraz, and the James Halliday Trophy for Best Pinot Noir.

For the third year in a row, Lowestoft La Maison Pinot Noir has also been awarded The James Halliday Trophy for Best Pinot Noir, this year with their 2022 vintage.

The François De Castella Trophy for Best Young White went to Handpicked Wines for their 2022 Handpicked Wines Wombat Creek Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay. The same wine has also been awarded Best Chardonnay and Best Victorian Chardonnay.


Ben Bussell, William Dong, Peter Dillon and Lucy Adam from Handpicked Wines at the Melbourne Royal Wine Awards


Peter Dillon, chief winemaker at Handpicked Wines, was thrilled to be awarded with the trophy.

“I’m overjoyed to be receiving this award – certainly not what I imagined when I woke up this morning!” Said Dillon. “It’s the icing on top of the cake of a very exciting year for Handpicked Wines.”

“Wombat Creek is an incredible site, located at the very top of the Yarra Valley. It’s a site we have a lot of heartfelt passion for, having been custodians of it since 2016. Since then, we’ve been laser-focused on organic farming and regenerative viticulture practices, which has set this site on a path towards being fully organic. It’s apparent these practices have raised the quality of fruit we can source from the site and, ultimately, the quality of wines we can produce.”

With over 904 eligible exhibits, the Douglas Seabrook Trophy for Best Single Vineyard Wine went to McWilliams Wines Single Vineyard 2022 Shiraz, with the same wine also taking out the Trevor Mast Trophy for Best Shiraz and the Best NSW/ACT Shiraz. McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate 20 Year Old Rare Tawny was also awarded the Bill Chambers Trophy for Best Fortified Wine.

Calabria Family Wine Group were thrilled with the trophies awarded to its McWilliam’s brand.

“This remarkable achievement is a testament to the enthusiasm and expertise of our winemaking team and, in addition, our vineyard partner Russell Kerrison who was awarded the Trophy for Viticultural Excellence,”  commented Andrew Calabria, sales director and third generation family member.

In their first win at the Awards, Tasmania’s Freycinet Vineyard has been awarded the Dr Tony Jordan Trophy for Best Sparkling with their Freycinet Vineyard Radenti Vintage Cuvee, 2016 Chardonnay, Pinot Noir.


Freycinet Wines with the Dr Jordan Trophy for Best Sparkling Wine


Following the win, Freycinet winemaker Claudio Radenti expressed his delight at receiving the trophy.

“We are humbled to receive this trophy for our 2016 Radenti Sparkling and to have such important recognition at the very prestigious Melbourne Royal Wine Awards,” said Radenti. “This trophy reinforces what an extraordinary place Tasmania is for premium sparkling wine and is also a wonderful honour for my family who have supported the vision of creating world class sparkling wine from our vineyard in Tasmania.

“The 2016 vintage was relatively warm but our focussed approach to growing fruit dedicated to sparkling wine has paid dividends. The win is the result of consistent effort from our team, who work tirelessly to ensure the quality of our wines from vineyard to bottle.”

Melbourne Royal CEO, Brad Jenkins said, “The Melbourne Royal Wine Awards is one of Australia’s oldest and most respected wine award programs, recognising and rewarding excellence in Australian winemaking. This year we celebrate the 60th awarding of the Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy and we congratulate the team at Tasmania’s Lowestoft Estate on taking home the top prize in wine.

“We are grateful to all our entrants, judges, committee members and stewards for their tireless commitment to excellence and for making this year’s Melbourne Royal Wine Awards one of the most coveted in its history.”

This year the Melbourne Royal Wine Awards presented a total of 1197 medals, including 180 Gold, 296 Silver and 721 Bronze. The awards were judged by 35 accomplished experts in wine, who tasted over 100 wines each per day, over the five days of judging.

Chair of judges Melanie Chester said of this year’s award results demonstrate the “strength and diversity” that the industry is producing.

“This year, judges from across the Australian industry gathered with the rather daunting task of tasting just over 2400 wines, and the delicious wines on the bench on trophy day were a testament to the talent and commitment of our viticulturalists and winemakers,” said Chester.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier, Nick Staikos MP, representing the Victorian Government and Government Partner Drink Victorian, also commented on the benefit of the awards.

“Victoria has around 700 wineries that contribute significantly to Victoria’s $24.5 billion drinks industry, generating regional jobs and boosting local tourism,” said Staikos.

“While not every winery was lucky enough to walk away with an award, the Melbourne Royal Wine Awards celebrate that contribution and provide a timely reminder to Drink Victorian ahead of the festive period.”

To find out more about this year’s Melbourne Royal Wine Award winners head to melbourneroyal.com.au/melbourne-royal-wine-awards/.

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